Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Skye and Frida - Jumping Through the Window

I've been watching this video a lot lately.  There's always a lot to love about Skye and Frida and there's a reason why they are the go-to couple when people talk about Lindy Hop.  There's a certain magical ease with which they perform all of their movements.

There are a few things specifically that stand out about this video to me.  On a very basic level  watch their swing outs over and over again and you'll notice that they've refined these into a precise art.  They're about as perfect as they could get.

My friend Andrea also pointed out something a little less obvious.  Look at their roles in this dance.  I think she's right when she mentions that Frida is the focus - she really sells every movement with attitude and excitement, while Skye is understated, solid, a foundation for her sparkle and flair.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Frankie and Dean - Swingout Comparison

Thanks to Scot Alsop for the reminder about this comparison edited by Nick Williams.

In the video you can see clips from two 1941 movies.  One features Frankie Manning and the other features Dean Collins - two of the most influential Lindy Hoppers of all time.

They were dancing to different tempos, so it's not a perfect comparison, but tell me what you think.

Do they look similar? Different? How? Why?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Simply Playful - Thomas & Alice

When asked about being a dancer and choreographer Frankie Manning would respond that he was only doing what the music told him to do. This both sounds very simple and also sets a very high bar. 

Just move the way the music says.  It's that simple, right?

Here is another video my friend Heather Warner-Dubin reminded me of the other day. This is Thomas and Alice performing a social dancing demo at Fram.

I love how they play with their movements, matching them to what is happening in the song. To me there is always an inherent silliness to Lindy Hop and Jazz in general. It has something to do with a deep connection to joy and celebration, and this song exudes silliness with the scat lines and even the tuba bass line which I always seem to find a little bit silly sounding. 

If we break their dance down we see that most of their movements are very common - they do a swing out here, a side pass there - but they mix in extra flavors to match what the music is saying. They dramatically extend the 1-2 of a swing out, they add in little hops to emphasize the end of a phrase, they play with a melody line and hold a pose. It's simple and yet very difficult at the same time. 

Think of it like painting a still picture of a scene in front of you. As the scene (the song) plays out how are the characters feeling? What is the mood of the lighting? What is the pace of the scene? This is analogous to the feeling of the song. How does it pulse? How fast or slow is the song? How does the melody interweave with the instruments? How do you set the scene with your movement to paint this picture? 

Next, to paint a picture you need tools. Paint brushes, pencils, colors, different types of paint, inks, materials. These tools are your vocabulary of movements - everything from triple steps to swingouts to jazz movements. Anything you've learned about moving is a tool during your dance. 

Ultimately there is also a level of artistry that can't be taught or supplied to you. It's that spark inside that comes out of you and into your artwork. Some say it's part of you, deep down. Others claim it's the human ability to reach out and draw upon that which is outside ourselves. Either way, you, in your own personal way, are combining the things you've learned with something deep down to create something completely new. 

So easy, right? Just mix in how the music feels with the moves you know and add in a little of your own artistic interpretation and tada. And that's what's so wonderful about this dance. We can always keep learning more about each of these areas - and when we watch couples who have honed their skills in all three it creates art that inspires us.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pro-Am - Carl & Nina

Some of our readers are immersed in the digital world of Lindy Hop videos.  Some of you are even travelers who may have learned from or danced with some of the people featured in these videos.  Some of you a newer to dancing and hopefully you're using the videos I post to get up to speed on what's going on with our amazing dance.  It's this last group I have a question for.

Above is a Pro-Am event from 2007.  Yes, 5 years ago.  Pro-Am events are interesting because they pair a professional dancer, someone who makes a living dancing and teaching, with an amateur, someone who doesn't.

So here's the question.  Which of these two is the pro and which is the amateur?  Can you tell?

Those of you who know are probably yelling at the blog right now, but please don't comment.  I'd like to let people who don't know watch and see if they can figure it out.

This was a video posted by my friend Heather Warner-Dubin a few days ago.  Things have been busy for me and I requested some help with video ideas, so thanks Heather.

What isn't there to love about this performance?  Quality of movement? Check.  Solid connection? Check.  Traditional moves performed well? Check.  Creative use of musicality? Check.  Fun? Check.  Feels like a social dance? Check.

This is a great video to draw inspiration from and, in my opinion, the dancing they do here - 5 years ago - is still very relevant.