Beginnning waltz

Tue, Nov. 16th, 2010 10:56 pm
oyceter: (lindy hop)
I started taking waltz classes a few weeks ago, and it's a) the first time I've steadily done partner dancing post-grad school, b) the first time I've steadily taken dance classes post-grad school, and c) the first time I've steadily learned a non-swing dance ever. (I've taken a handful of intro salsa classes, always spaced years apart, and one general ballroom dancing class back in freshman year where they teach you one dance a week or something.)

I picked waltz largely because it's within walking distance to my house, and my sister's friend introduced me to the place. I still mean to take a serious set of classes in salsa and general Latin dancing and balboa and more ballroom and I want to learn country dances and Chinese folk dancing and hip hop and belly dancing and and and...

So far, waltz is especially interesting because my greatest impressions of it are through Regency romances (including historical romances set during the Regency because I am too lazy to distinguish between them). I can see why authors go on about it so much! It really is superbly romantic, especially as a contrast to country dances or other dances where you basically switch partners during the dance. Still, every time I read about the hero and heroine getting to, gasp, waltz and how the hero holds her to his manly chest and their bodies are so close together, I want to whap them over the head and yell, "Lust is no excuse for letting go of your frame!"

I am sure they are not literally pressed chest to chest, but still! Frame! You may be the hottest guy in the ballroom and have Satanic eyebrows and skintight buckskin breeches and a dozen mistresses, but I refuse to dance with a grabby partner. Even someone with no frame and a terrible lead is better than a grabby partner.

Anyway!

(Also, if anyone knows exactly how dance cards and sets and the like work, I would love to know. I have never been able to figure out how many dances are in a set and if it's the same partner per set or per dance or if there's a specific number of dances in a set or if you can just make it up or what. That said, going to a waltz social dance was extremely helpful, as they post the dances per each set. I always used to wonder how people in the books always knew exactly which dance would be a waltz or not.)

Anyway for real!

tl;dr dance babble )

In conclusion: waltz! Going around in circles while moving in a bigger circle around the room = awesome twirliness!
oyceter: (lindy hop)
Instead of catching up on the bazillion book write ups I am behind on, I watch lots of TV! (Ooooo! You can actually watch it online now! Nice.)

Spoilers )
oyceter: (lindy hop)
Out of all my TV shows, this may be the one I look forward to the most...

It's just always so amazing watching the dancers, and it reminds me to start lindy hop again.

Spoilers? Spoilers for S4 at least )

Also, we get another season in the fall? Awesomesauce! (Though wow, aren't the judges exhausted? The audition process looks so difficult.)

(Still working on the Asian Women's Carnival, apologies for the delay.)

Frankie Manning

Wed, Apr. 29th, 2009 08:03 pm
oyceter: (lindy hop)
Frankie Manning died today, at 94. He was one of the original Lindy hoppers in Harlem, and he was a major figure in its revival in the 1980s.

Racialicious has a post on Frankie Manning, Lindy hop, and cultural appropriation that I found interesting and on the mark, and I very much wish the Lindy communities I've been in were more aware of these issues, even as they preserve the dance. More than that, I wish the wider world were more aware of Lindy's origins in Black culture and music, since most of the images of Lindy these days are of middle-class white kids in the 1940s (Swing Kids, the Gap ads, etc.), not the Black dancers in the 1930s.

Still, I'm glad I got the chance to see Frankie a few months back, and I'm very glad to hear the big bash planned for his 95th birthday will continue.
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My gallery title lies, but I was too lazy to make a new gallery for my very few Sausalito pictures, which are from back when [livejournal.com profile] oracne visited in August.

Giant Sausalito and NY pictures )

In addition to the Indian dance troupes and Step Afrika, I also got to see Ologundê, some of Bonga & The Vodou Drums of Haiti, and Doug Elkins' Fraulein Maria, courtesy of Lincoln Center Out of Doors. Again, I am a big fan of free programming! Sadly, I have very little impression of Ologunde and Bonga, as they performed on a very sunny Sunday afternoon, right about when food coma and laziness from heat hit. My sister and I ended up leaving halfway through because we couldn't find shade.

Doug Elkins' Fraulein Maria is an interesting take on The Sound of Music, in which he choreographs modern dance pieces to all the songs from the movie. What I liked best was how Maria was actually played by three dancers—a young woman who looked a bit like Julie Andrews, a young Asian woman, and a young man (POC). The three dancers would be onstage simultaneously, and I imagined it as Maria arguing with herself or consulting with herself. Liesl was played by a man who didn't have a dancer's physique, and the rest of the children and nuns and etc. were played by dancers irrespective of gender. I very much liked the notion of the casting, and it makes a point as to how iconic the movie is—as long as the costuming is right, it doesn't really matter who's playing whom. Unfortunately, the audience would snicker whenever two men danced together romantically, which I found annoying. I wish the Liesl/Franz scene weren't played for laughs, given the cross-dressing and gender-bending (also, Franz was played by a black guy). I noticed the lesbian couples on stage didn't get laughed at.

Other favorite bits from the show were the hip-hopping Mother Superior and watching dancers give signature moves to all the notes of the scale for "Do Re Mi."

And I saw Wicked (my birthday present from my sister!), which was cool and which I need to write up eventually before I forget everything.

(no subject)

Mon, Jul. 14th, 2008 02:09 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
I finally got to see the Top 12 results show, and oh show, I heart you SO MUCH for featuring dancers from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I like that the image of the black male dancer on the show is shifting from "b-boy" to "contemporary," and I'm really hoping for more ballroom dancers of color next year as well (and to keep the b-boys coming, because I am waiting desperately for a hip hopper to win). And more women of color, period, though this year there were more than last year.

I love that they're now featuring a dance performance along with a musical performance on the results show, especially as so far, they've been featuring several dancers/dance groups of color. I'm really hoping they bring on more, particularly in terms of world dance.

Also, I skipped watching auditions this year, but just went through YouTube to see, and! Will! Will did an audition piece to Lupe Fiasco's "Baba Says Cool for Thought" and he's been one of my favorite dancers so far and now I think he is AWESOMESAUCE.

AKICOLJ

Sat, Jul. 12th, 2008 11:56 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
Would anyone who watches a lot of Bollywood movies be willing to watch this and tell me how the dancing is? (possible spoilers for So You Think You Can Dance Top 12)

Reasoning )

Also also, while I am here, commentary on the African jazz piece very welcome!
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
Frankie Manning's one of the giant names in lindy hop -- he invented the first aerial (the throws you usually see in movies) and choreographed the first ensemble lindy routine, he was a key choreographer and dancer in the very influential Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, he started dancing less upright and more angled to the ground (now a tell-tale feature of lindy), and he's been one of the key resources in the late lindy revival, along with Norma Miller.

And for what he didn't do himself, he was there to witness -- the formation of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, George "Shorty" Snowden coining the name "lindy hop" after Lindbergh's hop across the Atlantic, the birth of lindy as a dance separate from the Charleston and collegiate shag, and the growth of the Savoy Ballroom as one of the centers of lindy.

His biography is fun to read as well; Millman preserves Manning's casual voice and his love of pranks and his modesty shines through. It's a little hard to see how influential Manning is just from his biography, as he has a tendency to downplay his role in things.

My favorite parts were the ones about the birth of lindy, from Manning dancing at the Renaissance Ballroom and later "graduating" to the Savoy, the development of swing-outs and breakaways, watching all the dancers playing with Charleston and incorporating steps and improvising, all the things that I love about lindy today. Unfortunately, that's just one part of the book. Most of the rest of it is on Manning's career as a professional dancer and choreographer in Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, a loose group that eventually branched out to many dancers and groups, all under the management of Herbert "Whitey" White (named so after the white stripe in his hair, not because he was white).

I'm not particularly interested in the backstage of show business, and usually when I am, it's on a more sociological and less personal level. I got the feeling that Manning didn't particularly like blaming anyone or anything; his comments about racism and sexism are fairly minor and usually confined to the most egregious examples, or examples that turned out in his favor. I don't blame him for this, and I was mostly able to fill in the blanks from what I got out of Dixon Gottschild's Waltzing in the Dark, a sociological critique of race politics in the swing era dance industry.

I would have also liked more pictures and video footage to go along with Manning's explanations and am sad that we have no film records of normal social dancing at the Savoy (most swing era lindy hop we see is from two films, both of which Manning was involved in, and it's much more showy and exhibition-focused than social lindy). I would have also liked more of Manning's thoughts on the swing revival starting around the 1980s, particularly on how style has changed and the race differences, but most of that chapter just focused on how happy he was to be dancing again (which is awesome!).

So, for those interested in lindy hop history, the second and last sections were the most interesting for me. There's not much sociological analysis, but as a first-hand narrative, we probably aren't going to get anything better, given that Shorty Snowden and Whitey White passed away a while ago (Norma Miller! Write a biography?). For those interested in show business, I suspect the other sections will be much more interesting. In conclusion: a very necessary read for lindy history, even though I got bored at times.
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
(subtitle: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era)

I looked for this after reading The Black Dancing Body, since I do lindy and wanted to know more about the history of lindy hop, particularly how cultural appropriation, cultural theft and racial politics play into it.

This book basically covers the swing era race politics, as you can tell from the handy subtitle. Dixon Gottschild defines the Swing Era as covering 1920-something to 1947; I can't remember the exact dates and I returned the books. She mentioned exactly what events she was using to bookmark it. I think 1947 was the closing of the Savoy Ballroom, and I don't remember the start date. I do know she makes it earlier than most people define the swing era to include the development of swing music in the 1920s. I checked Wikipedia, which has the dates from 1935-1946. Their start date is Benny Goodman's performance in the Palomar Ballroom, which they credit with "bringing the music to the rest of the country."

I think this issue of dates neatly sums up the problems Dixon Gottschild examines; black artists like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong were the ones who pioneered swing music and popularized it in the black community. Black dancers started the lindy hop. Dixon Gottschild makes a point of how the music and the dance reinforced and reinvigorated each other; the dancers would take cues from the band and the band would do the same. And yet, the date that gets pinpointed is the one in which a white artist performs and "introduces" the music to the "rest of the country," ignoring the fact that Ellington and Armstrong and etc. had been touring before him and assuming that "the rest of the country" meant "white people."

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Dixon Gottschild uses the career of ballroom dancer Margot Webb to illuminate racial politics in the time. Margot Webb and her partner danced waltz and did waltz interpretations. Webb was light enough to pass as white occasionally, though she never did, and her partner was often mistaken to be Spanish (acceptable and Continentally exotic). But because they identified themselves as black, they were paid less, booked less, booked as less popular places, not allowed to stay in hotels next to their bookings, shown off as spectacle, and etc. And because they weren't dancing a "black" dance (like lindy or tap), white people were even less interested in seeing them. "Dancing black" basically meant dancing fast and dancing sexy; the white audience were fine with the white appropriation of black dance, but not the black appropriation/adoption of white dance.

The other side to "dancing black" was that lindy hoppers and tap dancers in particular ended up dancing faster and faster to make it more difficult for white people to steal their moves. So it didn't matter what you danced; either you'd be unappreciated or you'd be appropriated from. Furthermore, when white people did take their moves, the white dancers were able to get better bookings, more pay and more publicity than the original dancers.

And I could go on, and on, and on. Dixon Gottschild talks about the centrality of Harlem to the swing era, the attempts of some black artists to escape racism by going to Europe (and still being the exotic Other there), the psychological cost of passing for black artists who wanted to be able to make more of a living, how black artists were hit worse when the popularity of swing began to die down, and always always always the theft. She mentions integration and the negative effect it had on the black community: while integration's intent was all well and good, because racism didn't disappear, it effectively killed off many black-centered theaters and locales as performers went to white theaters to try to get better pay, and it wasn't like dancers like Webb were getting many more jobs from white places. Instead, she just had to compete with white dancers even more. And did I mention the theft?

I read this slowly because it made me so angry. Pretty much everything you can think of was thrown to prevent black artists from succeeding, and then some; that some did is a testament to their skill and courage and persistence, not proof that the system worked.

I didn't get as much information on lindy hop as I wanted from this book. Lindy hop and swing music framed the era, but Dixon Gottschild looks more closely at Margot Webb's career and uses it as a jumping point to discuss the realities of a touring dancer's life. Not a fault of the book, as Dixon Gottschild covers the big lindy moments and introduces the Savoy and etc., but just a note that I'm still hungry to know more about the history of lindy hop.

Definitely recommended for anyone who wants a concrete example of cultural appropriation and theft in action, though with the caveat that this felt more subject-specific than The Black Dancing Body. I'm not as sure if it'll appeal as much to people who aren't interested in dance or swing music and jazz.
oyceter: (lindy hop)
The academic geek in me loves that the introduction of the book starts out with terms and definitions; Dixon Gottschild notes that she very deliberately uses the word “coon” to make a racial point. She further explains why she uses “thick,” “full,” and “natural” instead of “fuzzy,” “kinky,” or “nappy,” defines her use of “Africanist” as describing concepts from Africa and the African diaspora and “Europeanist” as describing concepts from Europe and European America. I’ll be adopting those terms as well in this post.

Dixon Gottschild splits the book up into sections focusing on different parts of the black body -- feet, butt, skin/hair -- with another explanation that she understands the discomfort some people have with this sectioning, given how often black bodies are already colonized and dehumanized. But she notes that she is trying to go through these concepts to understand them and hopefully to overcome them.

Have I mentioned that I like terms, definitions, caveats, and precise language?

Anyway. The bulk of the book looks at the black dancing body, and more specifically on the black dancing body in the world of modern and contemporary dance. Dixon Gottschild doesn’t touch on other areas such as partner dance or unchoreographed dance. She interviewed quite a few dancers, POC and white (mostly POC) and uses those interviews as a launch pad, interweaving her own theories and ideas with the interviews and her own experience as a black dancer.

She touches on racism, cultural appropriation, spirituality, and the divide between and borrowing among Africanist and Europeanist dance tradition. I particularly liked this because it was a look at a very specific topic using the tools and language of anti-racism; it’s been nice talking about cultural appropriation and whatnot on LJ in general terms, but much more satisfying having someone focus on cultural appropriation in a very specific area.

I’m not even sure where to begin, and of course I put this off, so I can’t remember the book that well now. First off, Dixon Gottschild notes that some of traits of Africanist dance include group participation (dancers dancing in the middle of a ring of people clapping out the beat), a grounded quality evinced in bent legs and a slightly pitched forward body, moving separate parts of the body separately, often to separate beats (hip swivelling to the main beat and snapping to the syncopated rhythms, frex), and a focus on improvisation. She says traits of Europeanist dance are very much the opposite, focusing on the body moving together as a whole, movement focused on the spine, an upright position, and a more formal and choreographed nature. I have no idea if this is true or not, but since Dixon Gottschild has written several books on dance and taught dance and been dancing, I am definitely taking her word on it.

She also notes that when she makes distinctions between Africanist and Europeanist dance traditions, she is not saying that any of the traits are intrinsic to African or European cultures, or that any of these differences can be attributed to race. To further emphasize that, she interviews several black dancers dancing Europeanist dance (a lot of classical ballet) and white dancers dancing Africanist dance.

The book also covers how the black body was frequently seen as “unfit” for Europeanist dance: the feet were not arched enough, the back too curved, the butt too distinct and not tucked in under the spine. Dixon Gottschild quickly debunks that, noting that white dancers trained in Africanist dance learn to move in an Africanist manner, while black dancers trained in Europeanist dance learn to move in a Europeanist manner. But she also notes that the stereotype of the black body as somehow being unfit persists and causes a lot of psychological damage.

A lot of the territory in the book is familiar ground, like the constant projection of sexuality onto Africanist dance, the focus on the black body somehow not being right (despite all facts to the contrary), the difficulty black dancers have trying to make it in Europeanist dance traditions, typecasting, limited opportunities for starring roles, being stereotyped if they dance “too African” and also being stereotyped if they dance “too white,” and through it all, the constant devaluation of black dancers and of the Africanist dance tradition. But again, it’s fascinating reading it in context of dance, a world that I know pretty much nothing about.

Dixon Gottschild briefly talks about the history of the Africanist dance tradition but doesn’t go into it in depth; the focus of the book is more on contemporary dancers and their worlds. I found that she gave enough information for context, particularly when she touched on the move from attempted cultural genocide to cultural appropriation. Slaves were forbidden their own dances and music, frequently on pain of corporal punishment and/or death. They frequently got around restrictions by adapting Europeanist dance into various animal dances (fox trot, turkey trot, etc. I can’t remember if Dixon Gottschild notes that the term “animal dance” applies solely because of the names of the dances and not as a means of equating black with animalistic behavior, though I’m pretty sure that’s how she’s using it, given her care with language) or by creating shuffling steps (picking up your feet meant dancing, which meant punishment at the hands of Christian slaveholders). Then, of course, those dances were taken and dressed up for a white audience (hello Vernon and Irene Castle!), all while black people were still being condemned as being “animalistic” and “too sexual” for how they danced.

I could probably go on and on and on about cultural appropriation and dance, but I will save that for her next book!

I’m also not even getting into everything in the book. I really enjoyed reading most of this, though I had some problems with her section on spirituality and dance. I wish she had focused more on non-Christian spirituality, particularly given what [livejournal.com profile] delux_vivens has told me about the forced conversion of slaves in the US.

My other complaints are that the book is too short and doesn’t cover enough dance and that the book doesn’t include a DVD, but really, this is more me wanting to know more and watch more and see what Dixon Gottschild thinks of hip hop and lindy and the swing era and etc. etc. etc. and not really a complaint about the book itself.

I suspect people not interested in dance would like this as well; it serves as a great look at cultural appropriation and the colonization and decolonization of POC bodies, and if you are interested in dance, even better! I ran out and ILLed her book on the swing era on the strength of this and am very excited to read all about lindy hop! Ok, and other stuff too, but a lot about lindy hop!

Highly recommended.
oyceter: (lindy hop)
I was at a swing convention this weekend; mostly it was for West Coast Swing (WCS), though there was a fair-sized lindy hop crowd there as well, along with a few Balboa people.

I've been meaning to post on race and gender and lindy for a while but have been too lazy and too tired; also, I would like just one area of my life to not have to deal with this all the time! Ha, wishful thinking, I know.

Terms and definitions )

Anyway. From what I've seen, the SF Bay Area lindy community is a fairly white community, with a good deal of Asians in the mix. The Asians are usually East Asians, with a few Southeast and South Asians. The little I've seen of the SF Bay Area ballroom community has a fairly similar racial mix, only with fewer Asians. The ballroom community also tends to skew a little older than the lindy community (40-60 vs. 20-40, in my best guess). Both communities seem to be very straight, though I've seen posters for Queer Ballroom up. I'm not sure how much of this is specific to the Bay Area and how much isn't, but from the demographics of the swing convention, which was international and had people traveling, I'm guessing it's not too far from the norm.

And of course, all this is from someone who's only been dancing for about a year or so, so grain of salt, etc. etc.

Gender )

Race )

(no subject)

Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 09:51 pm
oyceter: (lindy hop)
Have been dancing for at least 3-4 hours for the past three days. Have spent majority of the other hours of the past three days watching dancing, talking about dancing, or attempting to recover from dancing. May now keel over from lack of sleep and from my legs giving out from underneath me (not literally... yet).

OMG must get into better shape so can actually dance several fast songs in a row as opposed to one and then nearly dying of lack of oxygen.

Incredibly behind on LJ and email. Have not even begun to look at Yuletide signups yet. I fear getting up tomorrow as all the accumulated muscle soreness will probably hit then.

But despite some bad dances and awkward social situations (I am still not that familiar with people in the lindy world and also I hate socializing and talking to people), I had fun! Also!

OMG PEOPLE BENJI SCHWIMMER WAS THERE!

He did a contemporary routine during the awards ceremony! And I got to see him talk!
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oyceter: (lindy hop)
So I went to lindy for the first time in forever, and I actually stayed for a little of the social dance! Not for long, but long enough to realize how much I'd missed it.

And!

It is the SYTYCD finale tomorrow!

AND!

Read more... )
oyceter: (lindy hop)
Spoilers )

Lindy hop randomosity )

Um, so sorry to be spamming people so much about dancing lately. But I have discovered the wonders of YouTube and procrastination.
oyceter: (lindy hop)
Bwahahaha! [livejournal.com profile] hesychasm is watching as well! And her post has YouTube links, as do the comments! Most of them are to last year's routines, but I could watch this all day.

I think one of the reasons why I can take it is because they don't focus much on the personal lives of the dancers. Honestly, I do not care about the personal lives of most people on reality shows, and I absolutely detest how catty people will get. I like that the show and the judges actually take themselves seriously. It is funny sometimes, because it's couched in language of learning and improving, but what I get out of it is a whole bunch of people -- judges and choreographers and dancers (and some are all three) -- who love dance and take dancing seriously and really, really, really love and believe in what they do.

And of course, I am completely biased, because I too love dance, even though I can't do anything even close to what those people on the show are doing!

Every week I am just so stunned by what all the dancers can learn in six days. This must be one of the most intense boot camps ever -- they're not only learning their own routines and potentially a brand new style, they're also learning a group routine for Thursday and possibly even prepping an individual number just in case. And I am so jealous that they get to spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week, dancing with all these amazing people to awesome choreography, and getting serious critique as well.

This week's show )

ETA: added links for the routines I remember best. Yay for YouTube!

ETA2: fixed links

Randomness

Thu, Jun. 21st, 2007 12:21 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
I missed swing again last night because I fell asleep in the bathtub with the rats. I awoke to panic -- there were two furry lumps huddled next to my feet, but where was the third? After depositing Bya and Ren back in the cage, I went around in what is now routine inspection, checking cables and cords and every nook and cranny I could think of.

Ru finally poked his little head out. I think he had been sleeping under my yarn stash, as he emerged from that corner of the closet. I am beginning to suspect that the Yarn Harlot is right about wool fumes, although I doubt she knew that they had effects on certain rats as well!

Thankfully, no yarn seemed to be harmed by this excursion.

Also, I am going to be in NYC for July 4! Whoo! Knitters and/or dancers of NY: where should I go? What yarn stores should I visit? What good lindy hop clubs are there?

Also also, I found some very old diary entries from my trip to Florence and Rome back in 2004. Would anyone be interested in reading them if I typed them up?
oyceter: (lindy hop)
I haven't been to swing for about two or three weeks -- I went out yesterday night and felt like I had completely forgotten how to dance! I didn't stay too long; I was tired and wanted to curl up with rats, and it's sort of embarrassing that so little dancing made my hips sore.

But today someone from swing emailed out that a swing band would be playing at a local outdoors mall for free! It's part of an outdoors summer jazz concert series, so it wasn't officially a dance. Some people from the dance community went anyway, and we commandeered a little spot by the very side and back of the stage, and people were out there, lindy hopping in the hot summer air.

There was actually a pretty big audience for the band, which was great, and it was so funny, standing there and dancing with no preparation, the wrong shoes, a giant crowd of people who probably thought we were nuts, and having tons of fun anyway. I nearly kicked off my flip-flops just to dance in my bare feet, but decided that swiveling and twirling and jumping around on the mall concrete would probably be just as painful as trying to dance with the flip-flops on.

I didn't dance that much; it was 90-some degrees outside today, we were right out in the sun, I had the wrong shoes, and I had forgotten to bring water. But I watched other people dancing: an impromptu shim-sham line to super fast music, the swing teacher from a local swing place just kicking out steps to the riffs in the music and playing off her partner's cues, people doing Charleston together with legs flying every which way. And afterward, an older woman came up to the swing teacher and said that she had been watching, so happy to see people dancing the things she had danced back in high school years and years ago.

So You Think You Can Dance )

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