Lindy Hop has no soul. It never did. It never will.
That's how I started a response to a reddit thread earlier this year talking about how Lindy Hop Hop lost its soul. I wanted to expand on that post a bit.
What were the best Lindy Hop videos of 2016? I am not entirely sure. That didn't stop me from putting together a list of 100+videos that I think represent Vernacular Jazz Dance this year.
Jonathan Stout's Lindy Focus All Star Orchestra is delivering the goods, and people are taking note with more and more people crowding around the bandstand each night to bask in the aural glory. Here are a few things to watch and listen for over the next remaining nights of unprecedented musical goodness.
My mother loved to travel. Her first big trip was probably the most important. Filomena came to the US based on a dream of a better life. It sounds cliche, but there was no internet to google "life in the US" or any websites to tell her what to expect. All her images of what her life would be like were based on rumors and speculation. But she had worked hard to earn her degree in Chemical Engineering from The National University of the Philippines, so she was never going to be satisfied teaching Spanish to young school kids for the rest of her life.
Her first attempt was an utter failure. She had worked hard to earn enough money to fly to the US. She gave it to a person who was supposed to set her up with the proper papers and flights, but he took off with the money. However, the amazing generosity of Osiem came to the rescue as people in her small barangay contributed to replace her losses and try again.
Fely arrived in New York City in the legendary summer of 1969. The tumultuous times of the Civil Rights Movement and the Viet Nam protests were just background noise for a young immigrant exploring her new world. She found a couple of jobs, got herself naturalized and decided to continue her journey with her college sweetheart and my father, Jose, a few years later. A couple more, and I was along for the ride.
Early family trips were modest affairs. A road trip to see friends in Chicago. Sightseeing by station wagon up through New England. Visiting my dad's family in California. A barnstorming tour of caverns and caves through the South. Plus the requisite trips down I-95 to Disney World.
She loved the company of her entire family. She didn't stop with bringing my father with her back from the Philippines to the States. Next was her mother, Dolores. Then her brothers and sisters Aurora, Salvador, Laura, Manuel, George, Ramon, and Imelda. Many of them would start their American journeys with us, in our house, before moving on with their own careers and families. It didn't stop with them. There is a small cadre of young Filipino women in the US who got there start from the guest room of my parents' home.
She often took them and other friends on day trips back up to NYC and also DC. But as Fely was able to make a good living with a few different manufacturing companies, and then finally with the New York City Police Department Crime Lab, the trips got more ambitious. A bus tour through Europe. Then she discovered cruise ships. She took an early retirement after 22 years because "you never know what's going to happen."
No cosmopolitan center was beyond her interest: Istanbul, Hong Kong, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Cairo, Liverpool, Edinberg, Monaco, Monte Carlo, Venice, London, Brussels, Vienna, Dublin, Salzburg, Paris, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lampur, Phuket.
And countries that she had never heard of or didn't even exist when she was born as WWII ended like Croatia, Estonia, Mexcio, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, Malta, Aruba, and Oman.
She saw The French Riviera. Italy from Venice to Sicily. The Rhineland. The commune of Taormina, and the islands of Hawaii. The Acropolis in Athens. The hard to reach monasteries of Monstserrat. Icebergs across Alaska, and The Great Pyramid of Giza.
Her favorite place was St. Petersberg. She loved the history and the architecture. The weather appealed to her as well. She didn't like the heat. She still loved the home she and dad built for their retirement in the Philippines, but she was smart to design it with copious amounts of A/C.
After she had surgery to remove her cancer last summer she was eager to go on another trip and visited Australia from Sydney to Melbourne.
Her next trip was going to be out of Barcelona again. She was a fan of the enormous ship for that cruise as she was of the itinerary which would take us around the Iberian Peninsula. She organized it around my father's and my own birthdays which are both in May, and was going to get nearly two dozen of her closest friends and family to join us.
She had pretty high hopes for going on that cruise even after she was re-diagnosed in January. She cancelled, but re-booked before chemo started in February. It only took a couple of treatments before she cancelled permanently.
She never stopped thinking of her family. One of her last conversations lamented why the visa application submitted to bring her last sister from the Philippines has taken so long to process. It was submitted in 1991. Virginia is still there.
She passed away this past Monday, surrounded by her brothers and sisters and their husbands and wives, while Dad and I both held her hands as she went on her journey to join her father, Francisco, her mother, Dolores, and her eternally youthful brother Loreto.
She will be taking one more trip back to her original home to be buried in Mangaldan. I wish this wasn't our last trip together.
People talk about different aspects of the scene or the dance, but I've found that they’re often they’re coming from a very limited perspectives, and ignoring how different facets of the community are interrelated. That’s an easy thing to do in our community because we’re mostly connected informally through events and social media. There’s no really reliable way to get a big picture view of the entire scene, but that’s what we're going to try to do here.
What happened in vernacular jazz dance in 2013? This is a brief summary of things that happened in and to vernacular jazz dance this year.
The most viewed Lindy Hop, Balboa, Blues Dance, and Charleston videos of 2013. Why? Because it’s December. More of an explanation and analysis below the list.
I created this site as a central repository for all my
projects and interests.
I’m a little bit more discriminating in terms of what I blog about these days, so most of the action happens on the Facebook page for this site where I post links and videos daily. If you haven't "liked" it on Facebook, just click on the box to the right.
In the mean time, it has been brought to my attention that not as many people are aware that I’ve written quite a bit about Lindy Hop and its sister dances, not to mention a number of other sundry topics such as music, event planning, and living in DC. Then there are all the posts by guest contributors.
Below is a handy guide to some notable past posts. One of the nice things about writing about an older dance like Lindy Hop is that lot of observations don’t go out of style, or at the very least, have some sort of curious historical value for our ever growing and changing dance community.
Since I brought this blog over from the Wordpress site, not everything imported cleanly. I'm fixing as much as I can, but it’ll be a long term work in progress.
I have some new posts in the works, and of course we just had the International Lindy Hop Championships, so there will be some activity soon enough. In the mean time, take a look around and make yourself at home. Don’t forget to subscribe or follow my multitude of social platforms to get updates on my propaganda machine.
Generally speaking, I will use this blog to write about my projects and endeavors, but I won’t abandon what got it the most notoriety, which is my commentary about the continuing development of the modern Lindy Hop community alongside its siblings in Balboa and Blues Dance.
If you are looking to learn about how the dance got to where it is today, then start with Artistry In Rhythm which is a 16 part look at how a social dance community communicates ideas through the lens of the Lindy Hop communityof the late 1990’s through 2007.
You can see the story continue to unfold every year for the past four years since I started this blog in 2009, I’ve made it an oddly compulsive habit of listing all the notable blogs, articles and video related to vernacular jazz dancing since then. Will this year be five? Only time will tell.
Once you’re done with that you can wade through the rest of my Dance Commentary which is listed below with posts that compliment Artistry In Rhythm and the subsequent yearly round ups first. That's followed by a complete chronological list of all the other dance posts.
I also have quite a bit to say about music in terms of live performances, DJing, and album and song reviews. I’ve done both of us a favor by breaking these out individually at the end of this post.
I’ve had a number of guest writers over the years that have contributed to this overall story of Lindy Hop. Dr. Karen Turman gave us a detailed personal history behind all the choices she and Andrew made for the important dance performances they “quoted” in their legendary Evolution of Lindy Hop routine. Skye Humphries shared his extensive answers about the dance and his life in a previously unpublished interview, and Ramona Staffeld occasionally chimes in with remembrances of growing up dancing Lindy Hop.
I’m my own harshest critic. The epic Frankie95 Review is actually the inspiration for me starting this blog. It’s a sort of self-therapeutic breakdown of the biggest Lindy Hop event to date, and includes a lot of behind the scenes insiderness about the event and the Lindy Hop community at large.
I continue to do extensie debriefs of the event I work on currently, The International Lindy Hop Championships which started back in 2008. Although, the recap of the last ILHC was in video form on the video show I co-host with Bobby White, A Word on Swing.
My Event Commentary about other events tends to be a mixture of observations about the dance and music in general as well as nitpicks about planning and coordinating an event. Somewhere in there are also recaps about the events themselves like the grand opening of the now infamous Mobtown Ballroom.
It does help to have the Facebook page for this blog to keep track of what people talk and care about. Before that, I did it the old fashioned way and listed everything on my blog. In your darkest days, you can indulge in your madness by exploring the archives of those Video and Link Highlights. Be warned: there may be no coming back.
As you can see, most of my writings mainly deal with the world of dance, but on occasion I will rant about random pop cultureness, and get a little personal, albeit very rarely. I also talk up things I see around the city I live in, and if you’re ever in town, think about talking the epic DC in 24 Hours challenge and tell me about it because I’m probably not going to do it any time soon.
The Chronological List
What follows is probably the least technical illustration of what makes classic jazz great for dancing as well a behind the scenes look at the behind the scenes video about Lindy Focus and A Word on Swing.