Dance Organizers & Gero Hajek

I’ve been thinking a lot about community organizers since Gero Hajek passed away.

In the dance community (and I’m sure in most communities) organizing is a labour of love. It’s not “thankless” but the level of thanks that you receive is never equal to the amount of work that you put into it. And that’s ok because people who organize are rarely motivated by that kind of attention. It’s not about being thanked. It’s about the deep satisfaction you get from creating something beautiful for other people to experience.

When you’re an organizer, you don’t experience events in the same way. To one degree or another, there’s always some level of pressure on you. You absorb that stress and you carry it with you out of love for the community and for creating magic for other people.

Every individual dancer in the community benefits from the work and the pressure that a small handful of organizers are shouldering. When you experience joy on the dance floor, someone has fostered the circumstances that have allowed you to experience that pleasure.

In Toronto, whether you’re a newer dancer or you’ve been around for a very long time, you are benefitting from work and love that a wonderful man named Gero Hajek put into dancing in this city.

What I’m trying to say is that in Toronto, we are all part of Gero Hajek’s legacy.

Thank you Gero.


February 14th, 2019

It’s with a heavy heart that I share the news that Gero Hajek, longtime president of the Toronto Swing Dance Society, passed away on February 8th. 

Tokyo Workshop, March 2019

This weekend I had the privilege of teaching workshops in Tokyo with Lennart Westerlund and Sing Lim. Lennart is an old friend and one of my most important dance mentors, and Sing is one of my dear friends and partners in crime from Frankie 100. It was a real treat to travel across the world and to share a great teaching experience with them.

 
 
 
 
 
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It was a pleasure to teach with my old friend and mentor, Mr. Lennart Westerlund, in Tokyo on Saturday and a jazz class with my pal and partner in crime, @sing_lim! #lindyhop #jazz

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Sing and I taught a jazz class together and then she and I alternated partnering with Lennart. I was lucky enough to participate in an excellent musicality class with Lennart… with comfortable seats and a white board!

Evening Group

Sunday Panel

We also participated in a panel discussion about Lindy Hop, which included three incredible Japanese guests. One was a Japanese jazz critic who attended a Marshall Sterns’ jazz music and dance lectures and lived in New York City. He even had the opportunity to attend Count Basie’s “breakfast and BBQ” jam sessions in Harlem. Another was the daughter a Japanese Broadway Tap Star who was friends with Fred Astaire and was very famous in Japan; he brought some Lindy Hop back to Japan at that time. And the third was the “Teddy Wilson” of Japan, a piano player who used to play boogie woogie for the GIs.

Thank you Hiro Yamada and Tokyo Swing Dance Society for organizing it, it was amazing event!

Sunday Evening Dance

Saint Savoy Shoes

My shoes have arrived!

I actually ordered a pair of Saint Savoy RIVIERA shoes that came in when I received my bag but I had ordered the wrong size. I was so nervous about them being small that I wore socks when I did my measurements and they ended up a size too big.

When I exchanged the shoes, I added another pair along too: WEST in black.

I’ve been waiting to invest it really great shoes in neutral black and white for a long time. For years I’ve been wearing character shoes, which were great when I had my studio, but I wanted something I could wear both on and off the dance floor.

I’m thrilled with the choices I made!

Unboxing my WEST & RIVIERA shoes from Saint Savoy

I did find that the Rivieras were a tiny bit tight/pinchy around the ball of the foot. Not to fear! My husband has cobbler tools and he helped me to very gently stretch them out a bit overnight.

A little pinchy

The WEST fit perfectly as is.

I’m really excited to take these shoes with me for my workshop in Japan next week!

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Happy feet. #saintsavoy #saintsavoyshoes #shoelove

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Unboxing & Review: Saint Savoy CARRYALL bag

I’ve just received my Saint Savoy CARRYALL bag in Magnolia and I love it!

Since Saint Savoy is a Lindy Hopper owned and operated business, I decided to make my first ever unboxing video. I’ve been thinking of ordering from them for a long time now and I know how helpful online reviews and videos can be so I thought I’d do a quick one of my own to help others.

Unboxing the CARRYALL bag!

Do you know about our CARRYALL bags? Watch this unboxing video with Mandi Gould as she takes her first look at the CARRYALL in Magnolia. This handbag is a harmonious merger of the timelessly elegant Kelly bag and an early 1920s bowling bag. Browse all our our bags here: https://www.saintsavoy.com/en/bags.html#SaintSavoy

Posted by Saint Savoy on Saturday, February 2, 2019

 

I needed a bag that wasn’t too big or too small; just right for going dancing in Toronto and staying over night. This bag seems to be the perfect size! It’s got the compartment for dance shoes on the bottom and with my size shoes, there’s some wiggle room to spare. And up top there’s enough room for all my other stuff I would need but without it getting oversized like a gym bag.

It’s the perfect size for my wallet, phone, ipod, a few cosmetics, and a little bag for a change of blouse and underwear.

I really like the ventilation holes at the bottom of the bag. I always air my sweaty shoes out when I get home but this is great in case you forget or you won’t be home for a long time. I would still put my shoes inside a soft shoe bag inside the bag so it doesn’t get dirty. I would put a sweaty blouse or tee in the bottom too after wearing it. So I’d keep the clean stuff up top and after wear put it down below.

The zippers and leather are very high quality but a bit stiff from being brand new. I can tell they’ll soften up and that it’s a solid item made to last.

The colour is even better in person that I had hoped. Burgundy and salmon; really lovely. Coincidentally I have a wallet in the same shade of pink so it was obviously meant for me.

I was also worried about the bag being heavy. Sometimes bags are heavy before you even put anything in it! Not so with this bag. The box it came in was also light, despite including both this bag and a pair of shoes! That was a big relief.

I was also concerned that I might get dinged with a customs charge when it arrived in Canada but I didn’t. Hurray!

I also ordered a pair of Riviera shoes with this and they arrived and are beautiful but I’m going to exchange the size. I was so worried about them being too small that I sized up from my usual size and that was a mistake. So I’m sending them back for a 39 (instead of a 40) which is an 8 in North American sizing. I’m also ordering the West in Black and she has a line of flats coming out soon that I’m excited about.

Super happy with this bag! It’ll be perfect for all my Lindy Hop events. 🙂

 

Somewhat recent social dancing videos

As I’ve been preparing to teach a workshop in Tokyo in March (yay!) I started to realize that I don’t have much recent dance footage of myself. There are lots of cameras around at events these days so I’ve started to try to dig up some videos so I have some reference point.

Social dancing with Bryan – Winter 2019

 Social dancing with Riz – Fall 2018

“Lindy Bomb” in Vienna with Geoffrey, Sing, and Leah – June 2018

The party is on…

Posted by Andreas Chiou on Monday, June 25, 2018

Dancing with Krister – January 2018

Dancing with Bryan – Spring 2017

Article: ÅSA HEEDMAN: ”CUTE AND CUDDLY IS NOT FOR ME”

Some thoughts about following –

I’ve been thinking a lot about what Åsa said in this article since I read it last night. Whenever I see LH following that gets me really excited, it’s assertive, musical, and playful. It has a strong voice. It’s almost never “cute” that inspires me. So why do I let these little dainty things creep into my own dancing?

I suppose sometimes it can be fun to dance in a dainty/cute way, but truly it’s not as fun as the assertive dancing that I prefer. I think it’s just another of the many trends that creeps into our dancing. So this is something else I’ll be paying attention to in my Lindy Hop in 2019.

Click here to read the article. 

Back to NYC for Swedes in New York City!

Photo by Voon Chew, taken when I was in NYC organizing Frankie 100

I’m honoured to be coordinating another event in New York City!

Swedes in New York City – May 24-26, 2019

I’m the event planner for an event marking 35 years since Swedish dancers first traveled to New York to study from the original Lindy Hoppers. I’m wearing my personal event organizing cap (not my Frankie Manning Foundation hat), working independently to help Lennart Westerlund and Daniel Heedman to put on this event in May. We’re collaborating with the Harlem community to be able to include as much history and respect for the origins of Lindy Hop as possible.

What this event represents for me

Lennart Westerlund has been one of my most important dance mentors. He is also one of the only people who has continuously worked to educate about the Harlem roots of Lindy Hop. When he and the other dancers of the 80s and early 90s studied Lindy Hop, they came to it with a deep respect for its African American origins.

For a variety of reasons, my generation of dancers lost our connection with the roots of the dance for many years. It’s something that we’ve been trying to rectify in more recent years, but in the early 2000s we were enamoured by West Coast Swing and other smooth dances like Carolina Shag. Then, when YouTube came along, the emphasis shifted heavily towards contemporary competition videos. There just wasn’t much talk about the history of the dance…

…Except for when we visited Herrang each summer and Lennart shared the history with us.

More than any other community, the Swedish dancers have preserved that contextual approach to learning Lindy Hop, with close study of original videos and teachings rather than becoming overly influenced by modern shifts and trends. And that is most certainly thanks to Lennart’s influence.

I’ve had the privilege of attending the Herrang Dance Camp for about 10 summers and also helped to organize the camp in 2004 when I lived in Stockholm from winter through to summer and got to learn and absorb stories and artistic direction from Lennart and the Harlem Hot Shots.

Additionally, Åsa Heedman has been one of my most important teachers and inspirations as a follower in Lindy Hop. I began taking private lessons with her back in 1999 and it’s an absolute pleasure for me to be able to help to bring her and her now partner and husband, Daniel Heedman (who was in my class for my first Herrang in ’99) to North America where they almost never teach.

I feel very grateful for the positive influence that these dancers have had on me. They have helped me to develop as a dancer, not just going through the motions of Lindy Hop but also rooting my dancing in the historic Harlem context of the dance.

SWEDES IN NEW YORK CITY

MAY 24-26, 2019 – NEW YORK CITY

There will be 10+ of workshops with six wonderful Swedish dancers, representing three generations:

  • eWa Staremo-Burak & Lennart Westerlund
  • Åsa Heedman & Daniel Heedman
  • Mimmi Gunnarsson & Fredrik Dahlberg

We’re also excited about the social dancing aspect of the weekend which is starting to take shape with a big Sunday night dance falling on what would have been Frankie Manning’s 105th birthday at the historic Alhambra Ballroom. This dance will be hosted by members of the Harlem community, Julia Loving & Ronald Jones and will be featuring the Charles Turner III and Uptown Swing.

The event will include:

  • Traditional workshops with three generations of Swedish teachers dedicated to the New York old-school tradition, as they were taught by Frankie Manning, Al Minns, and others
  • Lectures, interviews, film shows, and panel discussions on the historical context of the Jazz Era and African American roots of Lindy Hop from Harlem
  • Performances and demonstrations
  • & more

If you’d like to learn more about the event, visit swedesinnewyorkcity.com and you can click here to get the updates. 

 

 

Frankie Manning dancing at 76 on French Television

I just want to make sure everyone gets to see this amazing video that Eric Esquivel found featuring Frankie Manning at age 76 dancing with Judy Pritchett and also featuring Cyd Charisse! (Interviews are translated into French.) This is truly an amazing find. Enjoy!

22 sep 1990, "Etoile Palace" démonstration de Lindy hop Frankie Manning. Frankie Manning is dancing with Judy Pritchett. He was 76.Thanks Jean-Christophe HepRef: https://fresques.ina.fr/danses-sans-visa/fiche-media/Dasavi00702/etoile-palace-demonstration-de-lindy-hop-frankie-manning.htmlMore: https://www.nytimes.com/1990/10/03/arts/review-dance-french-jitterbugs-find-a-future-in-harlem-s-past.html

Posted by Eric Esquivel on Wednesday, August 15, 2018

22 sep 1990, “Etoile Palace” démonstration de Lindy hop Frankie Manning. Frankie Manning is dancing with Judy Pritchett. He was 76.
Thanks Jean-Christophe Hep

Ref: https://fresques.ina.fr/…/etoile-palace-demonstration-de-li…
More: https://www.nytimes.com/…/review-dance-french-jitterbugs-fi…

Some #LindyHop thoughts while I ride the streetcar

Posted to my Facebook page.

Last night I went out dancing and I only had 4 dances but they were super fun!

I wanted to vocalize something about contemporary LH that I feel all the time but rarely get to talk about anymore because I’m no longer teaching.

There’s an aesthetic, groundedness, and rhythmical jazz feeling that I strive for in Lindy Hop that I rarely get to fully express. For a lot of reasons. And I’ve come to accept that, even though in my heart I haven’t let go of that ideal. There’s a way that I really want my dancing to look and feel, my personal ideal for Lindy Hop, but it’s not something that I can actually make happen most of the time. The music is a factor, the way the connection and lead follow work, the kind of patterns that leaders lead these days, the contagious feeling of what’s going on around me on the dance floor, whatever modern videos I’ve watched that seep into my consciousness… Even the shoes and clothing that I wear affects how my dancing manifests itself and I usually find myself dancing differently than my ideal.

But I also don’t want to get down on modern forms of Lindy Hop because, as I said, it can be super duper fun!Last night was a perfect example. I had so much fun dancing my 4 dances of the night. I loved the way that my leaders took me through interesting patterns with lots of connection nuances and shapes. It was surprising and delightful. And I responded and contributed in the ways that felt right within the spontaneity of the dance.

I’m also very aware of how we all influence each other and that’s how the dance continues to evolve in interesting ways, and I do like that… I’m always reconciling in my heart the way that modern Lindy Hop has taken shape vs. some of the ideals that I miss and rarely get to express. I become aware of people watching me, the way that I enjoy watching other people, and especially when I watched for inspiration when I was a new dancer. That’s when I feel torn sometimes because I don’t necessarily feel like I’m dancing like the kind of role model that I actually want to be for the dance. I don’t always feel like ME. But there’s a reality to all of it and I have to try to feel content with who I am *today* compared to who I was as a dancer yesterday or who I will be tomorrow. Because Lindy Hop is spontaneous and magical and that’s beautiful.

Those are some of my streetcar thoughts for today. 😊