Swedes in New York City

Somehow I didn’t get around to doing any kind of recap of Swedes in New York City here. I was just too busy!

The event has come and gone. It was a lot of work but very rewarding. Being able to connect students with some of my very favourite dancers in the whole world is so gratifying. The fact that the event also coincided with Norma Miller’s funeral was unexpected, emotional, but also cathartic.

This is my personal thank you message from the Swedes in New York City website:

It feels strange to write the usual thank you note about what we just did in New York City.

When we lost Norma Miller, everything changed.

All of the other stuff that happened the last few days was very nice but I would rather keep the emphasis on Norma and her legacy.

10 years ago we lost Frankie Manning and now we’ve buried Norma Miller just a short distance away. The parallels are uncanny. Now the “World Lindy Hop Day” title that we established 5 years ago on Frankie Manning’s birthday takes on new meaning.

Norma was an amazing woman and a part of our history. We will never forget her.

But it’s important to say some thank yous so here they are on a high level:

Mickey Davidson, John Biffar, Cynthia BrownLisa JacobsDaphna HarelKrister ShalmBarbara Bronx & The Harlem Swing Dance SocietyPaolo Pasta Lanna & Spencer Weisbond & Swing ReMixJulia LovingRonald Jones and swingwithusnyc.comChris LeeJennifer HempelChachi,Jocelyn Hassenfeld & family, Cynthia MillmanLana TurnerBuddy StevesElliott DonnelleyJeff Liu-LeycoAmy WinnJudy Pritchett, Daniel Heedman, Lennart Westerlund, Ewa BurakÅsa HeedmanMimmi Gunnarsson BringlövFredrik DahlbergDenise Minns-HarrisSandra SchulzCameron & Larry Schulz, Paul Grecki, Margaret Batiuchok, Zita Allen, Sing Yuen LimChazz Young & Michellene Young, Olivia and Jill at Lincoln Center…

…and most importantly Norma, Al Minns, and Frankie for giving us all purpose.

 

Panel: The Pivotal Role of Al Minns on Modern Day Lindy Hop

In partnership with Lincoln Center

Friday Teacher Introduction

Saturday Performance

Sunday Tribute to Frankie Manning

Videos of the panels coming soon…


**Norma Miller honored throughout the weekend**

For information about Norma Miller’s viewing, burial, and celebration of life on Friday, May 24th, click here

 

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

A post shared by Mandi Gould (@mandigould) on

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

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. 

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. 😊

My Lindy Hop Story

My sister Zoey and I first saw Lindy Hop on Thursday, January 8th, 1998.

Zoey had heard about swing dancing from Jane Catkisser but we didn’t really know what to expect and we weren’t prepared for the love at first site that we experienced when we emerged upstairs at the Hooch, above the Gypsy Co-op on Queen St. W. That night we walked into another world.

It felt like we had entered the Hot Club of France with the Club Django band playing in a small, candlelit room, and one young couple was doing the most incredible partner dancing. Never before had I witnessed anything so magical. The dancers were Jana Jedlovska and Martin Nantel. They were incredible and I knew in that moment that at all costs, no matter how long it took me, I had to learn to do it.

That night we had missed the lesson but we met Peter Renzland and the next week we attended his Wednesday night group at the Tranzac Club. We also met another fabulous dancer, Jessica Somers, and I was shocked to learn that she’d only been dancing for a couple of years. I thought for sure that it would take many more years to learn to dance like that. I didn’t understand anything about how Lindy Hop worked and how freeing and individual it would be.

It was a life-changing night. The T.O. Lindy Hop Reunion will mark my and Zoey’s 20 year anniversary from that special night.

My Philosophy of Following

This note is old from 2015 and I plan to review it soon, but for now I just don’t want to lose it so I’m posting it here for safe keeping! 

***

Originally from March 22nd, 2015

For many years I’ve been saying that following in Lindy Hop all comes down to just a few key principles. This weekend, my pal Krister prompted me to actually define what those principles are. So here it goes.

***THIS IS JUST MY PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY. TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. It’s evolved over the years and will likely evolve some more. I also think that most of these principles apply to leaders as well.

Mandi’s Key Themes of Following in Lindy Hop

1. Momentum – To me, Lindy Hop is all about grounded momentum. The breakaway in to an open, stretchy position is really what started to define Lindy Hop at the end of the 1920s and still does today. The stretchy momentum of swingout-type shapes is really what defines the overall feeling of Lindy Hop. Followers should keep moving through the direction that the leader creates.

2. Elasticity – The dance should feel stretchy. Delay to make sure you’re actually responding to the lead and use that delay to ground yourself so that you can snap/release and achieve momentum through the elasticity of the dance. You aren’t supposed to be a mind reader. Don’t move because you “know” you’re supposed to. Move because you’ve actually felt a lead that you’re responding to it in a stretchy, elastic kind of way.

3. Grounding – Lindy Hop should drive from the legs. Power with the lower body. Push through the floor to transfer your weight from one entire leg to the next. Strive for balance and grounding and fight the contemporary temptation to float across the floor. Work those legs and use the floor.

4. Rhythm – Every movement and shape has a rhythm. Seek it out and find the fun in all rhythms, from basic triple steps to more sophisticated variations. Without rhythm there would be no Lindy Hop.

5. Posture/Core/Frame* – Seek good lines and posture through what a lot of people call “frame*” but not at the expense of your grounding and not with a rigid upper body. Don’t pull upward to the point where you’re starting to dance “up” – you want to have good posture while also staying in to the ground. Your upper body should be open and ready to respond to your lead in a flexible, loose, absorbing way that catches your core without your arms interfering. *I’d like to find a different word than “frame” which is more appropriate for ballroom dancing but I haven’t found a word I like better yet.

6. Followers should drop the weight of their connected arm – The connection a follower creates should be equal to or less than what the leader creates. Respond to the level of connection that the leader is setting and start at a “zero” connection (dropped arm) so that you’re sensitive enough to feel the intensity of what the leader is setting. Respond by connecting through your core and your shoulders, not by pushing, pulling or flexing arm muscles. (As a follower I might choose to increase my connection under certain circumstances like when I want to let my partner know something or I want to use them for something very intentional. See bonus #8. But that’s an exception and most of the time my connection would be lighter or equal to the leader’s.)

7. Be in the moment – My overall philosophy of following is be in the moment, or even behind the moment. Don’t care about what’s coming next, enjoy and squeezing out where you are right in the instant.

And I’m going to actually add a #8:

8. SPIRIT > TECHNIQUE – Lindy Hop, at its root, is a raw and wild dance. Don’t let all of the contemporary analytical stuff spoil the spirit of the dance. Lindy Hop should be a conversation, not a lecture. Follow… But not too much. Not so much that all you’re doing is hanging on for the ride. I believe that followers should assert their voices and not let #1-7 prevent us from playing an active role in the dance… In fact, there should be times when you throw #1-7 out the window because the music overrides “good” following technique. Connecting with the music is just as important (more important?) than being a “good” follower. Find your voice and self expression and use it to influence and contribute to the dance!

This is just my personal philosophy; there are no right or wrong ways to dance the Lindy Hop. Take what you like, try it, and put the rest in your back pocket to try out again in the future. Your dancing will continue to change and evolve and what doesn’t work for you today might appeal to you some time in the future.

Have fun and happy swingouts!

Mandi
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Curtis & Jolien’s Family learns to dance: 6-Count Lindy Hop

Our friends, Jolien and Curtis, are getting married!

Last night their parents organized a group lesson for their friends and relatives to prepare for the wedding. They’ll be getting married in November and Alex Pangman and her Alleycatz will be playing, so learning to dance in order to be able to enjoy the band was the main goal.

Here’s a practice video that focuses on 6-count moves. It’s not exactly what we taught yesterday, but it fits into the same model.

Teaching Reflections

I used to teach a lot of these kinds of lessons, but now that I’m mostly retired it doesn’t come up very often. We had to make the decision of whether to teach 6-counts or 8-counts. Overall, I prefer to teach 8-counts first because they’re so much more musical. However, it’s easier to get dancing quickly when you teach 6-counts. Based on the group that we had, we decided to go with 6.

One of the biggest challenges with 6-counts is that people get out of sync. When we put on the music to let people practice, some beginners inevitably get lost and have to start again. There’s always a temptation to count in the entire group, but the people who have continued to dance are on a completely different count than the music, so the group isn’t in sync. You definitely end up having to sacrifice both the music and unity in a 6-count situation.

It was a really fun group of people and they did a great job. Can’t wait for the wedding!