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 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.
Can we PLEASE start to properly acknowledge women in Lindy Hop? I just read a comment that completely ignored the woman in a video of only two people dancing and she was frigging killing it, some of the best dancing I’ve seen, but people were only commenting about the man. My mind is blown. What is wrong with us that so many of us do that, even if it’s unconscious… Especially if it’s unconscious. BE conscious! This is a dance that gives and takes in the partnership more than any other dance I know of. If we can go on a huge campaign to change the name of the Jack n’ Jill, we can certainly start to open our eyes and give women proper acknowledgment. It needs to start NOW.
At the risk of missing people, I’d like to acknowledge some of the incredible women who have made an impact on my dancing and who are friggin’ AWESOME. It’s impossible to make a complete list and I don’t want to slight anyone. This is just a personal list and it includes people who have been important to me at various times, both from my local scene and the bigger Lindy Hop landscape:
Diane van Haaren
Eva Lagerqvist Jansson
Ewa “W” Burak
Marie Nahnfeldt Mattsson
Thank you to all of these women for the inspiration that they’ve given me!
I’ve been inspired by Åsa Heedman, previously Åsa Palm, since I first saw her dancing in 1999. I had been dancing for over a year but had never seen a follower bring such ownership of her own musicality and personality to the dance before. Seeing her changed my view of the dance completely.
A couple of months after seeing her dancing, I had the chance to take my first classes from her at the Herrang Dance Camp. That’s when I met Daniel Heedman. He was in my class and was also experiencing Herrang and her classes for the first time. He went on to become an incredible dancer in his own right, and eventually Åsa dance partner and husband.
These two have one of the most beautiful dance partnerships in the world, and they’re my favourite dancers in the world. They just keep getting better and better. The soul that they bring to this new clip epitomizes everything that I love about Lindy Hop and jazz dance culture. (Yes, it’s mainly solo dancing, but it’s an important part of our partnered culture too.)
As part of my role on the board for the Frankie Manning Foundation, I’m behind the wheel of the preparations for #FrankieMonth. It’s only right that I hold an event in my own hometown of St. Catharines. Continue reading “Preparing for Frankie Month”→