Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Evolution of Lindy Hop = Amazing!
This year at ILHC 2010, the Lindy community was ROCKED by Andrew Thigpen and Karen Turman.
These two have an amazing amount of love and energy and enthusiasm for Lindy Hop and the Lindy Hop community and it was only a matter of time before they gave the Lindy Hop world something so memorable.
Many people know the "Evolution of Dance" clip by Judson Laipply: an entertaining humorous dance clip that went viral on youtube for the last so many years.
Evolution of Dance Judson Laipply
This year, Andrew and Karen brought to ILHC 2010 the "Evolution of Lindy Hop". And the Lindy Hop community thanks them!
This routine works on SO many levels.
On one level, it's just a humorous and darn entertaining routine.
On another level it pays tribute to all of Lindy Hop, this dance we love so much, by embodying so much spirit and jubiliation, just like our beloved dance.
On another level, it binds a community together because most of us who have been dancing for a long time are CLIP crazy, not just for vintage clips but also present day clips of all the world's best dancers, and being able to recognize the various clips being paid tribute to is in a way acknowledging our own obsession with this Lindy Hop dance as well as being able to poke fun at ourself for it.
On another level, it reminds us that our dance continues to evolve and that we continue being a part of that history!
I could go on, but this is my final one because to me this one is the most important. It pays tribute to all our wonderful and innovative dancers throughout Lindy history both current and of the past.
THIS IS IMPORTANT!
(And it's the point of this article!)
Even nowadays when Sheri and I go to LindyGroove, and we may see Erik Robison show up or Steven Mitchell, we ask ourselves "I wonder how many people in this room know who Erik and Sylvia are, or who Steven Mitchell is, and the profound influence they've had on what they are doing right now."
Almost a small sense of history being lost.
Not that I blame them. When I first started dancing, I really knew nothing about who was whom and what was what. I just enjoyed dancing.
It was my first two partners that started me on the road to history via clips and knowledge.
My first partner, Angie, had the infamous "compilation" tape of clips that had been circling around (later called "Original Jitterbugs"). This is the first time I saw any type of clip and the Groovie Movie was the very first one and I was like "WOW!" and then "WOW!!!" and then "HOLY COW THIS IS AWESOME!".
My second partner, Sheri (yes who became my wife!) had started with lessons at PBDA whom of course have close ties to history with close ties to Frankie Manning. She knew all of the important folks and players: Erin and Tami, PBDA, The Rhythm Hot Shots, and Frankie Manning. She really made me aware of all those important folks. I remember her saying "OH MAN! The Rhythm Hot Shots are in town! We got to see them!" and I was like "huh?" (and then later that evening after the show I was like "HOLY BEJEEZUS!")
I'm really grateful that I had a "vehicle" so to speak (Angie and Sheri) to get me in touch with Lindy history.
Which is why Andrew and Karen's "Evolution of Lindy Hop" routine is so very important in my opinion because it is a fantastic vehicle to get us all back in touch with Lindy history.
Okay, it is a really fun routine too. Put together really well, and the dancing is really good, especially considering the wide variety of styles and moves and music they had to portray. The transitions are not forced and it's almost like getting to watch your favorite parts of all the clips in one six minute routine. Really well done.
To me, though, the historic tribute is really why I seriously love this routine. By paying tribute to so many influential clips it reminds all of us to remember and get to know our history.
Chances are that if you've been inspired to dance, it has come from one of the vintage clips OR a dancer who was inspired by the vintage clips - and as a Lindy Hopper it is vital to see and know these cilps.
That being said, thank you thank you THANK YOU to Andrew Thigpen and Karen Turman for putting together a routine that personally for me inspired me all over again. Not only did I love watching their routine many times over, but I got inspired to watch the original clips all over again too, and then I fell in love with Lindy Hop all over again! I hope you fall in love (for the first time or all over again) as well!
What follows is the "Evolution of Lindy Hop" showcase by Andrew and Karen, followed by the various clips paid tribute to. Thanks to Reuben Brown for putting the Youtube playlist together!
Before each clip I'll write a bit about what each of these clips means to me and why I think they are a part of Lindy Hop history.
ILHC 2010 Showcase "Evolution of Lindy Hop" featuring Andrew Thigpen and Karen Turman
I won't write much here, I've already said it all above, so watch and enjoy!
After Seben 1929 featuring Shorty George Snowden
This clip is a 20's Charleston clip. Many Lindy Hop historians point to this clip as the precursor to Lindy Hop when Shorty George does breakaways. Shorty George and partner is the third couple in starting at 1:30
A Day At The Races 1937 by the Marx Brothers featuring Whitey's Lindy Hoppers
Many Lindy Hoppers point to this Whitey's Lindy Hoppers clip as the first Lindy Hop clip they've ever seen. Though Hellzapoppin is probably the more famous Lindy clip (also by Whitey's Lindy Hoppers), this clip contrasts greatly as it contains more about pure dancing than Hellzapoppin which is heavier on the aerials. This clip really tugs at the heartstrings of avid fast dancers.
Big Apple Clip from Keep 'Em Punchin 1939 featuring Whitey's Lindy Hoppers
The movie is known generally as one of the first starring an all African American cast. In the Lindy Hop community, it's known for "The Big Apple". The term "Big Apple" refers to a circular dance with moves called out by someone. "The Big Apple" (with the "The") refers to this clip and the specific choreography by Frankie Manning. It remains one of most fun and intricate line dances with awesome jazz timing and movements. Because of its intricacy, knowing the Big Apple puts you in quite an exclusive club.
Hellzapoppin 1941 by Olsen and Johnson featuring Whitey's Lindy Hoppers
Olsen and Johnson are a comedy duo modeled a bit after Abbot and Costello with a bit of darker humor to match the cornball comedy. The movie itself is a bit strange and random (the opening scene is a bunch of people falling into hell, quite humorously). Anyhow, enough about the movie, what about the clip! Hellzapoppin the movie hosts what I would call the most famous Lindy Hop clip ever affectionally called "Hellzapoppin". Inspiring fast dancing combined with amazing air and tricks that a lot of Pro Lindy jam contests tend to emulate. It's both inspiring and just pure entertainment. I know when we show this clip to our Lindy 1 and Lindy 2 classes they're always joking afterwards "So wow..you can dance to this stuff fast?" and "Is this what we're learning next month?". And I love the long version of the clip because in many compilations it gets cut off and we miss a sweet little jam by Slim Gaillard and Slam Stewart.
Buck Privates 1941 by Abbot and Costello featuring Dean Collins
While on the east coast Frankie Manning and Whitey's Lindy Hoppers drove Lindy Hop mostly in the ballrooms, on the west coast Dean Collins drove Lindy Hop mostly in the movies. Pretty much just about all dancing in movies featured Dean Collins as a dancer and/or choreographer, or the clip featured Dean Collins' students. His influence on dancing brought a different "look" and "style" to Lindy Hop later popularized in the late 1990's by Erik and Sylvia (more on that later!). Not to mention Dean Collins was one of the first Lindy Hoppers that focused on teaching in addition to dancing. This clip became the iconic clip (along with the Groovie Movie) for "Hollywood" style dancing. Who doesn't want to swivel to the "Clang! Clang! Clang!" part of the song?
Groove Movie 1944 featuring Arthur Walsh, Jean Veloz, Chuck Saggau, Irene Thomas, and many more.
One of the most widely watched clips for its humor and awesome dance jam, the "Groovie Movie" was the first clip I had ever watched and really got me hooked on Lindy Hop. The energy and fun that comes out of the clip is inspiring and the "jokes" are fun too. I remember during the late 1990's quite a few guys and gals doing the "bonk bonk bonk" on the head thing with their partners in Jam circles (Mikey Pedroza did it to Josh Gomez in one memorable Jam circle at old Memories!)
Mama Lou Parks Dancers
After the war ended, Lindy Hop ended with it. Big band music disappeared. Frankie Manning went to work for the post office. Through this time it was the Mama Lou Parks dancers that kept this spirit of dance alive until the revival of Lindy Hop in the late 1970's and 1980's. What they danced was a bit of hybrid of Jazz, Charleston, and Lindy Hop (their signature routine is called "Stops"). But what they really kept alive was the spirit and jubilation.
Mama Lou Parks Dancers @ Basie Ball October 2004
At the Basie Centennial Ball of 2004, one of the biggest and best events of recent memory, the Mama Lou Parks dancers made a comeback and was the highlight of the entire event. Note that in Andrew and Karen's performance they pay tribute to this clip as well during "Stops" when Andrew holds his back mimicking "old age back". What I love about this clip is that whether it's this clip or the vintage clip, the same spirit and energy is there! I mean 0:40: the music stops. What to do? SCREW IT! NO MUSIC AIN'T GOING TO STOP MY DANCING! (awesome!!). And what about at the end (don't want to spoil it for you). I was out of my seat when I was watching the clip. Let's just say that this clip really shows that age and years do not have to diminish spirit and jubilation, and in fact can make it stronger. Bravo to the Mama Lou Parks dancers for showing us young'ns how to REALLY bring it.
Shim Sham featuring Frankie Manning
The Shim Sham pays tribute to so many different things, I'm not sure where to begin. It's a line dance which brings together tap dancers and Lindy Hoppers. It's an iconic line dance in the Lindy Hop world. And in recent years it became synonymous with Frankie Manning who loved calling out the Shim Sham. In fact I can't help but think of Frankie when I think of the Shim Sham.
The Jitterbug Stroll also pays tribute to a lot of different things. It's a symbol of the resurgence of Lindy Hop in the 1980's. The dance is a staple at the historic Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association (Erin and Tami Stevens). It is also a collaboration between the two dancers that I would say are Frankie's most well known proteges: Steven Mitchell (vocals) and Ryan Francois (choreography). This dance represents many of the elements involved in the rebirth of Lindy Hop in the 1980's and 1990's
Can't Top The Lindy Hop 1994 featuring the Rhythm Hot Shots
While many believe the revival of Lindy Hop started in the United States, much of the credit goes to the Swedes who studied Lindy Hop as a performance and show dance during the revival. The head of the Rhythm Hot Shots, Lennart Westerlund, traveled to New York often to visit and study with Frankie Manning. The spirit of their dancing and routines are very reminiscent of the Hellzapoppin clip. For many modern day Lindy Hoppers this clip inspired them to learn Lindy Hop. Today the Swedes and specifically the Rhythm Hot Shots (now Harlem Hot Shots) continue to be one of the best Lindy Hop performance and dance communities in the world and are the organizers of Herrang, the most famous dance camp in the world.
Can't Top The Lindy Hop 1994 jam circle
Many of the revival Lindy Hop dancers and teachers of the 1990's are featured in this clip, and many of them are still around today traveling the world and inspiring all of us including Marcus and Baerbl, Ryan and Jenny, and more. For me and Sheri, we count as one of our mentors Sylvia Sykes, whom we talk to often about Lindy, dancing, contests, and other things. She was also instrumental in keeping Balboa alive until the Balboa revival. Sylvia and partner Jonathan Bixby come out and do some wicked Balboa at around 2:25
The movie "Swingers" is credited for one of the biggest booms in swing dancing. Pretty much in So.Cal for dancing you had Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association, Memories (a.k.a. "Old" Memories), and the "World Famous" Derby. After "Swingers" came out, the Derby in Los Angeles became one of the major hot spots in the city. Crowded every night with live bands and people coming out to drink, dance, and have a good time. Without this movie, it's possible many dancers would have never found dancing. Personally, I got my start in dancing at the Derby (like many other So.Cal dancers). I started in 1998, two years after "Swingers". I'm sure that the Derby thrived for so long in huge part to this movie.
Gap Khakis Commercial 1998
This clip is probably what caused the other "big" boom in swing dancing. I give some credit to "Swingers" for my start in swing dancing, I give the rest to the Gap Khakis Commercial. My story is that I always liked big band music, I just didn't know you could dance to it, not until I saw this clip. I was like "WOW! That's so cool!". At the time though I thought they were professoinal dancers and that's when my friends said "No no no.. all sorts of people do it. We've been going to the Derby for like six months" (and that's how I got started). I think it's fair to say that many So.Cal dancers and Los Angeles dancers got started because of either "Swingers" or this "Gap Commercial" clip.
And now the clips turn into a combination in my mind, not just a tribute to the clips but a tribute to the dancers in the clips for being modern day innovators:
Erik and Sylvia @ ALHC 1998
And now into the modern Lindy heroes. On the east coast people primarily danced a "Savoy" style Lindy Hop. Erik and Sylvia went out to the first ALHC 1998 and danced a totally different style inspired by many of the clips from movies like "Buck Privates" and "The Groovie Movie". If you watch the ALHC 1998 Showcase division, you'll see that every couple danced the same style and then here comes this couple from Los Angeles with a different look, different feel, and different smoothness. This clip was really the birth of modern day "Hollywood Style" or "Smooth Style" Lindy Hop. (*They won first by the way*)
Minnie's Moochers @ ALHC 1999
In the same way that Erik and Sylvia brought a new style of Lindy Hop to the community, these young teens came out of nowhere and brought a whole new meaning to movement and choreography. Mentored by Bill Borgida, this clip and this dance is known by pretty much all of the vets in the swing community as a breakthrough in Lindy Hop. Many of Minnie's Moochers are still active today and are some of the best dancers and teachers in the world. I know personally that Sheri and I continue to be very inspired by Skye Humphries (Minnie's Moochers) and Frida Segerdahl (Rhythm/Harlem Hot Shots) (more on that later!)
Todd and Emily a.k.a. Jo @ ALHC 2001
Combining many styles of dance into their routine, Todd and Emily broke new ground (and continue to do so) by evolving Lindy Hop to include new movements and new dances. This was the first of many of their influences in the evolution of Lindy Hop. Today both of them continue to wow crowds in Jam circles with pure dancing (no tricks!). In fact it was a real treat for me and Sheri when we watched the ILHC 2010 Pro Lindy competition and saw that Todd and Emily/Jo had paired up! We were not disappointed as it was their dancing that captivated us the most, moreso than any other couple's combination of dancing and tricks. These two were and are inspiring and awesome.
Mad Dog @ ALHC 2002
For me I saw this as the beginning of a movement back to a "Hellzapoppin" style of dancing. For much of the decade this type of dancing took on the moniker of "raw": "raw dancing","raw lindy hop", etc. I believe the energy and spirit of this routine really influenced dancing for the next several years up until present time. Anytime today you see super fast "raw" swingouts where people are just "letting it all go" - I believe much of the credit for that goes to this clip and these dancers.
For me, the next tribute is much more than just about the routine, it's about Kevin and Carla and how much influence their partnership brought to the Lindy Hop community. Kevin and Carla were THE couple for the first half of this decade. Creative, musical, clean, and athletic with a variety of dance styles and moves. While the "raw" movement was gaining ground, Kevin and Carla continued to drive the Lindy community inspiring us with quality of dance combined with an amazing gracefulness.
Kevin and Carla @ The DogHouse
Kevin and Carla @ Montepellier Swing Festival 2003
Todd and Naomi @ ULHS 2005 Showcase
Around the middle of the decade towards the end of the decade, jam circles really started heating up with tricks and air getting more and more complicated. At the same time, Todd and Naomi inspired many by foregoing the air and dedicated themselves to the dancing aspect of Lindy Hop. Fast dancing, footwork, creativity, they kept it to "just dancing" which continued to inspire many of us to think about the dance for what it is... a dance.
Todd and Naomi @ ULHC 2005 Fast Division
Seriously .. watch the whole contest and everything I said above is witnessed here. No tricks, no fancy aerials ... just really really awesome dancing. Todd and Naomi come in twice, at 1:20 and at 3:01. By the way, they won first place
Skye and Frida @ ULHS 2007 Showcase
Skye and Frida are often my two favorite dancers to watch. Sometimes I'm in the mood for watching other dancers but often come back to these guys for same reasons written for Todd and Naomi. Their pure dancing, creativity, musicality, fun, showmanship are so inspiring. For much of this decade everyone wanted to be Skye and Frida (and today many people still do!). And I'm really glad that the "Twenty Four Robbers" routine was the one included in Andrew and Karen's tribute, because it's my favorite routine of theirs!
Max and Annie @ ILHC 2008 Showcase
In the latter part of this decade to present time, the Lindy community has been FLOORED by the pure power, rawness, and athleticism of Max and Annie. Besides their great dancing and choreography (my favorite routine of theirs is still the ULHS 2007 Showcase), their innovation in aerials and tricks are on a whole new level. I'm talking innovation like as soon as you think you're coming close, they'll pull something else out to make you realize how far ahead they really are. In this case, taking an existing aerial and adding to it has been a focus of many pro Lindy Jam competitors in recent years. Max and Annie are the king and queen of this innovation. And I really like that it was this hat trick that Andrew and Karen paid tribute too. It's not just about taking the Lotus aerial and adding a whole new element to it that we never saw coming, but if you've seen their dancing since then, you can see that this moment must have clicked something in them. Because since then they have exponentially raised the bar. Case in point: ILHC 2010 Pro Lindy competition. The "mop between the legs" to the "Sailor knot" ... who would have EVER thought of that? And even if any of us did think of it, we would have probably thought "yeah..not physically possible." Yeah, I don't think anyone will be beating them in Pro Lindy Jam contests for awhile, and that's seriously not a bad thing either, because with Max and Annie on the floor I think we will be in for an awesome wild ride for years to come.
One2Swing's The California Rolls @ ILHC 2009 Team
Okay okay.. I need to say that I'm really floored that our team was part of this tribute. Believe me, I was already seriously freaking out, cheering, and jumping out of my chair the entire time watching the "Evolution of Lindy Hop", but when I saw this my jaw totally just dropped. (And I had to go back and watch it a few times again just to make sure my eyes did not deceive me!). So thank you thank you from my heart and from our team!
That being said, it's a bit weird talking about one's own clip, and so I'd rather use the space to say thanks to Andrew and Karen and also thanks to those who have inspired us. As I mentioned in recent articles, our inspiration comes from many places including specifically stage shows and musicals (character and showmanship) and also hip hop crews Jabbawockeez and Quest Crew (movement, showmanship, and shape). In fact, the piano part in "Love Me Or Leave Me" was an idea which went through many iterations but was originally inspired by something I saw my high school drill team, Kentridge Chatelaines, do way back in the 1980's (they were really good!)
From a Lindy point of view, of course all the above clips inspire us in innovation and dancing. specifically for team choreography, we are heavily inspired by the Rhythm/Harlem Hot Shots. The amount of character and showmanship they bring to their performances is the best in the world. We often show the "Can't Top The Lindy Hop" clip to our team as examples of character and showmanship (which we tried to emulate in our Kung Fu Fighting/Bugle Call Rag performance at Camp Hollywood 2008). Our second inspiration for team is the Silver Shadows. They are a big inspiration to us (more on that later!) Thank you Andrew and Karen, it's an honor to have our team be a part of this tribute.
And finally, the last few clips from Andrew and Karen pay tribute to the Silver Shadows.The Silver Shadows are a team comprising of the world's best dancers and teachers. So whenever you see Silver Shadows on the schedule, you already know the dancing is going to be first rate.
That's just as individual dancers.
As a group, the Silver Shadows are so much more than the world's best dancing. For much of this decade their routines took team choreography to another level. They really go outside of the box. No cookie cutter formations, nothing that looked like they were trying to fulfill "compulsory" figures or aerials. The Silver Shadows had really REALLY good choreography that flowed - floor spacing, pacing, movement. And had a wonderful freshness and newness to it. Everything had a meaning to it and everything fit in together as a whole, not just what might have looked best in that one single phrase. It all belonged together as one piece with incredible synergy. And it is from watching their routines that I came up with the terms "synergistic choreography" vs "phrased choreography" which we use often in our workshops.
The Silver Shadows definitely are innovators, definitely are an inspiration to our team, and I think it's appropriate that the last bit of the "Evolution of Lindy Hop" paid tribute to them.
Silver Shadows @ Frankie95 2009
Silver Shadows @ ULHC 2005 Team
Silver Shadows @ ULHC 2006 Team
BUT WAIT!!! Andrew and Karen @ Lindy Focus 2008
Whether it's satire, poking fun at themselves, or paying tribute to themselves, I really REALLY love their ending to "Evolution of Lindy Hop" matching their "Bugle Call Banjos" ending. They could be saying a number of things like "we hope you're inspired by this clip" or "we want all of us to continue being a part of Lindy history" or "I just have to sneak us in there" or whatever. In my opinion, "Evolution of Lindy Hop" is now a part of Lindy Hop history and is something we will all enjoy for years and years. For all the reasons I've written so far, for making us aware of history, and also for just being fun and entertaining, Andrew Thigpen and Karen Turman you DESERVE the closing tribute!
In closing, thank you Andrew Thigpen and Karen Turman!
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