Category Archives: Swing Dancing, Music and Culture

Perth Lindy Exchange and the D700

Last weekend, the Perth Swing Dance Society held its annual Lindyhop Exchange – called Hullabaloo!  It’s a fantastic long weekend of swing dancing, classes and social get togethers.  People from all over Australia come to Perth to socialise and dance!

Unfortunately, wifey and I don’t do many of the events or classes anymore – in the last few years we’ve just turned up for one social dance night only.   I guess we’re getting “over” it a bit.  Plus it’s hard to find babysitting.  Yes – I thought it would get easier when the kids got older, but they just end up with more extra-curricular activities!

We did get out to the Saturday night dance – it was the Hullabaloo Hop in the wonderfully character North Perth Town Hall.   The Hullabaloo Hop is the traditional night when they hold the Jack and Jill competition – basically a social dancing fun competition where entrants get paired up with some other random entrant, and you are judged on how much fun and connection you have with each other.   Entrants wear a number on their back to identify them.   We also had an extra special treat – the local Oz Big Band swung the house with many Basie and other swinging charts!

I took the opportunity to take my new Nikon D700 out for a spin.  Armed with my 50mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.8 lenses, and looking forward to using 3200 to 6400 ISOs, I had a ball!  The D700 performed better than I expected – photos even at 6400 ISO were usable with not as much noise as an 1600 ISO image from my old D80.   And there’s something about the D700 sensor – the colours just seem so much nicer.

Here’s a selection of some of the photos from the night!

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Really enjoying Hey Mister Jesse Podcast!

Earlier this year, I thought I’d spice up my drive to and from work by listening to podcasts.

Well, a single podcast.   The Hey Mister Jesse podcast, in fact.

This is a monthly show dedicated to swing music for swing dancers.  The host, Jesse Miner, is one of the most popular swing DJs around, and he is very active in the swing DJ scene.   His co-host happens to be Manu Smith, a cool swing dancer and teacher that I’ve had the opportunity to learn from a few years ago when he visited Perth.

I used to wonder what the appeal of a podcast was – why would anyone want to listen to a radio show that you have to download as an mp3?  But I’ve been converted!  I love the personal nature of it, the audience feedback, looking forward to new finds each month, and of course, the great music that is covered on the show.   At first, I was disappointed that most of the music on the show are short snippets and not full songs, but I’m getting used to it now and can’t wait to get home from my drive to buy new tunes that I like.

I love how the show has reinvigorated my swing music collection.  It was getting a little bit stale, but I now know of new swinging bands, as well as finding hidden gems in my existing collection.

As the show has been running for awhile, I’m actually listening to the shows in reverse order.  Feels weird reliving world events backwards, but it doesn’t matter – music is timeless!

If you’re into swing dancing or love swing music, I definitely recommend this podcast.   More details here:  http://www.yehoodi.com/show/heymisterjesse

Buying swing music electronically

I’m a Swing DJ.  Well, I’d like to call myself a Swing DJ.

But what is a Swing DJ?  The word DJ might conjure up visions of 2 turntables, a cross fader mixer, headphones…

In the swing dancing scene, a Swing DJ is less glamorous – no we don’t “mix” one tune into another.  We don’t tamper with the BPM or pitch of recordings.

But we do have the same passion for the music we play and the same challenges of working the floor, choosing the right music for the mood, building up a set, etc.

Buying music is a huge part of being a DJ and the “collector’s” mentality is one element that is required.  Finding new recordings, buying the music.

Some things that set some swing DJs apart from techno/pop DJs is that some of us are on the look out for new remasterings of old recordings, releases of little known bands or hard to find recordings, good liner notes with details of the players and maybe some history of the recording and band.

As it’s a niche market, sometimes recordings are very rare to find and hence the price can be relatively high for a CD (thinking $50-$100). 

Last night I was searching around for 2 CDs that were recommended to me – The Three Peppers chronological, and the Mills Blue Rhythm Band 1936-1937.  Both very hard to find CDs, out of print. 

Luckily iTunes came to the rescue.  I could buy the whole album electronically for ~AUD$16 each.  Bargain! The only thing I’m missing is that physical CD that I can add to my CD cupboard, the liner notes and photos with the recording details like personnel, date, location, etc.

In the past, although I did do the odd purchase from eMusic and iTunes, I tried to buy physical CDs rather than electronic tracks,

But with a more limited budget nowadays, I think my buying behavior has to change.  Buying just the tracks I want, or whole albums electronically that are hard to find as a CD just might be the way I need to go from now.

Jazz and Lindyhop at Hale photos

A few weeks ago, I attended a jazz evening at a Perth school.  It was a really fun night, showcasing many of the school’s own talented jazz ensembles.   To help get the parents on the floor, Shane and Ruth from Swing It came to give a short introductory class of lindyhop. I was surprised and happy to see the dance floor totally crowded with enthusiastic parents, trying to do rock step triple steps 🙂

After the class, Shane and Ruth did a lindyhop performance for all.  I took quite a few shots – but it’s surprisingly hard to get a good dynamic lindyhop shot where the dancers and their faces are visible, whilst capturing the energy and motion of the dance.    

Swing It Performance

 

I took along my Nikon 85mm 1.8 and did not regret it at all – it takes such amazing shots in low light.

Sax solo

 

To end the night, the school’s soul band took to the stage.  I snuck right up in between the stage and the dancers and tried to capture the raw energy of the crowd.

Soul Band

A bad dance

Have you had a bad dance?  You know, one of those ones that just don’t work.

At the DJ Battle on last weekend, I got knocked out early so took the opportunity have a few dances. 

And so the DJ put on a song, one I’ve never heard or danced to before.  The rhythm was a bit uncomfortable – it “sounded” slow, but it was not.   I think it was because it had more of a half time feel to it.

I asked a follow to dance – an advanced dancer.  Like many dances, I first like to get “in tune” with my follow – almost like “calibrating” myself to them, as every follow is different.  We did a few rocks to the music.

And then a few swingouts.

And then crap.

Nothing seemed to work at all!  Not that we didn’t “dance”.  But our dance forms and frame was totally not connecting. I wasn’t able to play and connect with the music and give us both room to improvise with each other and the music.  

And being the lead, it’s really all my fault.  Aargghhh!!!  I tried to get back to basics, but I was probably so frustrated by then, it just didn’t work.  Maybe I started thinking too hard…

We continued dancing to the end of the song, and I said a big “sorry” afterwards when leading her off the floor.  We’ve had better dances before, and I had some really good dances that night, but this particular combination of song, partner and my frame of mind and (bad :)) technique just didn’t gel this time.

I felt embarrassed.  I felt disappointed. 

How can I make sure this doesn’t happen again?

Body Hurt

My body still hurts…

On the weekend, Wifey and I decided to tackle the Aerials class held by SwingIt.    It was fun and physically challenging – trying to co-ordinate with each other to flip Wifey around.   Shane and Ruth had obviously been doing these for a while and practising because they did them nice and clean.

Aerials are weird..  it’s not all strength.  It’s a lot of timing between each other, and also the mental “I can do it” attitude…  which for some unknown reason I was lacking a little.  Not good!   No accidents, but I think our aerials could’ve been smoother and more successful.

Whoa are we feeling it now!  For the past 2 days, we’ve been hurting all over…

Just so I don’t forget what they look like! (we didn’t take any class review video) –

Hourglass

Hip flip

Backpack

Similarish to this but entry from side by side charleston

Flip from guy lying down (what is the name for this?)

24 seconds into this:

RIP Frankie Manning

A sad day for Lindy Hoppers around the world.

Frankie Manning, the “founder” and “ambassador” of Lindyhop, has passed away.  Frankie was about to turn 95, and had still been dancing up until last year.  Yep, in his nineties and STILL dancing…

Lindyhop is a type of jazz partner street dance, that grew in the U.S. in the 1930s.  Lindyhop now doesn’t really refer just to the dance moves, but encompasses the whole culture around the dance in that period – the swing music, the clothing, the reasons behind the dancing itself.

Frankie was a huge element of the lindyhop, credited for creating many of the moves, especially the first aerial/air step.   Frankie gave lindyhop the exciting, energetic, frenetic and acrobatic style.  Lindyhop had a resurgence in the 1980s and has since grown into a worldwide dancing scene, mostly for the 18-30 year old population.   Dancers dress up in “vintage” style, guys wear baggy high pants with a waistcoat and cap, put on two tone shoes that have been sueded, girls wear vintage dresses with vintage hair dos.

Cities around the world regularly host an annual lindyhop “exchange” – basically an excuse for a massive dance party, with nightly dances, live music and classes, usually attracting many out of towners.

I was lucky to meet Frankie on a few occasions.  I will never forget SEAJam, the Singapore Lindyhop Exchange where the Harlem Hotshots performed a show, and invited a 90+ year old Frankie up to the stage to dance Cottontail with them.  Amazing…   Or the lessons where he still exuded so much enthusiasm and spirit…  Or the talks he gave on life in the 30s and 40s and dancing back then…  Or the many stories he saved away in his book…  Or his big smile.

This last weekend, Perth had another of its exchanges, called the Hullabaloo.  I was DJ’ing last night at the last dance and that’s when we found out that Frankie had just passed away.

It was so sad and surreal…   the founder of the dance style that we were all doing last night passing away.  But his legacy, his dance, still living on and being done at the same time…

Instead of a minute silence, we all did the shim sham, a lindyhop line dance, to Tuxedo Junction – the dance that everyone does with Frankie when he travelled around the world to many lindyhop exchanges.  For a dance that is so happy and carefree, I have never felt so sad dancing it…

Frankie, may you Rest In Peace.  May you look upon us all on Earth with a smile on your face as you are living on each day here, through thousands of dancer’s memories, souls and feet…

More information here:

http://www.yehoodi.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=85869

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/28/arts/dance/28manning.html?_r=1

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/arts/2009/04/27/2009-04-27_lindy_hop_great_hospitalized.html