Dance criticism

Jerry at has sparked an interesting discussion about Nick’s dancing over at Wandering & Pondering. Jerry’s criticisms are subtle and cleverly argued and I agree with much of what he says.

When I watch more recent clips of Nick dance Lindy Hop he seems to be fading into the background and playing more of a supporting role to his partner. In the following performance from the 2009 Korea Swing Festival I barely notice what Nick is doing because my attention is focused on Carla.

I think Nick has far more stage presence in the 2003 clip below but I find the ‘look at me’ stuff slightly jarring especially the spin at 0.18 (noted that this a Jack & Jill contest).

I also couldn’t agree more with Jerry’s follow up post ‘The Line’. There is very little informed dance criticism within the Lindy Hop and I think the community is the poorer for it. Dancers performing at international events should expect some fairly harsh criticism of their pieces. It’s a given that these people are excellent dancers – they wouldn’t have been invited to perform or compete if they weren’t – but it’s the small things that make the difference between a good and great performance.

For those of us who are social dancers or have no formal dance training it’s often hard to pinpoint why we like or dislike a certain performance, for example Dogpossum describes this routine by Syke and Frida as ‘fairly ok’ and I couldn’t agree more but I can’t really explain why. The routine certainly doesn’t make me feel excited to watch it. Reading informed criticism opens your eyes to aspects of the dance that you might not have appreciated before and I hope Jerry (and other bloggers) will continue to put their heads above the parapet and analyse dancers in this way.


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3 responses to “Dance criticism”

  1. Lindy Dandy says :

    I happen to think that the fact that our eyes are drawn to Carla is more about wardrobe selection than it is about Nick’s dancing; she’s wearing an awesome red skirt (with just the right amount of flowy-ness) while Nick is dressed in monotone.

    I’m just as focused on Nick and I am on Carla when I watch that clip. I’m always impressed by his laser-like precision and confident athleticism.

    As far as I know, that was one of the earliest performances of that choreography by Skye and Frida. Here’s that same choreography performed seven months later at Lindyfest 2010. ( They’re clearly a lot more comfortable with it and much more clear, subtle, and confident in their movements. They’re enjoying themselves and we get to share in that.

    Does your opinion of that choreography change with this performance? (just wondering)

    If dancing is art, then the dancers are artists, artists who make conscious decisions about the art they present to us.

    I really like Skye and Frida’s choreography there. The song they picked is fun and exuberant; their interpretation matches it beautifully.

    I think they made the deliberate decision to present something subtle and not emotionally challenging. I find myself giggling and entertained at the little things they do.


    Fantastic blog, by the way. I’ve been following it for months and I really enjoy it.

  2. sleepingglitter says :

    Yes you are right about Carla’s red skirt but I also think Nick’s precision is the reason why I don’t see him as much. His dancing is so clean, smooth and precise that I simply don’t notice him very much in this clip.

    The second clip doesn’t really change my view of Skye and Frida’s choreography. My ambivalence is probably due to my impression that this is very much a routine and that there is quite a lot of obvious choreography. For me, the joy of watching the famous Skye and Frida dances, such as the ALHC 2005 one, is that I can almost believe they are social dancing and I don’t see the choreography.

  3. Lindy Dandy says :

    Hmm, that’s interesting; it’s Nick’s precision that is so captivating to me.

    I guess different routines speak to us differently.

    I think that there are several routes you can take when you choreograph a routine. You could make it seem like a “super” social dance where the choreography disappears. I think that Skye and Frida are especially good at routines like this.

    It’s also possible to make statements with choreography that are impossible with social dance (like the variations that they do at the same time). There are also figures (especially in routines with complicated air steps) that aren’t possible without obvious choreography. Skye and Frida use some preplanned moves that still require connection and in the end their social dancing style is still intact. I think that’s what they’re going for with this routine.

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