Linked Jazz

NetworkVisualizationButtonThis is a really neat tool:

Old news, but new to me!

“Linked Jazz’s new visualization tool developed by Matt Miller visualizes the social connections between jazz musicians. Various modes allow the user to view the network in new ways. Fixed mode pins the individuals with the most connections to the outer perimeter. Free mode groups individuals together based on the number of connections they have. Similar mode arranges individuals based on their number of shared connections. Dynamic mode allows users to add individuals themselves and see their shared connections.”

(Via a presentation by Maura Marx, Secretariat Director, Digital Public Library of America, at the Discovery Summit 2013)






Do you acknowledge who you learnt your dance moves from?

Cookie’s post recounting a story about a newer dancer not knowing who Frankie Manning was reminded me of a fairly a recent drop in class I attended where the teacher was teaching around the world and points ( which I think of a classic Frankie Manning move but, sadly, Frankie didn’t get a mention.

Do you acknowledge who you learnt your dance moves from? I have noticed that local older dancers (dancing 10+ years) seem to be more willing to acknowledge where there dance moves came from, who taught them (know who taught their teachers) and appreciate that there are many ways of executing a move. I learnt to dance Lindy and Bal from revivalists who learnt the dance from Frankie Manning/Bal old timers/video clips (and had to make up a lot of the dance themselves along the way), these teachers usually acknowledge in class where they got their material from, e.g. ‘today we are going to learn a classic Frankie Manning move which you can see in the movie XXX’. I think this is a lovely way to introduce the move and its history; it takes seconds and can be easily ignored but it gives those who are interested a way into the history of the dance. I don’t usually get the same info from some newer teachers who seem to teach as if there is a Lindy Hop moves textbook which defines the correct way to execute each move.

Which brings me on to a thought provoking post by Harri Heinila about “Google-historians” and the history of Lindy Hop. Harri writes about dance history:

“One striking feature in these opinions has been that, how easily these “researchers” speak about their subject. Even large subjects are explained easily like they are simple entities. No complicated and versatile subjects at all. Anybody, who has lived this life by somehow looking at what happens in this world, realizes that life is not a simple thing to perceive. So, how history can be that?”

The good local teachers who have been around a while seem to understand the layers of interpretation that teaching a historic dance entails. There’s subtleness in their teaching that often stresses ‘this is the way I teach X’. Sometimes if the audience is right they will expand on why, which might be as simple as an old timer told me not to do that, or explain how they tried different techniques whilst learning the move initially and they decided that in their experience technique x works better than y. There’s no right way to do anything, some ways might be more ‘right’ than others but there’s no definitive right/wrong.

I love the ambiguity, humility and complexity that teaching this way brings. I’m in a rebellious mood at the moment and I find it liberating when someone says this is what I teach because….  Doing this leaves the door open for me to challenge them, try out other techniques (and them almost always bow to their experience) it gives me more scope to learn, not just learn by rote.

“Make sure you have clean shoes and your zip is up” style tips from Jerome Anderson

Style tips from Jerome Anderson, one of the biggest characters in the London swing scene:

I love that tie!


Vagina swivels – Nick Williams

Skip to 2.23 – vagina swivels:

Fascinating stuff from Nathan Bugh – Ladies first

Fascinating stuff from Nathan Bugh – Ladies first

…when it comes to learning and teaching lead/follow skills, the follower’s technique is a much higher priority than the leader’s. Her dancing ability, her awareness, strength, balance, use of the floor, etc. are the elements from which spring her following ability AND the leader’s leading ability. She is the beginning of the logic in the dance. In class, the followers empower the leaders to learn. Leaders judge their progress according to the results that their partners embody. Followers are the focus of the lead/follow process, and they have to follow before the leaders can lead….

Although I agree with this:

“Oftentimes, good following is the answer to bad leading. For example: the best way to help a slow leader is to wait for him”

You also need this to happen:

“If you are a leader, have patience with the teachers who are follower-focused, because they are actually working for you too! Be kind to your partners, and encourage your partners to dance honestly. Don’t make your partner feel pressured to act out the steps you are attempting to lead. Make sure she gets, from you, the support she needs to master her technique.”

In my experience, it’s pretty rare that a lead will give you the support necessary to do this. I know I am a pretty sh*t follower. I know this because during class I get tutted at, given disapproving stares, been told I am not doing it right, been told it must be me because the move works with everyone else, get plenty suggestions about how to improve, and during one particularly humiliating class, I’ve even been told by a leader that they didn’t want to practise with me because I was doing the move wrong and they didn’t want to learn the wrong technique!

Sometimes I wonder why I still dance!

Graph Words: Jazz

Graph words is a thesaurus visualisation tool that uses Wordnet. Type in a word and it generates a map of associated nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs. Makes jazz look really exciting!

BBC Radio 4: Jazz Is Dead


Interesting program available for the next 6 days:

“Jazz was once revolutionary, but is now arguably part of the heritage industry. Paul Morley meets performers, critics and passionate punters to test the contention that jazz is dead – a victim of its own history. Featuring Geoff Dyer, Paul Gilroy, Seb Rochford, Gary Crosby, Laura Jurd, Nick Smart and Chris Hodgkins.” [via LondonJazz]

First broadcast: Tuesday 01 January 2013
6 days left to listen
Duration: 30 minutes
Jazz Is Dead

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BQOTD – What skills or concepts would you consider to be important for follows to be working on?

Liked today’s BQOTD:

“As a follow I get most out of classes and workshops when it is explicitly explained what skill or concept I should be focusing on during each exercise/move figure. What skills or concepts would you consider to be important for follows to be working on? If there were a list of the top ten skills for follows what would it include?”

Couldn’t agree more with Jake Miller’s comment:

“I really appreciate this question because (and I don’t think it’s just my scene) there is a shortage of follows going to classes and workshops. If classes are just learning new moves, it doesn’t do much good for follows who can’t make the decision later on to lead that move–they could have learned just as much from social dancing with people who did take the class”

I don’t have a list of skills/concepts but I’m interested this topic because a small group of us are trying to start a series of technique classes (probably followers only) and we’re thinking about what we can work on together.

I am currently thinking about waiting longer for the lead.

When dancing with people I know well I have gotten into the habit of responding to their lead preparation rather than their lead. E.g. them taking a deep breath in a certain way means a swingout is coming, or that weird tension in forearm/hand being the prep for a specific move.

It freaks out one particular lead because I effectively know what he’s going to do before he’s consciously done anything but it also means that I am subtly ahead of the lead.

Another weekend, another workshop, another disappointment

Another weekend, another workshop, another disappointment. I’m not going to name the workshop because many people (mostly leaders) enjoyed it and what you get out of a workshop has a lot to do with your own goals, experience, preferences and the level you are in.

Perhaps it’s enough to say that this was one of those workshops where (in my track/level) the leads got to try out new techniques, learnt new moves and got instruction from the teaching staff. The follows, well we got to follow (although manhandled might have been a more appropriate description at times) and then we got to follow some more. There was nothing for the follows to work on, no advice about technique other than a quick comment about keeping rotation going at the end of a turn, no correction from the teaching staff (e.g. follower not getting a move, leader tries it on teacher, teacher can follow it, teacher moves quickly on), no styling tips…

I tried to be positive, watched the teacher’s technique and styling and tried to emulate, embraced the opportunity to focus on following and meeting new people and so on but this was an expensive workshop, I learnt very little, I have a sore back and bruise on my side from some rather forceful leading, I spent my weekend in an overcrowded room worrying about/being rammed into someone else rather than following what my leader was doing and I danced with the people I always dance with due to uninspiring music and very long band songs (ok, this one is my fault).

I had high really high hopes. I am really disappointed. I feel like I have just wasted an awful lot of money.

Right, think that’s out of my system. Time to move on!

2 dance goals for next year…

2 dance goals for next year…

1: Get over my counterbalance phobia and learn how to dance with a lot of counterbalance

2: Learn how to dance Hollywood style (as taught locally) and nail the styling