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September 30th, 2012


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08:50 am - Swing
I am supposed to be writing but I have been wasting time this morning looking at lindy-hop and jitterbug videos on YouTube. I love Swing music, and I like the dancing that goes with it. I think the women are assertive and uninhibited.

The early examples in the 30s and early 40s are more dominated by black dancers, and the dancing is generally more powerful. The examples from the 1950s - taken from mainstream films about white teenagers - are mostly fairly tame. On the whole the black women are allowed to move more, pick up the men and swing them as well as vice-versa, express their physical movements more confidently. I know it is because of racism that it was acceptable to show a black woman swinging a man around, or jumping in the air and showing her knickers, and not a white woman of the same era. But the dancing of the women is not at all demeaning, regardless of race. They are full of energy and bravado.

Anyway, here are a couple of good ones.

This is the classic from Helzapoppin (1941): by a professional dance troupe. I notice that the black women dancers are all shown as working people, and they are confident and assertive with the men.

A 1945 film called Swing Fever: in this clip a woman dances with two men, a soldier and a sailor, and gets them to dance together.

(13 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:fjm
Date:September 30th, 2012 08:04 am (UTC)
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Gorgeous.

Just to note, dating patterns of the 1940s were less monogamous than a decade later. A boy's job at a dance was to introduce his girl to other boys to dance with, and "cutting in" was considered fine if done gracefully. Boys and girls tended to date in packs. Going Steady emerged during the war and predominated by the 1950s: it horrified the earlier generation who thought it *more* likely to lead to teen pregnancy. (all this from a book called Front Porch, Back Seat).
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 30th, 2012 08:38 am (UTC)
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I experienced this in the 1970s - my first boyfriend's parents (who were oldish) really advocated the 'everyone should go out with everyone' idea, they more or less said it explicitly. This was just as you say, that each date was less likely to lead to serious stuff. Not sure it ever worked :-)
From:emmzzi
Date:September 30th, 2012 08:22 am (UTC)
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I am fairly sure no one is supposed to be doing anything at 8:50 :)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 30th, 2012 08:38 am (UTC)
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I got myself out of bed at 6am to write. 'Epic fail' as the young people say.
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From:katlinel
Date:September 30th, 2012 08:24 am (UTC)
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Great clips, and thanks for the links. The woman in the second clip might be playing demure but you can see at the end of the clip how much energy it's taken. I think the first clip shades slightly more towards the dance-as-stylized-war end of the spectrum (we see one of the dancers aim a hefty kick at her partner, for example).
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 30th, 2012 08:41 am (UTC)
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Yes, the Helzapoppin clip has quite a lot of exuberant aggression in it. I think it's interestingly different from the mainstream.
[User Picture]
From:katlinel
Date:September 30th, 2012 09:04 am (UTC)
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I like that phrase "exuberant aggression" - it's a good way of describing it. It does seem very different from the way lindyhop is often shown now. Although very different in style and music, I like this routine from the first UK series of So You Think You Can Dance as it allows the woman dancer to express a form of aggression too.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 30th, 2012 10:05 am (UTC)
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Yes, it's a good modern example. On the whole I find modern dancing less fluid: they go into dramatic poses, with a slight pause each time. But that's just my taste.
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From:executrix
Date:September 30th, 2012 02:23 pm (UTC)
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I never like the SYTYCD routines where the woman is dressed as Cave Buffy.

Swing Kids: nowhere near as bad as people tell you it is, and the dancing is really good.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 30th, 2012 09:41 pm (UTC)
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Robert Sean Leonard and Christian Bale? Dancing swing? Gotta try and get a look at this.

ETA - sorry, meant to say, thanks for the recommendation.

Edited at 2012-09-30 09:41 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:executrix
Date:September 30th, 2012 11:28 pm (UTC)
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*And* Kenneth Branagh as a Nazi.
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 30th, 2012 12:36 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the links. I'll note that the white woman also displayed her knickers, and arguably it was more emphasized. Or is your point that she did it while being lifted rather than while dancing under her own power?

For me, the most striking thing is the pure joy of both sets of dancers. I don't get the impression you generally see the same thing in dance videos these days.



Edited at 2012-09-30 01:01 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 30th, 2012 01:03 pm (UTC)
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I totally agree about the joy. They seem to be dancing primarily for themselves, not just for the viewer.

You are right you can see her knickers in that one, so it kind of disproves my point. I felt from viewing a range of clips that the white women had quite a lot less leg on show. I also thought the clips from the 1950s were more conservative than the 1940s. Perhaps all the rebels went from lindyhop to rock and roll.

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