Click for Lindy Hop Championship Rules Questionnaire/Proposal, 2/22/00
John Tomeny and Wendy Jo Gertjejanssen's article for 5-6-7-8 Magazine
World Lindy Hop Championship Debate Continued
Steven Mitchell Speaks Up
To: Janice Wilson <email@example.com>
Sent: Thursday, October 07, 1999 12:41 AM
Subject: Steven Mitchell speaks out
To All Lindy Hoppers I am alarmed that we would even consider the World Rock & Roll Federations's attempt to become the governing body for Lindy Hop competition. As someone who has contributed to the renaissance and growth of Lindy Hop for over 20 years, I feel strongly this would be detrimental to the dance.
We do not need a national or world organization to govern Lindy Hop. The nature of an art is that it blossoms from the individual, unencumbered by organizations and bureaucracy; the nature of Lindy Hop is that it's a street dance, born and bred in a rebellion from the status quo. The birthplace of Lindy Hop was in America because it offered the freedom to get wild and crazy; the revival of Lindy Hop is now in America because it still offers the freedom to do it your waynot the way dictated by a board of directors.
Ultimately, a centralization of power is what causes divisiveness as anyone who deviates from the 'right way' is criticized. I'm standing on a roof top as I shout this: Memberships, rules and a standardized curriculum will suffocate the spirit of this dance.
What the Lindy Hop community has always wantedand always successfully hadis a loose network of regional organizations. I was a founding member of the World Lindy Hop Federation and our simple motivation was for social networking over a larger geographic area. The majority of the members, which included international support, were not in favor of focusing on competition and the regimentation necessary to implement that agenda; and the group decided to disband precisely because of the divisiveness of this small group. Competition is good for Lindy Hop, but if it's the engine that drives the dance it will drench the flame and 'flava' of innovation that comes from social dancing. Competition in Lindy Hop can and should flourish within this loose network of regional organizations. Like all free market activities common in America, anyone can produce an event and if we like it we will attend, spread the word and it will grow. All dancers will vote with their feet and their dollars. In that light, I urge people not to compete in the upcoming World Lindy Hop Championships/WRRF in New York and suggest you choose competitions that have paid some dues, that is, they have evolved organically to gain your trust.
I'm still standing on a rooftop as I say this: I¹d like to see the Lindy Hop community, including all styles, come together and hold a national competition in a similar way that the West Coast Swing community holds the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championshipswithout any governing from a world organization. But the producer needs to do it the American way, that is, produce successful smaller events and earn the reputation and credibility necessary to gather support and grow. Yes, it'll be a little tougher for a handful of competitors on their way to an Olympic Gold Medal in Swing. That's too bad.
The bottom line: They need us, we *don't* need them.
AyodiYodi, Steven Mitchell
From: "Nathalie G" firstname.lastname@example.org
To: "Steven Mitchell" AyodiYodi@aol.com
Cc: "Larry" email@example.com, "Rik Panganiban" firstname.lastname@example.org, "John
Subject: My answer to Steven
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 1999 23:37:25
We are also alarmed that you would even consider going public with empty accusations without checking the real facts. Since you havent bothered to do so in person I would gladly enlighten you through this wonderful medium.
As to your alarm you can calmly press the snooze button, the World Rockn Roll Federation (WRRC) has no intention of governing any Lindy Hop competition. On the contrary, they were kind enough to lend their support after much persuasion so that we Lindy hoppers worldwide could have an event which we could truly be proud of. The rules of the competition were set by Lindy hoppers and represent all Lindy styles while insuring freedom of movement and improvisation.
The first 2 paragraphs of your manifest, while highly incorrect, show a concern for Lindy hop. You must have had one too many Power Bars after writing them since you seem to be consumed by this issue. The WLHC has nothing to do with power. This event stands to promote Lindy worldwide as no other event in the past. Legendary dancers from all around the globe such as Helena Norbelie, Jean Veloz, Dawn Hampton, Simon Selmon, Rob VanHaren as well as many others will be in attendance. The latter people have waited for such a grand event with much anticipation.
I am only glad they were able to see the true potential of the competition as did the major media organizations. As I sit here typing this response, faxes are pouring in from WB11, NBC, CBS, Canal +, ZDF Germany, and many other newspaper and TV networks worldwide.
Your 4th paragraph was quite enlightening. Thank you for your resume and the interesting geography lesson. I must remind you though that bringing Frankie Manning out of retirement is not a free ticket to bash anyone in sight. The type of competition that you advocate has not broadened the spectrum of Lindy dancers nor has it allowed everyone to compete: it requires payment of dues placing a heavy financial burden, automatically excluding anyone who cant afford amounts, at times, exceeding $300. To compete in the WLHC, we only set you back ZERO DOLLARS. In addition, we have set up a host program allowing international dancers an intimate cultural exchange. While you have worked hard on maintaining the small structure that you believe in, I have reached out to anyone who is interested and willing to partake in the spirit of Lindy. I can understand why you are threatened by the widening interest but Lindy is
stronger than all of us "and the fire consumes".
You urge people not to compete in the WLHC, how is that consistent with your great free market speech. Deceiving people to boycott an event is not the American way, it is a way of propaganda and pressure. It is clear that you are a much better dancer than a demagogue.
If you are still standing on the rooftop, I urge you to come down (after all its getting cold outside!) and join us in celebrating one of the true galas of swing. Our sole objective is to promote Lindy in America and worldwide. Unlike yourself and your colleagues who call for a divided, regional, unconnected network (sounds more like a gang turf issue), we hope to unite all Lindy hoppers regardless of their dance style, regional persuasion, nationality, hair color, sexual orientation or preference of deodorant. This WLHC in NYC will be proud to present couples from over 12 countries including Lithuania and Hungary. Would your regional competition allow them to perform? With your concept of swing, the American way, you would never experience what global dancers have to offer. How does exclusion and small-mindedness ever become the American way? When did swing become an elitist interpretation of dance?
We have worked very hard at organizing and promoting an event that will represent all forms of Lindy without any restrictions and governing bodies, and will continue doing so, despite efforts from individuals such as yourself.
I invite everyone who believes in the open minded and free of prejudice swing/Lindy concept to come on Sunday, November 7 at the Supper Club and judge for themselves.
Nathalie Gomes - Organizer www.hopswingjump.com
An Offer to Assist from Larry Kang
From: Larry Kang email@example.com
To: Nathalie G firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Friday, October 08, 1999 7:15 AM
Subject: Re: My answer to Steven
Nathalie, I will be seeing Steven this weekend in Ithaca. I am friendly with him and will ask why he didn't contact you first before his missive.
Should I send any message from you?
Nathalie's Message to Steven through Larry
From: Nathalie G email@example.com
To: Larry Kang firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Friday, October 08, 1999 2:00 PM
Subject: Re: My answer to Steven
You can just tell Steven that I have nothing against him as a dancer or as a person. I just believe that there are many ways of promoting Lindy. There is no right or wrong way as long as it promotes the true nature of Lindy which in my opinion is freedom of improvisation and interpretation. And again, before going out there on the net, people should come and talk to me.
I am just an organizer who is doing her best to keep what we love alive. Having a worldwide organization that supports Lindy doesn't prevent people like Steven to continue what he is doing.
Larry, please send my letter [above] on the web as soon as possible.
Paul Overton's reply to Nathalie
Date: Fri, 8 Oct 1999 11:51:22
To: John Tomeny email@example.com
From: Paul Overton firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: Steven Mitchell speaks out / Nathalie Gomes responds
Dear John, dancers, et all,
The direction this debate has taken is disheartening. The amount of pertinent information is low. The amount of personal attacks are high.
Steven Mitchell is the reason I started Lindy Hopping. He is my teacher, coach, confidant, and friend. He has his opinions, just like everyone else. But no matter what he thinks about competition, federations, or anything else, one thing can not be ignored. He is, and has been, one of the most influential figures in the world of swing dancing and has contributed a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm to the cause. The amount of disrespect he has been shown in Ms. Gomez's e-mail and the caustic tone with which it has been delivered is enough to make me stay away from any event that Ms. Gomez will ever organize. All dancing debates aside, I don't appreciate people who attack my friends.
In case you were wondering, I don't agree with all of Steven's views. Or Ryan's, or Marcus', or Nathalie's. But I'm not going to resort to shallow insults and warfare to get my point accross. What I will do, however, is pass Steven's views and Nathalie's response to them (with no editorialisation on my part) to every single dancer I know so that they can make an educated decision on whether to withdraw from the competition or not.
Comments from Professor Thomas...
Date: Sat, 09 Oct 1999 09:23:02
From: Bob Thomas email@example.com
To: John Tomeny firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: ongoing lindy debate
John aka "The Spin Doctor"
I've been having various email correspondences with various people about the lindy debate, and I've ended up compiling the ideas in them into this letter. Letter follows and is also attached as a text file.
Distribute, post, do as you will. I'm moving more and more towards roiling the waters, and, although I'm not there yet, I feel quite certain that with a little bit of luck, I'll yet manage to put my foot in it.
Thanks much for your help. Let me know your thoughts.
RE: the Lindy Hop debate of 1999
In the ongoing debate about lindy and the WRRC, I'm afraid I have to respond in defense of Ryan and Steven Mitchell.
I think that Ryan and Steven are both trying to address problems that are historical, relating not just to lindy, but to any art that has strong African-American roots. I frankly don't believe that Ryan and Steven mean to assail the intentions of the WRRC and those interested in moving lindy towards formal international competition. What is at issue here is the nature of lindy, and how that nature could be changed by becoming part of the WRRC.
To my thinking, the debate about lindy is about the fact that a "black" or African-American dance is now being done primarily by Europeans and Euro-Americans. And, on a second level, the debate is also about how to "control" the evolution of this traditional lindy (which essentially hearkens back to point number one in a variety of often awkward, sometimes subtle and occasionally not-so-subtle ways), and, ultimately, define what lindy "means" in the coming years.
White Society, Black Society, and the Lindy...
Lindy is a unique kind of dance craze in that it is probably the only contemporary American dance trend that is almost entirely revivalist. Especially interesting and unique about lindy hop is that the revival of this originally African-American dance form has-- from the beginning -- been driven primarily by Europeans and European-Americans.
This is an odd kind of turf battle with many of the white people not even understanding the irony of white people anxiously preserving a "true" style of dance that was, throughout much of its day, an African-American dance. The values of the two cultures are very different in many important respects.
African-American dance and music has always had strong ties to the philosophies of black culture, viz. a finely honed appreciation for the notably unique, creative, rebellious, expressive, and outrageously impressive individual--a culture with a historically justified distrust of the values and culture of Europeans and European-Americans. Inherent in the cultural philosophy of African-Americans is an appreciation for innovation and improvisation on many levels, especially artistically and socially.
On the other hand, European society (viz. much of Europe and most of the US) has a strong tendency to place value on group "individuality", financial and political status, competition and public "achievement" via mass media.
The artistic colonialism of European-American culture in the past--most especially with jazz music and jazz dance-- has encouraged black artists of all disciplines to keep their work at a safe distance from Euro society, doing their best to protect their work from their "benefactors". And I think, in part, it's this issue of artistic (racial/social) colonialism that is driving the lindy debate.
In Euro society, there have always been people who have been irked and annoyed at various of the Euro values since an early age. These people don't just like the lindy, they love it. They love the lindy for its defiance of Euro values, its assertion--along with early jazz dance and music--of African-American individuality and creativity over European conformity and adjudicated status, and, perhaps most notably, they love the lindy's emphasis on rhythm and movement ("style" or "form") over steps and moves ("content").
But there are also many white people who enjoy the arts-- and African-American arts especially--the way they might enjoy food at a Thai restaurant or a glass of French champagne. For these weekend warriors, lindy is not a philosophical assertion but, rather, a delightful and pleasant way to spend some time after a long week at the office, at the Exchange, or in court; the lindy offers them a pleasant respite from the rigors and requirements of thriving in a highly competitive Euro-status society.
On the one hand, the weekend warriors are responsible for much of the lindy revival. It's often the weekend warriors who've brought in today's lindy stars to teach workshops and perform, who've built lindy into an internationally popular dance revival. But, on the other hand, the weekend warriors are indulging in a kind of--albeit traditional-- artistic colonialism.
Ryan and Steven and Lindy Style...
Which brings us back to Ryan and Steven's attempt to assert that lindy has a personality, a style that would not do well with the WRRC. The lindy revival has been based on lindy as it was done in the 1930's. At that time lindy clearly had a strong basis in African-American dance--the forward body position and bent knees, the expressive use of the arms and legs, the rhythmic body timing and its emphasis away from the primary beats, and, of course, the various movements and steps that are clearly west African and African-Caribbean.
In this tradition, the lindy of today has so far has resisted being bound by a single syllabus or a set of constrictive rules.
On the other hand, Rock-and-Roll could not be more clearly European--the upright body position, the high kicks (with some remarkable style similarities to Irish dance), the gymnastic moves, the grand competitions in cavernous ballrooms that--to me--hearken back to the European courts. And of course, emphasis on a specific and carefully defined syllabus.
What I think that Ryan and Steven are trying to assert is that the nature, style and history of Lindy Hop are historically opposed to the nature, style and history of Rock-and-Roll.
I think that the one weakness of Ryan and Steven's position is that lindy as we know it today is a "recreated" dance form, and that many of those responsible for resurrecting lindy hop --from the beginning-- were and are European and European-Americans.
What I think...
What do I think? My relationship with lindy is personal. I danced in two national competitions before I even knew any lindy hop. When I'd actually learned a good bit about lindy, I stopped competing. I realized that, for me, competition is counter to the nature of lindy.
Personally, I like to have fun when I dance. Professionally, I'm a stage performer doing dance shows with my wife and original solo monologue shows. For me, the bottom line is that Lindy and early jazz dance are visually exciting and lots of fun. Also, I use a lot of humor in all my work, and I find that lindy and early jazz styles and movements are somewhat subversive (in contrast to other American dance styles which are surprisingly conventional), allowing me the opportunity to engage in movement and moments that make audiences smile and even, sometimes, laugh in recognition of our own humanity.
I welcome any comments, suggestions, or rebuttals.
An Invitation from Paulette Brockington
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1999 15:37:06
From: Paulette Brockington email@example.com
To: Undislcosed list
Subject: Amer. Lindy Assn. meeting Oct. 31 at 1pm
I don't know whether you are aware or not but I have scheduled a meeting at ALHC on Oct. 31, 1999 at 1 pm to discuss the formation of some kind of national organization for American Lindy Hop clubs, associations and individuals. I know not everyone will be able to attend this meeting but I am asking for items for the agenda to be sent to me over the next week.
In addition, there has been much heated debate and mudslinging over the World Lindy Hop Championships. I have scheduled a meeting at 7pm on this same date for people to talk to Dominique, a representative of the World Rock and Roll Confederation.
Your input is much desired on my part.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Marcus Koch asks for clarification
From: "Marcus Koch" MarcusKoch@WorldOfSwing.com
To: "John Tomeny" LindyHop@Savoystyle.org
Subject: WLHC discussion
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 05:32:57
I didn't like the way this discussion started and I still don't like how it is run, because it is too emotional and doesn't provide many substantial facts. Therefore I didn't want to give more comments to the list in the past. I preferred to talk to some people on a personal level. But following the discussion and the attacks it doesn't make fully sense to me. There are to many contradictions. I'm more and more getting the feeling that there is something else behind it; I just don't know yet what it is.
Anyway, I still hope that we can get something fruitful out of this discussion, so I want to share some thoughts of mine to the list:
It is very naive to believe that a free market is doing everything. Actually there is no free market, even not in America. There are lawsuits against most big companies like Microsoft, IBM, AT&T etc. because they were blamed for ruling the market. How is it possible, that one company rules a free market? (By the way, there is enough scientist research that shows that a free market can't exists and modern history shows enough examples that this assumption just causes a lot of trouble). So Lindy Hop needs some organizations. By the way as soon as you give dance lessons (and probably take money for it) you have a kind of a group or organization. How much and what kind of organization and structure is good and necessary for the Lindy Hop is another topic and for me the real question we should address and discuss on the net. Unfortunately the time somebody is dancing or how much he already did for the Lindy doesn't give us an answer to this question. There will be many individual answers to this question, depending in the country, the environment, the kind of people, the aims and so on. To understand the different needs of the people on this World the Internet would be a great technology to use. At the moment it is mostly used for emotion unloading.
At the moment I have some questions regarding the WLHC. Maybe somebody can help to dissolve these contradictions?
- If people really believe in the idea of a free market why is this World Championship such a problem? Why can't the people decide by their feet and dollars for this event, too? Why must some people tell other people what they have to do? Free market, but no free opinions?
- Why is it a problem that the WRRC is covering this World Championship? There have been already three WCs before which where all patronaged by the WRRC. There were no complains from any heavies then.
- Two years ago in Herrang there was the discussion if the World Lindy Hop Federation shall take care of competitions or just work on a social scene getting people together. At last general meeting of the WLHF Ivan Berggren from Sweden wanted the WRRC taking care about the international Lindy Hop competitions and the WLHF just working on a social base. This point of view was supported by Steven Mitchell, Kenneth and Helena, and other dancers from different nations, including America. This was 1997. Why is it suddenly a problem for Steven and others?
I would like to see the proven facts that really speak against this WLHC. My suggestion would be to collect commented lists of pros and cons (maybe also a column fears) for these topics: WLHC, WRRC, organization for Lindy Hop. All these arguments must not be based on emotions or wrong implications. This would make people, who are not involved in it, able to make up their own opinions, instead of following the people who scream loudest or have a certain reputation.
Nathalie: "Time to move on"
To all Swing Lovers,
I hope this is my last letter regarding the on going debate about the World Lindy Hop Championship. It saddens me that certain individuals have chosen to divide the swing scene by disseminating rhetoric and attacking the competition. By attacking the world Lindy hop championship, they attacked all the people who devoted their personal time helping me in this project. I am offended for myself and for them by these smear campaigns and chose to respond accordingly.
After this letter, I would like to leave all this behind and concentrate on the important tasks regarding the World Championship, such as organization and promotion. Our sole intention is to promote Swing-Lindy by showcasing the best dancers worldwide via television and other media outlets. All this while keeping with the joyous atmosphere for social dancers.
Those who know me, understand that I have no hidden agenda whatsoever. As a marketing director for a big organization in NYC, I had the unfortunate exposure to the backstabbing political battles of the corporate world. I believed the Swing community would liberate me from these detrimental wars. I embraced Swing and Lindy because of the happy smile it brings to peoples' faces, a warm reaction I've rarely seen and felt in any other venue. I decided back then, to leave the corporate world and devote my entire being to Swing.
The reaction to the WLHC has been mostly positive except for a few individuals who, to my opinion, felt it would threaten their position as teachers or respected dancers. Their negative response was selfish. To those who do not realize, the Swing community is experiencing a membership decline, especially in major cities. My only goal is to help keep it alive, as I've been doing for the past five years. When I chose to organize the world championship, and consequently bear a high number of responsibilities, it was to have existing and future swing dancers experience the joy we all long for. I never expected to engage in political battles with people within the swing community. I hate how it affected my friends and I, but I believe in my way and have devoted too much time and effort to turn the other cheek. All I ask is that we all behave unselfishly and exercise freedom of thought, while keeping in mind what is best for Swing.
For all the above reasons, I will be hosting the 1999 World Lindy Hop Championship in NYC at the Supper Club on November 7, 1999. As planned, a panel of discussion will take place on Monday, November 8th, at Hop Swing & a Jump to assure the quality and fairness of the competition. If you truly care about Lindy, and would like to contribute, I would encourage you to do so at this opportune time.
Please allow me to do the best that I can - the best for Swing.
I will see you all on November 7, 1999 at 2 p.m. Bring high spirits and lots of energy.
A Note from John Tomeny of savoystyle.org, October 12, 1999
We are a Community!
I have made a point of not expressing my opinion about the things that have been going on in this debate, feeling that my role is one of a facilitator. My objective has been to assist people with communication in a larger community, not wanting to influence the discussion in any particular way. But this debate has taken a particularly nasty turn recently, and I feel compelled to speak up.
When I first started the debate archive it was because some of people active in the argument were throwing messages around to swing dance discussion lists, accusing each other of things, and paying little attention to what each other was saying. I was collecting these messages and trying to understand what was going on. After a few days I noticed rumors starting to crop up on some of the discussion lists.
So I decided to organize the messages and send them back to their authors and to the lists in an effort to improve communication and stop the rumors. It was apparent that very few people were actually reading - and understanding - everything. I felt that if people could read the complete body of the discussion - and if the debaters themselves could see the impact of their arguments - the situation would improve. It did at first.
But the debate has taken on a life of it's own that it doesn't deserve. There have been some particularly nasty messages sent from sources that I never expected to read such harsh words from. Some of those messages have remained off the general list and will not be posted to the archives since they do nothing to advance the exchange of ideas. We all have our own opinions about what is best for the dance we love.
There are issues, differences of opinion, and misunderstandings that need to be resolved. But this is not the way to do it - thrashing each other with stark words in a sterile, electronic world. We are human beings. We have no business behaving this way. One of the things I have noticed in my work over the years is that people are far more willing to be harsh to each other on electronic mail than they would be face-to-face.
This bickering and snipping at each other is getting out of hand. We have demonstrated that we are more than animals. We have the capacity to do more than animals can do. We can express feelings of love and hatred beyond the capacity of animals. I don't know about others, but I've about had my fill of the hateful things that people have been dishing out to each other in this debate. When this is over I'd still like to have some respect left for the people who I admired before it started.
We are a community! No matter how far away from each other we are, we are community!
In the small Vermont/New Hampshire swing community where I teach and host dances we have some very diverse interests, but we've learned through some infighting in past years that we have a choice. We can either fight with each other and destroy all that we love. Or we can support each other and thrive.
What's it going to be folks? Do you really want to destroy everything that we all have all worked so hard to build? It's time to make a decision. Choose what you want for an outcome - healthy swing communities, or shambles. I'm assuming you want healthy swing communities. If so, then please think carefully about how you're going to get there.
If you have something more that you want to say, please keep it civil. Please stop snipping at each other and instead put a little more signal in all the noise that is in the air. Please debate the issues with intelligent, thoughtful comments.
Both Paulette Brockington and Nathalie Gomes have announced plans to host open forums for discussion. Paulette will host a meeting on Sunday afternoon, October 31 in Stamford, CT at the American Lindy Hop Championships. And Nathalie will host a discussion in NYC on Monday afternoon, November 8. If you have questions or anything constructive to offer please send email to:
Paulette Brockington firstname.lastname@example.org
Nathalie Gomes email@example.com
John Tomeny firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-custodian of WLHC debate archives with Wendy Jo Gertjejanssen
A Note from Wendy Jo Gertjejanssen, TC Swingin' Hepcats
October 12, 1999
Dear Local Lindy Hoppers, Small Swing Businesses and Organizers,
What do YOU think about the World Lindy Hop Championship debate? Those involved in the debate are in the business organizing national and world-wide events. Does it affect you? What can we learn from it?
In some ways this debate seems to be somewhat distance from so-called "ordinary" lindy hoppers, local and regional community organizers, teachers and businesses. The social historian in me (my real job) wants to know what you think we can learn from this debate to enhance our own experiences or knowledge of the dance and its history. Does it concern us? Is there a generation thing here? What do those of you in your teens or mid twenties think about all this? Others? Can we better our own communication and cooperation with each other in our own communities or across communities? Cooperation such as exchanging links, passing out each other's flyers, working together as organizers and vendors at local or national events, etc. are all simple tasks, and they build community.
Speaking from my own experience in the Twin Cities, I think even on a local level there is sometimes a bit too much competition and not enough cooperation, though for the most part I am blessed with good relations with most in my own community. The majority of people here are so willing to work with and support one another, organizationally, financially and even emotionally or physically. The more people who contribute in a community by teaching, organizing events, performing or selling lindy hop merchandise, the richer the community is and the faster it will grow. This is not the job of one person or group. Only this kind of communal and non-competitive attitude will keep the spirit alive and will inspire others to become
excellent lindy hoppers. Our energy needs to be directed toward the dance, not toward protecting "territory," power or reputations. Even for those in business, there are ways to keep the spirit of the dance and the community alive without going out of business, but once the pettiness, selfishness, competitiveness and defensiveness begins something beautiful is ruined. Especially surrounding something as special and sacred as lindy hop, there is no excuse for this kind of attitude or behavior - neither on the WLHC level, nor on the local level.
Still, my own experience here and at national events I have worked has shown me that most lindy hoppers are sincere, mature and good people, capable of working generously with other dancers, organizers, and businesses, and that, in addition to my love of dancing is what has kept me in the community. Furthermore, I was so excited at a local Jean Veloz and Betty Wood workshop this weekend to see how the younger dancers in our community have really developed - they are lookin' good! I want to continue to be a part of this, to grow myself, and to watch others grow as dancers and as people.
I think we can learn from both the positive and the negative parts of this electronic debate. But what then, can we learn?
I will continue to work with John Tomeny of http://www.savoystyle.org to ensure that unreasonably inflammatory messages that personally attack others, are self-promotional, misrepresent the facts, or don't add to the debate in a constructive matter are not posted. My purpose is not to promote local in-fighting or get in the middle of such things, but to provide a space for constructive discussion. Most of the dancers I meet dance as a hobby or are local instructors or organizers. That is, they are not organizing national or world-wide events, nor are they entering either the ALHC or the WLHC. Still, the dance means a lot for them as well. It seems that some kind of hierarchy has developed, but I would think that there is something that we on the local level could also learn from the WLHC debate.
Wendy Jo Gertjejanssen
TC Swingin' Hepcats
Judy Pritchett asks what are the "Fringe Benefits?" of running an event of this magnitude
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 11:44:24
To: John Tomeny email@example.com
From: Judy Pritchett firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Fringe Benefits?
I know there are many rumors suggesting that there are considerable financial benefits to holding international dance competitions. However, I am not clear how that works.
For example, the upcoming World Lindy Hop Championships is receiving sponsorship from the Loews movie theatre chain. What does sponsorship mean? How much money is involved?
Tonight Natalie Gomez is running a dance contest in which the prizes are sets of tickets to Loews theatres. As far as I know, she is doing this as a private entrepreneur; it does not appear to be a WRRC contest. So does this sort of sponsorship include fringe benefits that exceed beyond the event itself and fall on the organizers?
I think it would be nice for the Lindy Hop public to know exactly what kind of sponsorship there is for this event and how much money is involved. Is there a charitable organization that will benefit from the profits of this event as there was for Frankie Manning's 85th Birthday?
Also, I follwed the suggestion of an earlier letter writer to look up the WRRC on the Internet http://www.wrrc.org/ and I found its ignorance on Lindy Hop and its ballroom dance orientation very enlightening indeed. I suggest any concerned Lindy Hoppers look at this for themselves.
Again, some wise words from Bob Thomas
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 14:17:10
From: Bob Thomas email@example.com
To: John Tomeny firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: Right on...
Craziness of this sort is precisely the reason why I withdrew from the swing community in Boston back in 1989 and from the lindy scene in 1996. Since then I have often cherished (and sometimes employed to some effect) my position on the very fringes of the scene, and I have, perhaps sadly so, never, ever regretted my withdrawal.
I appreciate that you're staying with this and doing all you can to make things work. It's funny, but in some ways I'm glad that the swing/lindy craze (all of a year of it here in the East) is waning and everyone can get back to reality and having fun with their dancing, leaving behind once and for all their delusions of grandeur and naive dreams of making a million bucks... and scoring that sitcom gig (or an obscured two-second movie "dance-on") in Hollywood.
Dance (of any style) has to be one of the most marginalized arts--the public understands comedy, they understand drama, they love film and television and music. But when it comes to dance, people often don't get it. Either it looks too easy (social dance) or too hard (ballet) or they just don't understand it (modern dance). And social dances, even historical revivals, have always been right up there in the limelight with stamp collecting and rocket science.
It would be good if everyone returned for a moment to the days they began dancing, remembering (and savoring) the initial excitement, the impulses to practice and share, the happiness and the selflessness that was part and parcel of discovering dancing in their lives and sharing it with others.
I wish you good luck. It's a tough job. Frankly, I'd sooner face an indifferent audience--500 people expressionless in their seats, looking at me on stage, all silently chanting, "Okay, Bob, prove yourself, make me smile, show me how to have some fun" than deal with all this competitive brouhaha. It just ain't worth it to my mind.
Good luck and don't give up. It's a thankless job and I'm glad you're doing it.
Next time I see you I'll buy you a drink.... no, make that two!
A Message From Michelle Shaw to concentrate on the dance
Hi! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond, but I've been preparing for my big geology exam on Thursday. I think the letter sounds great. I do hope you send it out to all of the people who organize events in our community because I think there are a lot of people who need to know what this "need" for competition is doing to the dance. Instead of being afraid that someone is going to shine more than me, I should look at it in a way that benefits everyone. We should all be supporting one another. The important thing is the dance itself and that's what we should be promoting.
As for the debate and how it affects me? Well, I've been observing it from afar because I don't have time for much else. However, I don't think anyone should feel like they have control over anyone else when it comes to any kind of dance. Is the WLHC threatening to take over the world of Lindy Hop? That's crazy. It's just one aspect of it that people can choose to be a part of.
There is not only discrimination within the world of Lindy Hop, but also in the world of dance. We have Savoy vs. Hollywood Style, East Coast vs. West Coast. Why are we so divided? One who has dancing in his/her heart won't stop at learning just one kind of dance. They will appreciate all of it because it makes them better dancers. I was one of those people who turned her nose up at West Coast and now I can't get enough of it and Hollywood Style. Always learning new things is what helps us appreciate the history and future of the dance.
Those are my thoughts. You can post them if you want. It's just been frustrating seeing so many people competing with one another when it'd be so much more valuable for us to be supportive and encourage new ventures.
Have a great week!
A message from Martin Ellis
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 1999 06:21:40 -0400 (EDT)
I've stayed out of this so far, having been standing back somewhat bemused and amused by the whole saga. The first thing that struck me after printing out all 50 pages or so of the debate was how quickly a group of people can write such a riveting book in such a short space of time!
It saddens me to read Bob's comment "It's funny, but in some ways I'm glad that the swing/lindy craze (all of a year of it here in the East) is waning
". I've been hooked on the Lindy Hop since the day I started some 7 years ago. It was, and is, such fun, and such an escape from the conformity and drudgery of the 9-5 life. I've had some great teachers, inspiring people like Sing Lim, people of principle like Ryan Francois.
We were taught to understand the Lindy Hop, to appreciate what makes it so unique. The dance is inextricably linked with the culture in which it developed. That culture may no longer exist, and if it does, it may no longer be at the centre of the current Lindy Hop scene, but it's what keeps the Lindy Hop alive and will continue to keep it alive. There has to be an appreciation of that, otherwise it will not last.
People like Steve Mitchell, Ryan Francois and the Rhythm Hot Shots (and many others) have been nursing and developing the Swing scene and the revival of Lindy Hop for many many years - they have devoted their lives to it and the least we can do is to respect their views and opinions. THEY HAVE SUCCEEDED in a way that no-one else has done. The Lindy Hop died with the evolution of Rock'n'Roll and it seems to me there is a danger that this could happen again.
It is not difficult to educate people in the appreciation of true Lindy Hop, but it takes some intelligence and understanding. It also requires that the core of the scene appreciate it's roots and culture and that the real competition is on the floors of clubs and dance halls, born of respect for people's skills and, even more importantly, individuality.
There is a real danger that the thriving, growing community that has taken so long and so much painstaking work to develop could be decimated by a shift of it's core away from the people who really understand what it's about.
Competitions are all very well, in that they expose the dance to the media and therefore to more people. In the short term this is good for business and certainly for those who win the titles, but it doesn't show what it's really about. If people really want to promote the Lindy Hop, they should work to get the media interested in what goes on socially, not just as the usual "soundbites", where camera-friendly people are invariably shown in outrageous clothes doing flash moves, but the community, what makes people come back again and again for year after year, the beauty of dancing as one with another person and the beauty of Swing music.
This will attract people who will stay with it and, in the longer term, create a thriving and permanent scene (albeit a sub-culture). That is what we are trying to do. Let's hope we succeed.
The Lindy Hop Academy (or the pyramid of multi-generational instructors)
Ed: The following letter was originally part of a personal message between the parties. The two occurrences of ellipses ([...]) indicate personal portions of the letter that were requested to be removed prior to public posting.
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 15:14:34
To: John Tomeny email@example.com
From: Judy Pritchett firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: The Lindy Hop Academy
[...] I don't consider myself one of the people that should be listened to. I consider myself a well-positioned outsider, that's all. It is Ryan and Steven, of course, and many others whose opinions are known on this even if they are not on the Internet.
The way I see it, there is sort of a pyramid in Lindy Hop, that perpetuates the continuity and the evolution of the dance; it is a natural organic process. At the top is the Savoy Ballroom, where it started, and the dancers from there. This would include Dean Collins, Pepsi Bethel, Mama Lu Parks, Sugar Sullivan and some of the others as well as the greatest dancers of all, those in Whiteys Lindy Hoppers (covered in my archive.) Then there are the dancers who studied directly with the original dancers. (The Rhythm Hotshots, the Jiving Lindy Hoppers including Ryan who was with them in the early days, Erin and Steven, Jonathan and Sylvia, Margaret Batiuchok, Paul Grecki, others.) I am excluding Frankie from this because everyone has studied with Frankie as they are all so ready to advertise. Only a handful of people have taken private lessons from him or had any kind of intensive study with him. (Personally, I find it shocking that Natalie Gomez never even approached him for private lessons or showed any interest in other training opportunities with him in NY which people outside of NYC would die for.)
Anyhow, this generation of teachers is well represented in "Can't Top the Lindy Hop", which was 5 years ago. These teachers, who trained with the originals, went on to train others. (Rob Van Haaren trained with Jonathan and Sylvia, Paul Overton trained with Steven Mitchell and so on.) There is a similar kind of training/apprenticeship in jazz music and tap dance, for example, as well as many other areas of serious endeavor.
Nowadays, students from all over the world who are dead serious about Lindy Hop go to Herrang to study, apprentice and, if they really excel, start to teach. (They go for weeks every year, not a week and a half once.) Thus Chris Yee, Chachi and Josie Say represent a new generation that will ensure the future of Lindy Hop, each dancer putting their individual stamp on the dance as they carry it on.
The pyramid is getting wider. I would say that today there are probably 150-200 people who have had serious training with the original masters, or the new masters of Lindy Hop, who are passing on the tradition and putting their stamp on it. I know who these people are (I am not one of them.) They know who each other are. All of them know that Natalie Gomez is not one of them. [...]
A Perspective from the Swingin' Speakeasy Discussion Board in Boston
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 18:58:48
FROM: "Swingin Speakeasy" SwingKat7@yahoo.com
SUBJECT: Dancing: WRRC!
The Swingin' Speakeasy: Dancing: WRRC!
By EightBar (Eightbar) on Tuesday, October 12, 1999 - 06:58 pm:
I've read all of the debate. And I think that the Euros really and truly don't get what the Americans are thinking, and the Americans really don't get what the Euros are thinking. Bob Thomas summarizes some of the differences eloquently, but only some.
The Euros really and truly believe in things like Olympic committees and government-aligned sponsoring bodies, and Peace, Love and Better Living through cooperative allegiance to regulating organizations. Freedom through rational regulation, as a better alternative than anarchy. A belief that rational humans of good will can agree on what constitutes "better" and "worse" in general, and certainly in a dance competition. And that the world will be a better place for it, and that Lindy is a part of the world worth promoting. And even though the organizers say they have no regularizing intentions, still they think that an overarching world-wide consensus on how to do these competition things is a good thing for Lindy. (For example, Marcus Koch wrote, "It is very naive to believe that a free market [can do] everything.... So Lindy Hop needs some organizations." -- a sincere belief that organizations will help, not hurt.)
The Euros see Lindy as another potential part of the only dance scene they know: sports. Big sports, governmentally recognized, sponsored, paid for. The only way to grow a dance, they think, is to promote it, and the way to do that is by adopting the metaphor and mechanisms of their national sports organizations. Maybe that will work in Europe. But in America, it is a recipe for killing any popular movement.
The Americans, with no living memory of the horrors of anarchy, pretend to like anarchy in general ("free market of ideas" and other similar cant), and _actually_ like it in regards to something like Lindy Hop. Lindy, as Steven Mitchell wrote, is a street dance. Born in Harlem and raised in the spirit of jazz. Waltz can survive regulating committees and maybe even benefit from them; but they are anathema to Lindy. Destructive, even. It would be like adding a Jazz Music event to the Olympics -- too wierd for words. The forests in America are wild and organic ... chaotic, sometimes-dangerous, fertile and exquisitely beautiful. The forests in Europe are lots of trees growing in straight lines. The Americans hate the idea of Lindy Hop becoming a European forest, because then it won't be an American forest at all. And Lindy Hop is fundamentally an American dance -- an American-forest kind of dance. We are talking about two utterly different concepts of what a dance is, what its place in society is, and how to keep people liking it.
The Americans see the Lindy as a dance. A folk art. An organic thing that grows itself. It grows by growing, not by being promoted. By people dancing, not by people competing. It is NOT a sport. In America, with the extreme increase branding and commercialization of _everything_ in the past 10 years, Lindy is more likely to be killed than grown by being promoted. There's no such thing as casual Major Competitions any more. If it becomes another dancesport, it will become another one of those things that people think of as being for experts only -- there are The Few Professionals, who do it, and all of the rest of us who watch
it on tv once a year. Ballroom dance people have killed what little was left of ballroom dance as a mainstream pleasure for people -- it has become more and more of a freak show and less and less of a part of mainstream culture, the more that its promoters have insisted that it be given Olympic recognition and promotion through competitions. It's a shame; nobody goes out ballroom dancing any more. If your idea of promoting the wonders of Lindy is to kill off
all interest in America except among the really hard-core competitor/sports people, then the WLHC and the WRRC make a great approach. But if you want people to love Lindy as a dance that people go out and do, then you don't make it into a competitive organized sport. At least not in America, you don't.
The hearts of the Euros are in the right place in genuinely wanting to increase the number of people who love Lindy. And the idea of free entry to the people on whom the spotlight will be shining at some big Lindy event is a great idea. But their minds are in the wrong place. They simply fail to acknowledge the homogenizing, all-in-a-row effects that centrally organized competitions have had on absolutely every other form of dance that suffers from them.
At least, that's true in America. So perhaps different approaches should be taken in the two regions.
As to this particular event in NYC, let's face it: there is not the slightest good reason in the world for it to be a competition instead of an exhibition.
In this regard, I strongly disagree with Nathalie Gomes and the supporters of a Championship. As Ms. Gomes wrote, "Our sole intention is to promote Swing-Lindy by showcasing the best dancers worldwide via television and other media outlets. All this while keeping with the joyous atmosphere for social dancers." And she sincerely thinks that a Competition is the way to do it. But I think that Competitions and Championships _undermine_ what she is trying to
do, except maybe by getting a tiny bit more media coverage, while Exhibitions would succeed. Competitions NEVER keep a joyous atmosphere going!
If it were an exhibition, it would legitimately showcase all the folks that various other folks think are pretty hot stuff. It would be great entertainment. It would be an inspirational eyeful to dancers and would-be dancers everywhere. It could run on television. Entry fees for the performers could still be zero. It would show off and make winners of everyone involved. It would do everything good ... and nothing bad. It would perfectly show off all the great dancing without some tiny committee of judges anointing themselves as The Judges and anointing one couple as The One-And-Only-Winner -- and infuriating the 70 percent of the audience who disagree with them. In keeping with the spirit of Lindy, everyone could have an opinion and no one would have the final say.
My two cents, as we say in American coinage.
Use this link to go directly to the discussion on the Swingin'Speakeasy:
"Thanks" from Chicago
From: "Tracy Hogan" TRACYH@IBM.NET
To: "John Tomeny" email@example.com
Subject: Re: We are a community!
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 20:25:29
I want to thank you and congratulate for taking on this enormous task. Who knew that it would grown to be so big and, unfortunately so hideous. In any case, you have done a good thing, for those that do read the messages, in allowing us to see the facts, and form our own opinion. I have seen the dance community, many different dance communities in fact, grow to be factions or alliances; spreading rumors, building egos, making threats, and just plain talking bad. This is not why I dance and it is not something I want to be associated with. However, it is to be expected. The swing community has gotten so big. So, again, thank you for documenting the debate and well done.
Alan Sugarman poses a series of questions answered by Nathlie Gomes and Paulette Brockington
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 1999 18:13:03 -0400
To: "Yehoodi" firstname.lastname@example.org, "New Swing List" email@example.com,
From: "Alan D. Sugarman" firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Questions re WLHC and Nathalie G: As from Nathalie Gomes [Long]
Cc: "Nathalie G" email@example.com
In order to bring some focus to the debate about the World Lindy Hop Championships and also to make sure that everyone is operating with the complete facts directly from the organizers, I put together the following questions and submitted the first version to Nathalie a few weeks ago. She Nathalie G: Aed these and then more questions followed.
Following are the Nathalie G: As that Nathalie provided as of October 12, 1999. I have compiled the questions and based on her Nathalie G: As, added a few more questions, 20-26, hich she has not seen and I assume will Nathalie G: A and post her Nathalie G: As directly on the net.
ADS Swingout-NY October 13, 1999
QUESTION 1: The rules say that tempos are in the range of 50 to 58, which is 200 to 232 bpm. Did i read that right?
Nathalie: I know it is pretty fast. This speed is only for the final round. The rounds before are slower. I think The rules were set during previous meeting with "Lindy people". There were many discussions about doing a slow and fast round. But apparently only the fast round was approved.
Paulette: It is my understanding that Helena Norbelie and a few other Swedes were consulted about the rules. However the rules Nathalie received were emailed to her by Dominique. So she received the revised set. I however was faxed the original World Lindy Hop Federation Rules because I could not open the document he sent.
QUESTION 2: Who were the people that were on this committee -by name?
Nathalie: I don't know the names. They are the people who were involved from the beginning, creation of the WLH Association. The rules are based on the previous world Lindy hop championships. They were submitted to Paulette Brockington and I for review and finally discussed and voted at the last meeting of the WLH Association in Norway or Stockholm this past summer. This info is to be verified. This is what I know.
Paulette: I don't know whether this is accurate or not. You'll need to check with Dominique. I know the President of the newly created International Lindy Hop Association is Janna Leppala from Finland.-
QUESTION 3: How many of the people on the committe have danced boogie woogie or rock n roll comptetitively?
Nathalie: I don't think this really is an issue of the debate. Why not asking if they have danced jazz, tap or ballroom? They are people who are willing to give their time to make something happen and are totally devoted to it.
Paulette: Virtually all either compete or are certified WRRC judges. And I think it is an important question to ask, because a majority who are having a problem with the rules and the WRRC involvement are those who do neither Boogie woogie or Rock n' Roll.
QUESTION 4: Next, the music. The rules say the music is to be from "the living-music-selection-list". Is that the list on the WRRC with stuff from elton john, the fine young cannibals etc. Or is there a special lindy hop selection?
Nathalie: Absolutely no stuff like Elton John. I should be getting the list soon. It is going to be classic Lindy hop selection. For the finals, the dancers will choose among a few songs. The music will be traditional jazz/swing music as used in the past WLHC.
Paulette: Dancers are only supposed to dance to music that existed during the Swing Era. I told him that in conjunction with some of the other rules made the World seem more like an archive than anything else. Nathalie agreed with me on this.
QUESTION 5: Will the music by swing jazz music or rock-n-roll jump music?
Nathalie: As an organizer it is my responsibility to make sure that the music is appropriate. (jazz swing music)
QUESTION 6: Many students of the lindy hop feel that a dance to non-syncopated rock n roll music by definition cannot be lindy hop. Why should these people not be concerned about a "lindy hop" event that is sanctioned and run by organizations that have as their root, dance (rock n roll and boogie woogie) and music (50s rock and the fine young cannibals) that is inimical to the music that birthed the lindy hop?
Nathalie: They shouldn't be worried because Rock 'n roll is one dance, Boogie another one, and Lindy another one. Each of them uses a specific style of music.
Paulette: That's true. But I have a major concern that they will try to regiment the dance jsut as the have done with BW, R n' R and ballroom dance.
QUESTION 7: For clarification, is the ALHC determining who competes for the United States?
Nathalie: There were 5 qualifications nationwide. The finalist will compete in the American Showcase division which will determine who will represent the USA, at least for this year. Next year the national selection may be different.
Paulette: Simply, yes.
QUESTION 8: How many of the five qualification competitions nationwide followed the WRRC rules?
Nathalie: It was Paulette Brockington responsibility to make sure that the organizers will pick appropriate music, that the judges knew what to judge and that the rules of WLHC were going to be used to ensure fairness of American competitors at the WLHC.
Paulette: Nathalie has no connection with ALHC so she would have no way of knowing. I adapted the World Federation rules. I used the World Swing Dance Council's criteria for judging which are reflected in ALHC's overall rules.
QUESTION 9: What if the ALHC and 5 qualifying competitions are not performed to similar music and similar high tempos?
Nathalie: The organizers of the ALHC have the rules of the WLHC. I asked THAT the American Showcase Division be as close as possible to the WLHC. I hope ALHC will respect this so as to have a good representation of the USA.
Paulette: Couples in the preliminary rounds danced at 180 bpm. Couples in the finals danced at 192 bpm. The finalists had a slow round and a fast round in addition to their solo dance. What I respect is a well rounded couple who can do more than keep up with the beat.
QUESTION 10: If not, how are the winners of the ALHC going to have a fair chance?
Nathalie: That will be THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ALHC. The WRRC and myself as an organizer can not decide how nationals are internally chosen. Each country has to set its own system of selection. I can only suggest, which I have.
Paulette: Again Nathalie is not the appropriate person to whom you should address this question. At each of the regionals competitors' meetings contestants were told at what tempo they would dance and at what tempo the final round at the WLHC would be. It is up to them to train. Knowing that if the made it to the finals of WLHC that the tempos selected for them to chose from would increase by roughly 20 bpm. The WLHC preliminary round is supposed to be between 180 - 200.
QUESTION 11: At the WLHC, will there be only a single event run by WRRC rules or will there be other event, perhaps with slower music?
Nathalie: A 11. No, there will not be another event. We want this event to also be a social event. So, the rest of the time there will be Live Music, one big band and for the after party a jump blues band. To be confirmed very soon. There will also be performances.
QUESTION 12: Are you, and I hope you are, having other competitions at the championships other that what I would call international style Lindy Hop or Euro-Lindy Hop?
Nathalie: There will not be other competitions. This is one event. Like I said it is not a competition for everyone who comes: it is the World Lindy Hop Championship plus a party. The meeting on Monday will discuss the rules though and as it was discussed previously the slow round issue will be raised and discussed. There is a slow round in Boogie, I am not sure why there isn't one in Lindy. I think part of it has to do with the 40's contests and footage of Lindy where the music was pretty fast.
Paulette: My personal feeling is that the Europeans, particularly the Swedes adore Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. They are archivists this this regard. Most I have talked to use them as the standard. They have nothing in their archive which shows WLH dancing slowly. So the standard is fast music. But the problem with that is that you really only get to view performances and ultimately reproduce them.
QUESTION 13: I would like to see a competition done at 180 bpm to Basie or Ellington where there could be no more than one aerial in every ten 8 count patterns. Rhat rules are there re this?
Nathalie: I agree with you that Lindy cannot be only about aerials. But as we said we don't want to set rules and we want to leave freedom to the dancers. The competitors and the judges hopefully will make the right judgement. For example, in Boogie championships aerials are not forbidden but nobody does them because the dancers know it is not really a characteristic of the dance but also because they know that the judges don't give them more points for that.
QUESTION 14: The rules say that Lindy Hop is an 8 count dance. Will competitors be penalized for doing 10 count patterns, using jazz steps, doing 6 count moves, starting an 8 count pattern on 3?
Nathalie: Absolutely not. it only says that it is based on an 8 count basic. It is just so hard to define Lindy that not defining it too specifically seems the only way.
QUESTION 15: So, who are the judges. How do people know what standard they apply? Does a brilliant difficult dance pattern that runs over the music get zero points or ten points?
Nathalie: The list of judges is posted on my web site: Simon Selmon (UK), Rob VanHaren (USA), Helena Norbelie(Sweden), Paul Grecki (USA), Dominique DeCoster(Belgium), Isabelle Theede (Germany), Michelle Planques (France) Judges will have a meeting on Friday or Saturday to discuss judging issues. Competitors will be informed accordingly.
QUESTION 16: Part of Ryan's statement may have appeared to be a personal attack, but let me put it another way: first, to what extent have the background of the organizers of the NYC WLHC event been influenced by their background as European competitors in Boogie-Woogie and Rock 'n Roll?
Nathalie: Absolutely none. At some point, there were only 2 possible candidates: Paulette or me. Paulette wanted to do it at the ALHC. I offered to do it in NYC. The location sounded more appealing. But I think that the main reason was that, with the way things went, it seemed smarter to divide the tasks and have Paulette organize the American qualification (huge job knowing that the notice was very short) and I organize the world qualification. Paulette was
fine with that. In the end anyway, I am the only one who submitted an application.
Paulette: Is id=s not completely accurate. Dominique DeCoster contacted me after the first ALHC. He asked me if I would consider doing the World's. I asked him when. He said in 1999. I said there wasn't enough time. He suggested that I do it as part of ALHC. Emails went back and forth sporadically for some months. I said I would think about it and let him know, becasue in order to accommodate an added competition I would have to find a way to restructure AALHC's schedule. During this time he sent an email post our to several countries announcing the USA as the preferred location for 1999 and England as the preferred location for 2000. I received an email from Nathalie telling me she wanted to work on the World event with me. A later email informed me that she was going to fly to Lausanne for the WRRC meeting to talk about her participation in the event. The meeting was the first week in March. After the meeting I got an email from Nathalie telling me she was going to organize the WLHC and she asked if I would help. I said that I already had enough on my plate and wasn't going to work on an event that was the week after the Lindy Champs. I spoke with Dominique by phone who felt I should help out because it was too much for one person to do alone. But I pointed out to him that that would mean I would have to work on two events at the same time. I was not willing to do that. I did speak with Nathalie by phone a day or two later and offered to arrange a discounted hotel package for those coming to the event. She said she didn't need one.
QUESTION 17: Many American Lindy Hoppers, including Frankie Manning as indicated by his Sony compilation of favorite Lindy Hop selections, feel that ideal Lindy Hop music is jazz based and is in the range of 145-190 bmp. So, how does this square with these tempos that start above this range?
Nathalie: As I mentioned above, it could have been that the choice of fast music came from the old footage. Also, since it is more difficult to dance to faster music it can be seen as a criteria of selection. Finally, "ideal Lindy music" can be understood as ideal for social dancing but maybe not competitive, ideal for what? Maybe the right Nathalie G: A is to have in future competitions, a fast and slow round.
Paulette: Faster music also can cover up techincal errors. Slower music may be harder to dance to because, it points out technical errors and forces the couple to deals more readily with style issues and musicality.
QUESTION 18: And then, to focus on Ryan's observation re the sponsors and organizers, would non-boogie woogie and non-rock and roll organizers ever even dream of holding a "Lindy Hop" competition with these tempos?
Nathalie: Just for your info, rock 'n roll is danced to 48-52 bars/m. Again, I repeat, the people who set the rules are Lindy hoppers who have been working on building the WLH Association for the last five years or so. Rules are not forever, they can be discussed and changed. This is just the beginning of something better.
QUESTION 19: Many students of street dances such as Mambo and Swing find that the international style Latin and Jive competitive styles have little to do with the real dance and the competitive music has little to do with the real music -- do not critics of the WLHC not have a legitimate fear that Lindy Hop may go the way of Jive?
Nathalie: It is true that street dances as mentioned above are different from what is done in the ballroom competitive world. That's why it is up to us to make sure that this doesn't happen. That's why having a worldwide organization with a committee of Lindy Hoppers is important. Otherwise, the "ballroom people" or somebody else will take care of it. The WRRC is making it easier on us by offering it's structure and experience. The WLH associations that were created before (or tried to) didn't work because it is time consuming. It is hard to find
people who will commit to do the work for free, etc... The question everyone should ask is how the WRRC can help us and not how it is going to change or not the nature of Lindy. There are already many forms that derived from Lindy, I really don't think we can create that many more.
NEW QUESTIONS [These were not previously submitted to Nathalie as of October 13, 1999]
NEW QUESTION 20: WHO ARE THE TWENTY FIVE COUPLES WHO WILL BE COMPETING AND FROM WHAT COUNTRIES DO THEY COME?
Paulette: 5 are from the USA, 5 are from Sweden, 4 are supposed to come from England - but there are having well documented problems with the WRRC imposed selection process. The other countries eligible to send 4 couples include Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Belgium and Denmark. None though is sending 4. Belgium's top three couples were supposed to come, but two of them are ineligible due to their age. And it is my understanding that France and Spain declined to participate. I think 5 couples is too many from any one country. Prior comps had the majority of the contestants coming from Sweden. The last championship country and the host country are entitled to a wild card slot. Which I don't agree with either. Ø
NEW QUESTION 21: WHICH OF THESE COUPLES HAVE ALSO COMPETED IN BOOGIE WOOGIE OR ROCK N ROLL?
Paulette: Well, Marcus is representing Germany. Stephan Joller and Erika Schriber I think from Switzerland. And the Belgians. There are likely others, but I haven't seen a list of competitors yet.
NEW QUESTION 22: MARCUS SAYS THAT THE EUROPEAN FEDERATIONS ARE GOVERNMENT SANCTIONED AND RECEIVE GOVERNMENT SUPPORT. DOES THAT MEAN THAT THE EUROPEAN COMPETITORS ARE HAVING THEIR TRAVEL SUBSIDIZED BY THEIR EUROPEAN FEDERATION AND THAT DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY THE GOVERNMENTS ARE PAYING THEIR EXPENSES?
Paulette: Most of the countries' couples are subsidized by their governments, associations or sponsors.
NEW QUESTION 23: WHAT INVOLVEMENT DOES THE AMERICAN LINDY
HOP CHAMPIONSHIP HAVE IN THIS EVENT? ARE WINNER OF THE ALHC
HAVING THEIR EXPENSES TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP PAID? WHAT IS THE
PRESENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE ALHC AND THE WLHC.
Paulette: ALHC's American Showcase Division's top five winners are eligible to move on to WLHC. Nathalie is hosting the event so how the competitors get there and where they stay is her bailiwick to cover. I do know that she is providing hosts for the competitors to stay with. And both she and Dominique where working on an airline sponsor.
NEW QUESTION 24: IT SEEMS THAT SOME DANCERS FROM THE UNITED STATES AND ENGLAND BELIEVE THAT IF EACH COUNTRY GETS ONE VOTE, THEN THE US AND ENGLISH VIEWS WILL ALWAYS BE OUTVOTED AND THUS THERE IS NO REASON TO PARTICIPATE IN ANY INTERNATIONAL LINDY HOP FEDERATION. GIVEN THAT NUMERICALLY PROBABLY 95% OF ALL LINDY HOP DANCER WORLD WIDE ARE ENGLISH OR US, IS THIS FAIR AND WHY SHOULD PEOPLE GET INOLVED IN SOMETHING WHERE THEIR VOTES WILL NEVER COUNT.
Paulette: This is exactly the point I tried to make to Marcus and copied to WRRC reps. This is the reason we had the American Revolution. We must have an equal say in our determination. After the fact is not enough. The comments and questions I have had about WRRC and the WLHC rules are to be addressed at the February meeting in Stockholm and I am more than welcome to attend.
NEW QUESTION 25 : WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR NOT REDUCING THE TEMPO FOR THIS COMPETITION?
Paulette: Dominique these issues should be addressed at the meeting in Stockholm. I don't think they are concerned about it because those that voted it in place are happy with it. And Europeans are more laid back about waiting. Americans are not.
NEW QUESTION 26: THE EVENT IS ONLY THREE WEEKS AWAY - WHAT IS
THE MUSIC THAT WILL BE PLAYED?
A Perspective from Bill "LindyBill" Millan
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1999 07:52:51
From: Bill Millan LindyBill@home.com
Subject: competition, would you post this please?
Hello, everyone, I am a swing dancer in LA
It is my understanding that the top professionals in the Lindy Hop World discussed the question of Organizing at Herrang in the summer of 1997.
The outcome was to not organize. As a result, some of the Lindy Hop Teachers, and promoters, started an organization on their own, and have affiliated with the European Rock and Roll group to promote a National and World competition. This has caused other Teachers, who did not want to organize, to oppose their actions.
There is going to be some organization running local, national, and World Lindy Hop competitions. That, to me, is a forgone conclusion.
Dancers want to compete. Teachers need the competition to get more students involved in Lindy Hop. The Teachers need to be able to make a living. The dancers want to see more people involved in dancing Lindy Hop, so that there are more people to dance with, and more places to dance.
This organization must be professional, well run, and make a profit so that it can continue year after year. Anything less will be episodic and collapse. It is going to have to affiliate, like it or not, with the British Ballroom Organization.
The reason it is going to have to affiliate is the Olympics. I do not believe that the Olympic committee is going to deal with anyone else but the British Ballroom Organization. As I understand it, Dance will be a demonstration sport in 2000, an approved sport in 2004, and Lindy Hop could be on the program.
If the top professional dancers get together in Herrang next summer and form a professional organization, and affiliate with The British Ballroom people, they will be able to control this procedure. If they don't, someone else will do it and control it.
You stand on the Podium.
A Medal is place around your neck.
Your National Anthem is played.
You watch your Flag being raised.
Hey, I would like my grand daughter to be able to have a shot at that. And everyone else's, too.
Paolo Lanna shares his "Thoughts about WLHC"
Date: Friday October 15, 1999
From: Paolo Lanna Lindyland@aol.com
Subject: Thoughts about WLHC
To Lindy Hoppers around the Globe,
For those of you who don't know me, I'll say simply that I am a teacher of dance here in New York City and I enjoy spreading the good will of the Lindy Hop.
The upcoming event being billed as "The World Lindy Hop Championships" has created quite a stir. And due to the recent remarks by the most highly regarded Lindy Hop dancers in the World, Ryan Francois and Steven Mitchell, I would like to respond with the following;
As I originally was intrigued and sincerely interested in the idea of a World Lindy Hop Organization, (myself envisioning a governing body whose mission would be to unify the world of Lindy Hop and through the medium of competitions and performances, showcasing the best dancers globally), perhaps I was a bit naive. What I see happening is a far cry from unifying the Lindy community. It is clear that the self proclaimed "World Lindy Hop Championships" planned for NYC is not earning high points from the core Lindy Hoppers respected locally and internationally.
Perhaps it is because many have been offended by the World Rock and Roll Federation, as the umbrella organization. Or, the idea of creating universal rules and regulations and formulating standards is distasteful. Or, the fear of underlying motives. Or, the past and present attitudes and conduct of the organizers, themselves. Or, perhaps it is the process, or lack thereof, by which the organizer was selected in the first place.
Nonetheless, here is an organization trying to capitalize on the swing trend, and profit. Should we and do we have the right to thwart such an attempt? Should we be so judgemental? The simple truth is, capitalism is the American way, isn't it. But here stands the problem;
When one places a title of such enormity and finality on an event, one is bound to come against a wall of opposition, for with such labeling may come power and control and authorization without representation. Also when one takes on such an authoritative roll, one immediately opens him/herself to scrutiny by those who are established within the field, questioning everything from motives to objectivity. And that should have been expected. And why not, for these dedicated and established few surely would want to see this dance represented in it's finest form and as a world class event.
Receiving council of, or creating a council of the core Lindy Hoppers globally should not have been optional, but a most desired goal here, and one for which the promoter/s of the WLHC should be held accountable. It is clear to me that any event labeled as "The World Lindy Hop Championships" must be able to win the respect of these individuals in order to be accepted worldwide as the standard. It also occurs to me that any organization planning an event with a title of such enormity would want to achieve such status.
By possessing the qualities that unify, represent and empower a Lindy Hop community, perhaps one could have overcome these hurdles. Still, events of such prominence are not born overnight.
Yes, it is troubling that this could not have been more welcomed, after all, it's great entertainment, another opportunity for social interaction and expression and that's whether you support and enjoy competitions or not. Without a doubt, it is the name "World Lindy Hop Championships" that is the focus of this controversy. And I am still surprised at the arrogance regarding this issue on the part of the promoters.
Maybe the doors should be open at this point for anyone to throw a dance competition with any grand title like The World Lindy Hop Invitationals or The International Swing Dance Open. Look out for the up and coming championships where Lindy Hoppers will be competing for the prestigious title "Globehopping Lindy Grand Master" at the Global Lindy Championships coming soon to a city near you. Perhaps as soon as Nov. 7th.
Paolo "Pasta" Lanna
Simon Selmon enters the WLHC as a competitor
Date: Friday October 15, 1999
From: Nathalie Gomes firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Simon Selmon competes in WLHC
Simon Selmon decided to change his mind and he is now competing with his partner Kate K ller in the 1999 World Lindy Hop Championship instead of judging. We will have another judge from England replace him.
Good luck Simon and Kate
Below is Simon's request:
On behalf of Kate Keller and myself, I would like to apply to compete in the Lindy Hop Championships, and have enclosed a short C.V. below:
Simon Selmon began Lindy hopping in 1986 and is one of the most highly sought after dancers, teachers, choreographers and performers in the world of Lindy Hop, with numerous film, television and featured media appearances to his credit.
He is the founder and driving force behind the London Swing Dance Society. He recently choreographed and appeared in the feature film "Swing," and has just completed choreography for a new supper club, (themed around the Cotton Club) which has just opened in London at the famous Embassy Rooms. Simon is well known around the world as a great personality to liven up any dance event, and is particularly known for his steamy blues dancing!!!
Kate Keller, originally from San Diego, is currently working with Simon in London and in the last six months has taught with him at major international camps in Sweden, Germany, France and Washington. She is a member of his performance troupe the Sugarfoot Stompers and has also appeared in several T.V. shows as a featured jitterbug. She has been dancing since the age of three and since she started Lindy Hop, her enthusiasm and energy have captured the
essence of the dance.
Nathalie Announces Competitors from 13 Countries
From: "Nathalie G" email@example.com
To: Undisclosed Recipients
Subject: countries at the WLHC
Date: Mon, 18 Oct 1999 18:19:46
This is to announce that for the first time in the World Lindy Hop Championship, there will be 13 countries with a total of 26 couples: Belgium Croatia Estonia Finland France Germany Hungary Lithuania Norway Sweden Switzerland UK USA We are very surprised and honored to have such a variety of couples coming that far. Don't miss this unique event, it is the first time it happens in the USA and it won't happen on our soil anytime soon. TV AND
MEDIA WILL BE PRESENT, DRESS TO IMPRESS !!! 12 hours of performance and social dancing special guest Jean Veloz from Los Angeles (Groovie Movie, Swing Fever) 2 Live bands (17 piece big band for the evening part and Jive Aces for the after party) The World Lindy Hop Championship Sunday, November 7 1999 2pm-3am The Supper Club 240 West 47th street NYC Tickets are $60 before Nov. 1 (available at the Supper Club and Hop Swing & A Jump) After, $75 $55 only at selected dance studios: Hop Swing & A Jump, Sandra Cameron Dance Center (Angie), Shall We Dance. Also don't forget our Crazy Feet Swing Dance Camp with world reknown instructors including Erik and Sylvia from L.A., Roman Labutin from Russia, Edie and Eva from Sweden, etc... (Nov.1-Nov. 7) For any info, call Hop Swing & A Jump at 212-343-8515 or check www.hopswingjump.com.
Marcus Answers some of Alan's Questions
From: "Marcus Koch" MarcusKoch@WorldOfSwing.com
To: "John Tomeny" LindyHop@Savoystyle.org
Subject: Contribution to Alan's questions
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 08:19:12
I read the questions from Alan Sugarman on the debate site and I first want to thank Alan for this very good approach. I also would like to contribute some information:
There have been several open meetings (everybody who was interested could come) in the past since 1995, which were discussing rules for international competitions. There were open meetings after every World Championship and also in Herrang for the last three years. I don't have a list of participants because I attended only a couple of them. At the ones I have been there were around 25 people from different countries including America.
Nathalie pointed out very clear: Rules are not forever; they can be discussed and changed. This is just the beginning of something better. To understand why these rules were like this you have to think back three or four years. Lindy was very small in the States. The big country was Sweden, which had Lindy competitions for many years. Quite some of the top Lindy trainers at this time came out of the Swedish competition scene. Like Nathalie said the aim was set by the footage you can see from the old days. Unfortunately there is very little footage of people dancing socially to slower music. Most clips (Hellzapoppin', Cotton Tail, A Day At The Races, Killer Diller, the Kangaroos, later Harvest Moon Ball clips, etc.) are all performed to very fast music. Frankie also told me the music became faster in the later years. Also Jams often are happening when the music gets faster. And Frankie also said that the competitions in contests or in Jam circles were a big driving force for the development of the Lindy. Every
week you had to create a new step, because it was copied just right away.
The Lindy scene has changed a lot in the last years and it is different in every city. So maybe rules have to be considered for changes, too. This can be done. I personally would like to see some changes, too, but I'm only one. So come to the meeting after the WLHC.
There will be four couples representing Germany. They all competed in at least one of the former Lindy Championships or other events, e.g. in the Swing Masters Jam in UK.
Who is paying depends very much on the country and the city you are living in. There are different levels of support. At some countries the national body or sponsors are subsidising the costs. At others it is the local club or the States body. Sometimes even the cities pay for travel expenses to international competitions. How much and what varies and depends also on the health of the city or the organisation. So in worst case it can happen that nobody pays for it. Normally it is the aim of the bodies to subsidize the costs, so that the best couples and not only the couples that can afford it can go.
If you look at the last years in Lindy history, you can see how fast things are changing. A couple of years ago Sweden was the big Lindy country and in the States there were only a handful of enthusiasts. Now America is big in Lindy, but you already can see in the major US cities that the number of Lindy dancers is declining; unfortunately many clubs closed already and many are shortly before. Maybe the craze hits another country soon. If you don't have an equal voting for every country this would mean that every couple of years another country can rule everything, just where the most dancers are. But the experience of people shouldn't be less worth, just because the number of dancers has declined. Like the experience of Sweden is still there and important independently of the number of dancers.
I think an international board is not for getting one countries opinion through. Every country as different and valuable experience. So decisions should be made together and not against each other. I know that the other countries are very much open and welcome the experience of the US and the UK. Unfortunately I have the feeling that it is much harder to get the different groups inside the UK to agree than the different countries. I hope I'm wrong.
Nathalie Also Answers Some Questions
From: "Nathalie G" firstname.lastname@example.org
To: "John Tomeny" email@example.com
Subject: Re: WLHC debate: questions from Alan Sugarman answered...
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 13:38:51
I must say that some answers by Paulette gave out wrong information or wrong impression. here are some of the corrections, I would like to make.
1. She never offered me a hotel package of any kind. It is impossible for the Marathon week-end to get any deal in NYC unless you do it 2 years in advance.
Question 22: None of the dancers have their trip paid for. It comes out of their own pocket. Some people are unemployed and are raising money to make this competition. People coming from countries like Croatia and Lithuania look at this trip as a HUGE expense. By letting them compete for free (rules of the WRRC) and offering them free lodging, we are making it easier for them financially. Which competition in the USA makes it easier for people like that to compete? With the current system of swing dance competitions in the USA, this would have never been possible for them.
3. I already sent the list of the countries. There are 13 countries. The USA will have 5 couples, 4 for Germany and 3 for England, after that most of them have only 1 or 2. By the way, France and Spain never declined to participate. France is participating and Spain has no Lindy couple as far as I know.
4. I still don't have the list of the music and it won't be announced before the competition anyway. The competition is about improve so the music can't be announced.
5. Regarding the # of votes, just like at the UN, every country gets one voice. I am not going to get into politics, but the WRRC works as a democratic system, one voice/country. As far as I know, in the USA there are no more than one governor/state even though certain states have a much larger population. The USA has many social dancers, I don't know if many of them are interested in competing to that level, especially now with that entire debate. Germany or Sweden have more competitors right now than the USA or the UK, but that doesn't mean that they are getting an extra vote for that.
A lot of people are misinformed and don't understand where the WRRC comes from. I would like to help Dominique present it at the ALHC.
An Apology from Joe Gerrits
Ed: The message that Joe refers to in this public apology was removed from the public archive on Friday, September 24 at Joe's request.
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 17:29:17
From: Hep Cat Swing firstname.lastname@example.org
To: John Tomeny email@example.com
CC: MarcusKoch@WorldOfSwing.com, MrZoots@aol.com, Wendy Jo Gertjejanssen firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Message from Joe Gerrits
Dear Marcus, Ryan and to all concerning parties:
(Sorry this too long to send a second letter)
Ryan's open outcry for a public boycott of the World Lindy Hop Championships governed by the World Rock & Roll Federation came at opportunistic time for me speak. As a promoter of some of the largest Swing events in the Midwest, I am subjected to enough migraine inducing politics on the local scene that it was much to my surprise to see such political turmoil existing on an International level and it infuriated me.
I must admit I spoke in haste. In doing so, I made accusations towards and organization and about a few people, particularly Marcus Koch, without analyzing the content of the material being passed at the time of my statement. Nor did I wait for further information to be revealed to enlighten me or anyone else concerned about the genetic make-up of the Ryan's angered statements to form a better opinion on the matter. Looking back in hindsight I must stand out
and "apologize" for any wrongful accusations towards you personally Marcus Koch.
It did appear that I backed Ryan Francois without hesitation, as most friends would, but I should've waited to hear from other people. On the other hand, I still support Ryan's crusade to protect this dance that he, as everyone else who promotes Swing with such passion, is obdurate about preserving. Even though my statement seemed apparent that I was defending Ryan whole-heartedly, I was actually trying to direct my opinion on what he was saying about protecting the dance.
When Ryan was in Chicago in January 1999, he spoke out against Nazi swing, the commercialism of a non-commercialized dance. It destroys the authenticity and spurs people to learn how to do GAP Swing which then in turn makes our work harder by trying to fix everything that was taught wrong. I agree with him here as well. I think there are more bad instructors than there are good instructors and this should, if possible, be controlled. Definitely not in the manner of standardizing movements that Ryan opposes, but more in the lines that an instructor should have some type of qualification to teach--much like the National Academy of
Sports Medicine (NASM) certifies personal trainers for private health training. No one should standardize the steps but someone should stand up and make sure that people are qualified to teach and are, in fact, teaching Lindy Hop right.
The more popular swing gets the more dance instructors are popping out of the wood work with no real training. In a recent Chicago magazine article, Howard Bregman of Swing-Out Chicago said that when he first arrived in Chicago from Los Angeles three years ago, he called every dance studio in the city and suburbs to see if they were teaching the Lindy Hop. Every single one of them gave them the same response: "What's Lindy Hop?" Now, everyone is teaching it. I get so many students from a certain dance school that taught them the Lindy Hop and my first few hours with them is trying to explain to them why they are do this wrong, why they are doing that wrong. When Ryan teaches it is such a joy because he'll demonstrate something and subsequently teach the maneuver by finishing with, "you'll do this step this way because it makes sense."
When Ryan spoke out against you Marcus, I asked around and no one from Chicago knew anything about you. So I put my opinion in words and it was displayed for all to see. In light of what I wrote, some people came to your defense explaining who you are. But giving the simple fact that they were exposed what you've done and seen you dance, they were absolutely in the right in defending your honor and I was wrong in questioning it without knowing you. I hope you accept my apology.
I hope things work out between everyone for the well being the state of Swing, which seems to be, in a state of downward spiral of non-existence.
PAGE ONE OF DEBATE
Disclaimer: TC Swingin' Hepcats is not attempting by publishing this information to present one side better than another. We have posted these letters for those interested in this debate. It is also an attempt to help reduce rumors and ill feelings on all sides.