Swing Discussion Boards > Historical Swing Dance definition HELP!!!

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Jonathan Walford, Aug 27, 2007.

  1. tangonuevo

    tangonuevo New Member

    Although I have not been as outspoken as d_nice, I feel strongly that much of the history of swing is well understood and in general consistently repeated by those how were there. This is also readily available on the web through Peter's site (caljazzdance). I think that where data is available, it, rather than hearsay, urban legend or outright myth, should be provided.

    A number of people, including d_nice, have invested enormous amounts of time, energy and thought into determining the history as best they could. Respect for this is a very good thing.
  2. d nice

    d nice New Member

    It is just that there is a mountain of evidence that contradicts... well nearly everything you said, and you specifically put your information up counter to what had been presented before. You stated it as if it was verifiable fact, and when asked to either provide those verifiable facts or reconcile the differences you say you have already done so and quote your own statements which are what prompted the request for evidence in the first place.

    Now if all you have are conversations from years ago with no verification, and no way to prove your memory is correct, then we can let it go.

    As to this being important to me, it is. Dance is extremely important to me and the history and music of the dance is equally important to me. Seeing it treated so cavalierly, seeing good and verifiable information dismissed, does bother me. If you have info that is "new" (as in not widely known by the historians and researchers) that contradicts what has been written and taught for the last 60 plus years, I want to now about it. I want to verify it, and spread that knowledge to the other researchers and academics to vet it.
  3. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I'm sure that by now everyone has trundled over to Peter's site to figure it out themselves. But just in case it seems like there has been more heat than light here...

    This is from "Steppin' on the Blues" by Jacqui Malone. page 101

    "An influential predecessor of the lindy was the Charleston swing. Barbara Engelbrecht explains that "this swing infused the Lindy Hop's basic step - the syncopated two step, with the accent on the off beat-with a relaxed and ebullient quality. And this relaxed and ebullient style of execution gives the impression, like the music, of the beat moving "inexorably ahead." The dancers feet appear to "fly" in syncopated rhythms, while the bodiy appears to "hold" the fine line of balance in calm contrast to the headlong rush of the feet. " According to Stearns and Stearns, the lindy flowed more smoothly and horizontally that the earlier two-step, had more rhythmic continuity, and was more complicated.
    At the Savoy, black musicians and dancers, armed with the musical innovations of Louis Armstrong, helped develop the formula for what was eventuall called "swing music," which swept the country during the Great Depression..."

    This is interesting, also, I think. page 103

    "According to Stearns and Stearns, the stage was set for movement innovations with the appearance of a group of Kansas City musicaians in 1932. The power and drive of the Bennie Moten Band "generated a more flowing, lifting momentum. The effect on the dancers was to increase the energy and speed of execution."
  4. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    First, let me make something very clear; I admire greatly, humble myself before, and am very interested in those who have devoted serious study/life work to the history of such things. Though, I have studied much more than the average person as to how to do them, I am an expert of nothing in dance outside of AT and Latin. I know my passion for these dances, and apologize to d'nice if I offended the studies in his.

    Point 1. Getting back to the post that started this assault, my 'only' point was that history is largely a matter of the interpretation/s of what has been passed down over the years. Some historians have swing dances coming from African-amer. dances, while others have them coming from Native Amers, for Christ's sake (Indians... [for clarity only], pardon the lack of PC, here). With some exception (such as Frankie discussing his 'personal' involvements), we are rarely priviledged with the acutal facts of such things as dance origins.

    Point 2. There is no argument that swing, in general, evolved from the old African-American traditional/folk/slave dances. "A-Step Stomp", "Gut Stomp", "Stomp"...who knows what the "real" name of that movement was, was a dance done by taking a one step left - one step right - and a type of rock step back and forward. We know it as a dance that the Africans performed before coming to the U.S. (no doubt by some other name), and, recognizing the similarity, we also know it as a type of Swing that, today, we mostly call a Single Time Swing. History tells us that the slaves in amer. would dance this, or something similar, at the end of the day to celebrate finishing the day's work. Probably...the operative word here, the high lifting of the knees had something to do with the original movement, and, as was added over the years, ...the fact that they [dancers] were dancing in the fields which made such movement necessary.

    Point 3. Together with proper study, it is a reasonable assumption...ooh! I know, there's that dreadful word, that the 2 step movement of the Lindy is an evolution of the one step movement of Stomp. I recognize, and fully accept, as others have, all of the readings of how Shorty George coined the name, and of how he and others developed the dance afterwards. But, Lindy Hop is a fcombination of many dances that came before or were popular at the time. It seems practically impossible to solidly chronicle to one true source the solo and improvized moves of, say, jazz, and the partnership stuff of Lindy, and the formal eight-count structure of other stuff. There are varying stories as to how it all came about. I guess, I fall...fell...somewhere in here.

    Yet, further, it is logical, based on film and other study, that the 3 step movement of later was an evolvement of the 2 step movement/evolution of the Lindy and other dances...Charleston, etc.). This is supported by the film, and kind of b/c, we further have learned that perhaps Stomp didn't influence Swing directly, but became initially popular in what we call Blues dancing. Only later, it crossed over to the swing genre. When I say "learned", of course I mean 'have read or seen (movies)' as an alternative to some other opinion/study.

    When listening to the music, it is easy to understand the development of these dances, and the confusion/s as to which came; first, when, and how. As, I am sure that you have, I have encountered many persons who use terminologies interchangeably..."Swing" for "Jitterbug", "Jitterbug" for "Jive", "Lindy" for "Swing".

    I agree with you completely that such study is interesting, necessary (to the best of our abilities), and should be taken seriously much as everything else in hsitory.

    This, I think, was a wee unfair. Nothing in my posts suggests authority, a "cavalier" attitude, nor, certainly, a dismissal of information. Again, I was merely sharing. Perhaps, it is prudent, or at least a safety zone for me, :rolleyes: that you, and others, could keep in mind that I, and many, learned these things largely in European schools, which taught, no doubt, a very different history than the U.S.

    I find it incredible that you never heard this stuff http://www.dance-forums.com/showpost.php?p=587412&postcount=21, but when looking through some of my stuff, begging your indulgences that 'my stuff' is well divided between Hawai`i, Alaska, and the Gulf, here are some things that I pulled which speak to some of this.

    1. Zimbabwe Dance and African Dance (both by Kariamu Welsh Asante)
    2. Free Dance by Susan Clark
    3. Bound and Free (a book on early, early Jazz) by Stearns
    5. The Story of American Vernacular Dance (I think with Frankie)
    6. The Black Tradition in American Dance

    Conceding, this is it. :notworth: Just as in life...always a student. :cheers:

  5. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    It'll be interesting to see if anything in there will be contradicted.
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    The Funky Butt, Squat, Fish Tail, and Mooche are all performed with hip movements. Similar dances were popular in New York City by 1913. When dancers at the Jungles Casino-"officially a dancing school" "got tired of two-steps and schottiches...they'd yell: 'let's go back home!'...'Let's do a set'...or 'Now put us in the alley!' I did my Mule Walk or 'Gut Stomp' for these country dances.", according to pianist James P. Johnson. "The dancers were from the Deep South."
    Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance By Marshall Winslow Stearns, Jean Stearns 1994 Da Capo Press page 24
  8. d nice

    d nice New Member

    The gut-stomp (and early version of what is sometimes called knee-rocks in Blues dances or Applejacks in Jazz) does not fit the description that Angel is putting forward. There is nothing that ties the description he put forward with the development of Lindy Hop, all evidence points to the rock-step as an evolution of the kick step from the break away step in the Texas Tommy done with Charleston timing.

    The Gut Stomp is the predecessor to the Gut-bucket, a solo Blues dance with a ton of hip and torso articulations.

    As to the sources cited... most of them can't be found in the library of congress, do you have ISBN numbers?

    Also, anything that stated that Native Americans created Swing Dancing is wrong. Just plain wrong. No if's, and's or but's.

    Now if "the Stomp" is the name Europeans and Euro-Americans gave a traditional West African dance you could probably trace it through a few dozen different dances into the Lindy Hop, but it is disingenuous to say the rock-step "comes" from that dance. I could just as easily say the rock step comes from a dozen different solo dances all originating with the Bantu speaking people of West Africa.

    What we have here is probably an example of cum hoc ergo propter hoc. You see one thing in a dance and something similar in another dance and assume correlation/descent.

    I'd find it more believable that there was a correlation between "the Stomp" and the Jigwalk from your description than "the Stomp" and the Lindy Hop, and even then it would be based entirely on similarity of gross movement rather than on a chain of dances showing the evolution.
  9. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    My favorite "book locator" is WorldCat.
    The "Zimbabwe Dance " book Kariamu Welsh Asante. African World Press, Inc. 2000. page 56 ISBN 0-86543-492-1 is one of the ones I've looked at, too.
    One thing that strikes me about traditional African dance is the absence of "partnering", and the presence of well defined, and usually quite different movements performed by men and women.
    It's also interesting to note the change from a tradition steeped in, well, traditonal, and usually group oriented ways of doing things, to the -in the Americas- seeming emphasis on individual expression.

    Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance By Marshall Winslow Stearns, Jean Stearns 1994 Da Capo Press page 13 ISBN 0306805537

    ISBN for Steppin on the Blues is 0-252-02211-4.

    I've read enough now to agree with several authors who think of things in terms of there being vernacular movements, which have been combined and recombined to become "dances" at certain times.

    Correct or not, there is one author that believed that there was input from Native Americans, not for the Lindy, but for the "Cakewalk", which itself was done in so many different ways...

    Ethel L. Urlin writing in the 1912 "Dancing, Ancient and Modern" stated that "It originated in Florida, where it is said that the Negroes borrowed the idea of it from the war dances of the Seminole...The negroes were present as spectators at these dances, which consisted of wild and hilarious jumping and gyrating, alternating with slow processions in which the dancers walked solemnly in couples. The idea grew, and style in walking came to be practised among the negroes as an art."
    see page 13
  11. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Urlin is in an extreme minority. First the Seminole didn't dance man/woman, they danced in solo, or in groups of like sexes, with each sex having their own dances and own steps. Second, there were Cakewalkers alive who have been interviewed numerous times and the origination and inspiration they all credit is the European Grand March, the Jig step known as Strut, and the derision dances of West Africa as being the three biggest influences on the Cakewalk.

    There is just not enough evidence to support the idea of the Seminole band. Intermarrying of the Creek and freed and escaped slaves and cross pollination of cultures didn't happen for a decades after the Cakewalk was already popular among Southern Blacks.

    Also all evidence of "single time Swing" which uses the step-step-back-step you are referring to came out in the 50's, the step is not believed to have been a part of Lindy Hop. There certainly is no reference, clip, and I have never heard of a dancer from the 30's or 40's who has ever said otherwise. Frankie has said (on film) that the Single Time Swing was not done in Harlem during the Jazz Age as far as he can remember and Norma has down right blasted the step as a bastardization of Lindy Hop, part of the dumbing down of the dance after it started being taught by chain studios.

    You might be able to make a case that the step evolved into Shag, but there still is no corroborating evidence.

    It is a reasonable assumption that two things that look alike may be related. In that you are right... but when there is evidence to the contrary (and multiple sources of it), asserting it is so makes little sense.

    Now the Jig Trot, might be a more solid argument and something that might be worth looking into. The Jig in the title references both the Irish percussive dance and the African percussive dance that took on that same name. The steps were blended together and done in a face to face partnering. The rhythm is a little different than that in Single Time Swing, but there are a number of elements of the gross movements that match up at least to the casual observer.
  12. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    This also reflects the same principles in the foundational core of Mambo / Salsa . The "call and response " theory demonstrated in indigenous Rumba .
  13. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    No one should be surprised that I did some fact checking...
    And, really, I'm not arguing about the absoluteness of "where the Cakewalk came from", but...

    Africans and Native Americans

    The incoming English government soon learned that Florida was a magnet to Africans and African Americans in North America who sought freedom from slavery. Once in Florida, freedom seekers encountered the Creek and Seminole Native Americans who had established settlements there at the invitation of the Spanish government. Those who chose to make their lives among the Creeks and Seminoles were welcomed into Native American society.

    Governor John Moultrie wrote to the English Board of Trade in 1771 that ?It has been a practice for a good while past, for negroes to run away from their Masters, and get into the Indian towns, from whence it proved very difficult to get them back.? When British government officials pressured the Seminoles to return runaway slaves, they replied that they had merely given hungry people food, and invited the slaveholders to catch the runaways themselves (Schafer 2001:96).

    Without looking it up the reference, there is a vaudevillian who is on record as saying that his in his grandfather's day...
    OK, I looked it up.
    Vaudvillian Tom Fletcher heard the following account from his grandfather, "The cake walk, in that section and at that time, was known as the chalk line walk. There was no prancing, just a straight walk on a path made by turns and so forth, along which the dancers made their way with a pail of water on their heads. The couple that was the most erect and spilled the least water or no water at all was the winner."
    Steppin' on the Blues. by Jacqui Malone. University of Illinois Press. 1996. page 43. ISBN 0-252-022114
    Perhaps this was a parody of white people dancing, but it's also extremely common to see people carrying substantial loads of whatever on their heads in Africa. (I refer specifically to Tanzania, where excellent posture is very notable, but I don't think I'm overgeneralizing about where/how things are carried in sub-Saharan Africa. I may be??)
    So, does the popularity of "the Cakewalk", which in itself seems to allow for/has been composed of, many different movements, go back as far as the late 1700s, before blacks and Seminoles mixed? And if so, where can I confirm that?
  14. d nice

    d nice New Member

    I'll have to look at my books to find which one(s) specifically reference it, but the slaves were being put against one and other and bet on by there masters, these dance contests date to the 1600's. The derision dances come directly from Africa, the strut the main step in the Cakewalk shares a number of elements in common with a few dance steps from the Agbor, Akan, and Kalabari. While it is impossible to say that the Strut step was formed by these three tribes, their dances precede slavery and these three tribes were among those taken from Africa and brought to the American South. It could be coincidence, but I think the claim of descent makes more sense than the Seminole...

    Being part Native American (though these days who isn't, right?) I certainly love the idea of their having a direct part in the creation, but the dates just don't add up, and if the largest amount of evidence cited is a resemblance between the too, I think the Grand March done by both the French and English have just as much chance of being the inspiration (and have already been pointed out as the most likely inspiration in a number of books).
  15. rembrandt44

    rembrandt44 New Member

    Charleston roots in Lindy (1929)

    There are many dances that came before the Charleston era, such as black bottom, ragtime, etc. But there can be no doubt that the Lindy hop was developed right out of the Charleston era in Harlem, as dancers like Shorty George began to "Swing out" from their partners. And the term Lindy hop was coined.

    as evidence I submit the following (1929(

    The Savoy ballroom in Harlem was one of the most integrated places in the country. Black, white, it didn't matter as long as you could dance. From this era swing spread around the country taking on different names and styles. Certain dances like Carolina shag, west coast swing, balboa, may have roots other than Charleston, but that is all part of the evolution of dance. Tracing it is difficult because new dances often draw from many different influences. However, there can be no doubt that the Lindy hop was developed right out of the Charleston era, which was a huge era of music and dance across the country that cannot be ignored when talking about the Lindy hop.
  16. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    My research tells it slightly different.... Apparently, the slaves were asked to perform dances, and the winner was awarded.. you got it.. a cake
  17. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks for bringing up the Cakewalk.
    This seems to be the sum total of evidence regarding cakewalk
    If anyone had any additional accounts from "plantation days", please let me know.

    First Person Accounts
    In the 1981 article "The Cakewalk: A Study in Stereotype and Reality" Brooke Baldwin cites "an almost exhaustive compilation of those accounts which have been found so far".[3] This compilation consists of eyewitness accounts by ex-slaves from Virginia and Georgia recorded by WPA researchers in the 1930's, along with second hand accounts from other sources. Baldwin notes that "when the reasearchers of the Federal Writer's Project of the W.PA. interviewd aged ex-slaves in the 1930's, there was no longer any need to suppress information about the happier moments of slave life."[4]
    Louise Jones; "de music, de fiddles an' de banjos, de Jews harp, an' all dem other things. Sech dancin' you never seen before. Slaves would set de flo' in turns, an' do de cakewalk mos' all night"."[5]
    Georgia Baker said that she sang a song when she was a child. "Walk light ladies, De cake's all dough" She laughed and added, "Us didn't know it when we was singin' dat tune to us chillun dat when us growed up us would be cakewalkin' to de same song".[6]
    Estella Jones; "Cakewalkin' was a lot of fun durin' slavery time. Dey swep yards real clearn and set benches for de party. Banjos wuz used for music makin'. De womens wor long, ruffled dresses wid hoops in 'em and de mens had on high hats, long split-tailed coasts, and some of em used walkin' sticks. De couple dat danced best got a prize. Sometimes de slave owners come to dese parties 'cause dey enjoyed watchin' de dance, and dey 'cided who danced de best. Most parties durin' slavery time, wuz give on Saturday night durin' work sessions, but durin' winter dey wuz give on most any night."[7]

    Second Hand, Oral Tradition Accounts
    A South Carolinian told of Griffin, a fiddler who played for the dances of the whites as well as for the "annual cakewalks of his own people".[8]
    A story told to him by his childhood nanny in 1901 was repeated by 80 year old actor Leigh Whipple, "Us slave watched white folks' parties where the guests danced a minuet and then paraded in a grand march, with the ladies and gentlemen going different ways and then meeting again, arm in arm, and marching down the center together. Then we'd do it too, but we used to mock 'em every step. Sometimes the white folks noticed it, but they seemed to like it; I guess they thought we couldn't dance any better."[9]
    Ex-ragtime entertainer Shepard Edmonds told in 1950 of memories related to him by his parents from Tennessee; "...the cake walk was originally a plantation dance, just a happy movement they did to the banjo music because they couldn't stand still. It was generally on Sundays, when there was little work, that the slaves both young and old would dress up in hand-me-down finery to do a high-kicking, prancing walk-around. They did a take-off on the manners of the white folks in the "big house", but their masters, who gathered around to watch the fun, missed the point. It's supposed to be that the custom of a prize started with the master giving a cake to the couple that did the proudest movement."[10]
    Baldwin concludes that the Cakewalk was meant "to satirize the competing culture of supposedly 'superior' whites. Slaveholders were able to dismiss its threat in their own minds by considering it as a simple performance which existed for their own pleasure" (p. 211). [11]
    Not included in the Baldwin article, vaudevillian Tom Fletcher, heard the following account from his grandfather, " The cake walk, in that section and at that time, was known as the chalk line walk. There was no prancing, just a straight walk on a path made by turns and so forth, along which the dancers made their way with a pail of water on their heads. The couple that was the most erect and spilled the least water or no water at all was the winner."[12] Fletcher also commented that, "The old "chalk-line walk was revived with fancy steps by Charlie Johnson a clever eccentric dancer... The "chalk-line walk" then became known as the "Cake Walk."[13]

    The dance was popularized by minstrels.
  18. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    For the most part I agree with rembrandt44, but it's a bit more complicated than that.

    According to Ethel Williams, who helped popularize the Texas Tommy in New York in 1913, the Texas Tommy "was like the Lindy", and the basic steps were followed by a breakaway identical to that found in the Lindy. "You add whatever you want there." Two additional dancers stated that: "The Texas Tommy had a different first step than the Lindy, or Jitterbug, that's all." "I saw the Texas Tommy around 1914. It was just like the Lindy Hop".[3]
    Savoy dancer "Shorty" George Snowden stated that, "We used to call the basic step the Hop long before Lindbergh did his hop across the Atlantic. It had been around a long time and some people began to call it the Lindbergh Hop after 1927, although it didn't last. Then, during the marathon at Manhattan Casino, I got tired of the same old steps and cut loose with a breakaway..." [4] Fox Movietone News covered the marathon and took a close-up of Shorty's feet. When asked "What are you doing with your feet," Shorty replied, "The Lindy". The date was June 17, 1928.[5] The Stearns write that, for that time and place, Snowden had invented the breakaway, the essence of Lindy.[6]

    Note that the Stearns write "for that time and place, Snowden had invented the breakaway". Note further that many European dances involved partners separating, and coming back together again (Think dances like the minuet. There were many others that were common in "the colonies", etc. Ever seen square dancers?), which is probably what the Streans had in mind.

Share This Page