Swing Discussion Boards > Texas Tommy Swing

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Spitfire, Jul 1, 2003.

  1. HepcatBob

    HepcatBob New Member

    And Quadrophonic Surround Sound!!!
    :lol: :lol: :lol:
  2. Guest

    Guest Guest


    You're right, Joe.

    You can't recreate and know what a dance is completely just from two clips of video.

    That's why it's suggested you pick up the books above, to help start getting a real detailed understanding at a dance, for which you need to also look at a dance's roots.

  3. simon

    simon New Member

    Dear Black Sheep,

    Well what a relief you are no longer saying the Texas Tommy Swing I referred to was a square dance done by a red neck from Texas in 1906.

    Thank you for the references to Don't Knock the Rock and the brilliant dance footage in it.

    To all,

    As you are all aware (with one possible exception), the circa 1910 silent films of black American Texas Tommy dancers doing Texas Tommy (including leading practitioners of the dance at that time I think) are not the only evidence of Texas Tommy. They are not Richard's only source for recreating Texas Tommy, and are not, I gather, the only old film footage of Texas Tommy he will show.

    I find being able to see and learn Texas Tommy Swing very exciting.

    As mentioned, the webpage for the November 7-8-9 swing history weekend can be found at the dancing.org website - http://www.dancing.org/w/

    Best regards,
  4. Black Sheep

    Black Sheep New Member

    N. O. Proof

    TTS Buffs,
    I hope you noticed I gave you a way out when I said," However, it's possible that the Lindy was ALSO transported to San Francisco at the same time from N. O. when it was carried to New York from New Orleans!"
    I do not purport to be an historian, but it was general knowledge in the 1940's and 1950's that the Lindy originated as I stated it in my previous post.
    As for proof! I'll stick my neck out by suggesting you ask the following dancers, with whom I pledge that I have never discussed this subject with. 'Ask Frankie, ask Irene Thomas, ask Jean Phelps Veloz, ask Terry Monaghan, or ask any old-timer who was actively Swing dancing in the 1940's!
    We were chronologically closer to the historical facts in 1940's then those researching the subject 50 years later. And many Primary Source individuals were still alive in the 1940's to corroborate that scenario.
    I don't like to bust any balloons, but by sticking to that TTS story, you are headed for a feast on humble pie.
    However, I will concede to you on one important point:
    If this TTS shows some significant relationship to the Savoy Lindy, then we may have a missing 'Evolutionary Link' between the original N.O. dance and the Savoy Lindy through the TTS, and then you do not need the 2 film clips to prove your point that TTS superceded the Savoy Lindy. But, and this is a BIG 'but', the TTS did NOT originate the Lindy, but merely played a transitional role from the mother lode, N. O. onto S. F. and ending up in the N.Y. C. Savoy Ballroom. That's your possible Theory of Evolution that you can hang your historian pride on. But who believes in 'Evolution' any more anyway?
    TTS, transitional, Si! TTS, original? Nada!
    Black Sheep ' When playing Poker, look out for the Joker!' Joe Lanza 2003 a.d.
  5. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Joe how do you trace Lindy Hop to solo jazz dancing in N.O.? Where is the partnering aspect brought in?

    If you want to take the route that all dance is a matter of evolution then the birth place of the Lindy Hop is Africa.

    As to asking dancers from the time period... well Ethel Williams danced both, was the the lead follow that introduced the dance to New York, she is the one who first led Marshal Stearns to the history of the Texas Tommy. If you had read the resources I cited and done some independant research you'd know this already.
  6. Black Sheep

    Black Sheep New Member

    Birth Place of Swing

    If you want to go Africa in ad absurdium, than I'll go you one-upmanship better and go to my Nonna Peppa's Tarantella Swing in Sicily which is close enough to the Africans who probably got the Swing idea from my Nonna Peppa.
    Seriously: You asked for verifications of my claim that New Orleans was the birth place of Lindy. I gave you some very respectable names in the annals of Swing history, to verify my contention that the funeral marches in New Orleans were the origins of the Swing. Why haven't you followed up on these friends of yours? Or did you contact them concerning the Origin of Swing, and their responses were not what you wanted to hear? I am holding my breath, waiting for your answer!

    Black Sheep 'Patience often loses the issue with too much waiting' Joe Lanza 2003 a. d.
  7. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Joe... you just named off people. You haven't talked to them about it at all. I could just as easily name a half dozen people I've never talked to about it and say they back my side. Instead I actually did the required research to make a decision one way or another.

    So I ask you again, what are your SPECIFIC resources that back your statements? Give me some names, dates etc. And again I ask what exactly is your stance on Stoddard's assertations about the origins of jazz? Give us the low down Joe.

    Your time-line is completely imaginary. I mean really it quite insulting to the members of this forum to just make up information and try and pass it off as legitimate. Give us some exact dates and locations and names that we can check or just leave it alone.

    Is that bit about the Africans getting the idea of swing from your "nonna" suppossed to be funny? Personally I find it distasteful. Africans and African Americans have had enough of their culture, history, and credit for artistic and scientific accomplishments "appropriated" by other cultures. I don't find it funny even in jest.
  8. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Just for the record...
    Katrina Hazzard-Gordon writes in "Jookin:..." ,
    "Dances such as...Texas Tommy...probably gained initial acclaim among African-Americans through there etnertainers", by which she meant "black entertainers (who) crisscrossed the South in tent shows, medicine shows, and gillies"
    Note use of the word "probably".
  9. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Here's a question...
    Did anyone go to the Powers thing?
    I'm curious about what kind of music he decided to use.

    "Swing music started in the mid-1920's", and blues was still being codified at that time. And the film is from San Francisco?
    I've looked at a bunch of silent film showing dances, and not having the sound posses and interesting dilema.

  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member


    An American Ballroom Companion: Dance Instruction Manuals

    Member of the Imperial Society Masters
    of Dancing, London
    $ 1.00
    MAY 18 1914


    "Music, "Ephraim's Brass Band Jones," or the song "Texas Tommy Swing," or any schottische with a good swing. 4-4 tempo."


  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    This is guaranteed to make some of you crazy, and I'm just throwing this out there to see what comes back....

    I was reading about Hungarian dance, and Hungarians were among the residents of the Barbary Coast back around the turn of the last century and...

    1. They are almost always improvised.

    "the men free their partners when, and for so long as, they fell inclined. Thus their hands are free and they can again take hold of their parnter when they wish..." page 94 Hungarian Dances. Karoly Viski. 1937.

    "The brisker movements of the dance retained that peculiarity which is the feature of all Hungarian dances: the right of the dancer to improvise according to his talent and mood." page 44
  12. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    How funny that you should bring this up just a week after I posted this:

    Are the dances improvised? Yes. Unstructured? Absolutely not. This is true of most dances where participants are in contact.

    I had the embarassing experience of slapping the author of the article in your reference ... he was teaching, I ended up as his partner in the rotation, he led me in a turn and my hand was in the wrong position ... oops. (He was, of course, gracious about it ... I was probably neither the first nor the last woman to make that mistake.)
  13. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    So, since you're in the Bay Area, and it sure looks like things Hungarian are of interest to you, maybe you can help with this.

    Where would I find accounts from, or about, the turn of the the last century in and around the "Barbary Coast" to try to get an idea how much Hungarian and African Americans might have interacted with each other?
    I see someone has wirtten a book fairly recently.

    Or anything that would shed light on that time and place?

    Yeah, "improvisation" is often in the eye of the beholder. Or is it?
    Still, why would African American male dancers start "throwing out" their partner in a partner dance. Having seen Hungarian Americans do it is one possible explanation.
    Has this come up before to your knowledge?
  14. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    I'm not a historian ... I try to pay attention when someone presents background, but I don't actively search ... I'm not sure how much help I can give you.

    If I were to research this, the first thing I would do is ask Richard Powers at Stanford (as suggested earlier in the thread). He IS a dance historian, and would be likely to know where to start looking for first-hand accounts. The second person I would ask is Jerry Duke, who used to teach at San Francisco State University (he retired about a year ago, but is still listed as "emeritus"). The bits of his original research I have seen are more oriented to Appalachian dances, but I think he taught dance history and may have some ideas on source materials. He is also familiar with various forms of swing and several forms of Hungarian dance and might have insight into similarities and differences.

    At one point I dug through some very old newspaper files (probably on microfiche) in the SF main library. I'm not sure how far back they go, but they might have stories that would be useful. Of course that would mean wading through massive amounts of irrelevant stuff.

    What does the recent book have to say? What started you down this path?
  15. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    I've been thinking more about this. I dance East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing but I don't have a good understanding of other forms of swing (meaning I can't tell the difference between Lindy and Jive, much less identify Texas Tommy). I have been taught a few of the varieties of Hungarian dance, but I certainly don't know all of them and can't always recognize them by either movements or music. Given those caveats, here are some further thoughts:

    The characteristic I find most similar between the two genres is not improvisation, but rather the feeling of tension-release (the rubber-band or slingshot effect) between the partners. I'm not sure what you mean when you say the men started "throwing out" their partner, but I'm going to interpret it as developing tension through moving apart, then releasing that tension. In Hungarian dance, the release usually means moving around a common center, often passing through a neutral point back into tension. In WCS, the tension in the first step coming out of the anchor can be released into the compression of the sugar push or into the momentum that drives a whip or into whatever other figure the leader comes up with. (Note, however, that this observation may be strongly influenced by the fact that I personally really enjoy the "whoosh" of the release of tension in both dances, so I tend to help my partner develop the tension.)

    I'm trying to think through the list of other dances I know to see if any others have this feeling of tension-release in the same way. Although other dances occasionally have a little of this feeling, I can't think of any others where it is a defining characteristic. Waltz, tango, foxtrot, rumba, cha cha, samba ... no. Hustle ... yes, but it falls into the swing family. Scandinavian ... no. Polish, Slovakian, Czech, Slovenian, Croatian ... sometimes, but they're related to Hungarian/Romanian.

    So were there other dances with tension-release before the development of swing? It's such a basic feeling that I'd be surprised to learn it hadn't been developed before ....

    What do you think?
  16. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Why am I interested in this? It all started with reading repeatedly that West Coast Swing was first danced to blues music. That did not make sense to me. And what I could find about WCS was badly written, and very confusing.
    So, I started asking questions and checking out things that I saw mentioned.
    If you glance through this thread, http://www.dance-forums.com/showthread.php?t=13426 you'll see how my thinking evolved as I found new information.

    Because of an interest in the music of that era - the 40s and 50s - I went down other paths. One was, where did "swing" dancing come from?
    Texas Tommy is often mentioned as one of the roots of "swing". But, where did Texas Tommy come from? The Barbary Coast, we are told.

    The Texas Tommy was a hit around 1910 at a Negro cabaret, Purcell's, on the Barbary Coast. Ethel Williams, who helped popularize the dance in New York in 1913 described it as a "kick and a hop three times on each foot followed by a slide. The basic steps are followed by a breakaway an open position, while keeping with the timing, that allowed for acrobatics, antics, improvisations, and showing off. Both Williams and Johnny Peters introduced the dance to New Yorkers in the 1913 Darktown Follies.[1][2]

    The dance is said by many to be the first swing dance. The main reason being that during this period (1909), all the dances were done in "closed" position, this was supposedly the first modern dance of the time to include the "break-away" step (dancing in open position) while using a basic 8 count rhythm. (The "break-away" step developed into a dance with the same name.) The dance was one of many that originated in the dancehalls of the Barbary Coast redlight district.

    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. 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..."

    The Stearns book, if I remember right, states that the female partner was thrown out with such force that they sometimes ended up in the orchestra pit, although the man was supposed to catch her at the last instant.

    Where did the idea to separate from the partner in such a fashion come from?
    (there is a PhD dissertation on Texas Tommy that I haven't read completely yet, or looked at recently. At some point in farily recent history there was a lot of standardization of Hungarian dances, I have read.)

    I had always felt that dance historians often focus on ballroom dancing, as if that represented ALL dancing of "European" cultures. And it most certainly doesn't.
    So when I read about Hungarian men releasing their partners, and noted two waves of Hungarian immigrants to California.... It just seemed to fit. (but only as a hypothesis)

    And in an effort to explain how I developed the feel for music that I have, in a family that produced no other dancers (except that my aunts all knew dances to do at weddings ...) I note both the regular grades in music through 8 years of Catholic grade school, and... being 3rd generation in this country Hungarian ancestry on my mother's side.

    Powers did not respond to an earlier email regarding WCS.
  17. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    I read the whole "original music" thread (it took more than a glance ;)) ... so I now have a better idea of what you are trying to discover (even though a lot of the information in there went way over my head).

    Returning to your latest post, if I understand you correctly, the quality that made the Texas Tommy unique was the breakaway in open position that allowed for acrobatics, antics, improvisations and showing off. You also say Ethel Williams said the Texas Tommy breakaway was identical to that found in the Lindy, and "Shorty" George Snowden said they did the Hop long before the Lindy. This doesn't seem to clarify the relationship of the Hop to the Texas Tommy -- one from the other or independent development.

    On the character of the dance -- both the open position allowing for "improvisations" and the "throw" with catch are key elements of several Hungarian dances. So far, so good. I see (or rather, as a follower in both forms, I feel) the analogy.

    The question I am inclined to ask is whether these elements arose in any other dance form. The "open" position is the most basic way for two individuals to dance together. Two children imitating their elders won't take closed frame; they'll dance with joined hands. When an adult dances with a child, they tend to take the open position (I'm not talking about when adults pick children up ... the children are being danced, but not "danced with" because they are not active participants).

    So the question becomes, are there any other known dance forms with the elements of open position, "improvisation", AND throw/catch? I'm not aware of any, but I'm not a dance historian. Bottom line, you may be on to something.

    It's too bad Richard Powers didn't answer your earlier email. He seems to be a busy guy, though. (For full disclosure I don't know him. My only contact has been 2 or 3 massive group classes, including one at one of his dance weekends, plus reading his web site.)

    You might try Jerry Duke. I think his email address is on the web site for San Francisco State University. If that doesn't work, let me know. I usually run into him once or twice a year. I don't think he knows me ... I'm one of many dancers, and he's a well-known teacher in the folk dance world ... but we've chatted on the sidelines once or twice, and I think he might be interested in the topic. As I mentioned earlier, he is familiar with both swing and Hungarian dance, has done some original research on certain American dance forms, and has taught dance history. His viewpoint is not limited to ballroom dance (though it is included of course). A side note ... in your music thread I believe you mentioned Glenn Miller's "String of Pearls". Jerry choreographed a progressive swing dance to that song to expose folk dancers to swing.
  18. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    I'd like to clarify this. Again, I am not a historian or an expert, but I've had some exposure to the topic. I stand ready to be corrected if someone has better information, but here's my understanding.

    There has been a certain amount of research into Hungarian music and dance for many years (e.g., Brahms and Bartok), but there was an upswing in interest starting in the 1970's. Young Hungarians became interested in their heritage and started investigating music and dance. They found substantial amounts of material in areas where people had been isolated and free from many modern influences (particularly in ethnic Hungarian populations inside Romania). Ethnographic research is still being done.

    With the use of modern video equipment, it is easier to capture the details of dance and music. This allows researchers to identify similarities and differences. The dances are not being "standardized" but rather classified. Hungary has a system of academic support for this research and a community of dedicated individuals who strive to maintain an understanding of the culture. Responsible dance teachers are clear on the distinction between the different dances. As in any community there are differences of opinion on how to approach this resource, but there is a common understanding that the dance from Magyarpalatka is different from the dance from Magyarszovat, and both are forms of something commonly called Meszosegi (forgive the lack of diacritical marks).

    It is possible that the different forms will evolve into a mushy form of generic Hungarian dance, but currently, as far as I know, the distinctions are being preserved, because the distinctions are clearly defined.
  19. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    I just re-read this whole thread, including checking some of the links. The description of the Texas Tommy is definitely NOT like Hungarian dance, but is (as indicated by the suggestion of appropriate music) more like a schottische. The description does not include any mention of breakaway movement. Now I'm more confused than ever ....
  20. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "The main reason being that during this period (1909), all the dances were done in "closed" position, this was supposedly the first modern dance of the time to include the "break-away" step (dancing in open position) while using a basic 8 count rhythm." from wikipedia, I need to check the source, though

    Now, this one has a good references...
    The basic steps are followed by a breakaway, an open position, while keeping with the timing, that allowed for acrobatics, antics, improvisations, and showing off. Both Williams and Johnny Peters introduced the dance to New Yorkers in the 1913 Darktown Follies.
    Stearns, Marshall and Jean (1968). Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance. New York: Macmillan. page 323
    Ballroom, Boogie, Shimmy Sham, Shake: A Social and Popular Dance Reader.Julie Malnig. Edition: illustrated. University of Illinois Press. 2008.
    page 58. ISBN 025207565X, 9780252075650

    Yup, I noted the similarity to schottische, too. There's another dance which was done to/ called "Pop Goes the Weasel" described in a book called "Cowboy Dances" published in 1934 or 39.

    See discussion here http://dancehistory.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=807. It doesn't resolve anything, but does mention the aurthor of the PhD thesis I mentioned.

    I've now got 3 books out of the library on Hungarian dance!
    And one on Cowboy dances, and one one Argentine Tango, and one with info on the proposed multicultural, rather than simply African / European nature of jazz (add Latin).
    Tressilo added to milonga sent me on that tangent!

    So many books...

    Anyhow, maybe I'll try soem of the folks you've mentioned. But, maybe when I have soemthing a bit more substantial!

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