Liza May

SwingDiego 2014 Update #7 – 12 THINGS YOU DIDN’T WANT TO KNOW

Wanted to mention a couple of the great Showcase routines we saw this weekend (What a GREAT division this year! Even if Brennar and Crystal couldn’t dance due to sudden illness, hopefully all over by now, ugh, ask them about it)

I hope by now you have seen Robert and Nicola’s Dock of The Bay” (Sara Bareilles)

We loved this beautiful routine at the Open and now, almost six months later, wow has it has blossomed! Choreography has been tweaked, their lines and shapes are beautiful, the energy ratcheted way up!

Here at SwingDiego they were radiant. More confident than we’ve ever seen them, relaxed, smiley – all this while executing four overhead lifts, two snakes, numerous two-rhinestones-from-the-floor drops, back-bends, a cartwheel, and that final death-drop where Nicola spins round, grinning out at us like the happiest blonde on the merry-go-round.

And that final kiss! So sweet. Married. With children. And a Showcase routine. And they still love each other!

Greg and Lemery, “Trigger” (Kezwick and Mel Piesson)

Eye-candy couple! Gorgeous in those slinky black and silver costumes.

The version of Greg and Lemery’s latest venture that you see in this video is quirky, dangerous, aggressive. What we saw at SwingDiego this weekend was changed a bit – much softer, rounder, twistier.

Maybe now they might not have to hear “dark” as much, as in, “It’s too dark. I like happy routines. It’s swing dancing! Swing is supposed to be happy, right?”

Well, no, maybe that’s not right.

It is supposed to have “swing content.” Which nobody knows exactly what that is.

But “happy” isn’t in the definition, at least not yet anyway.

Also “I have to like the music” isn’t in the definition.

Neither is “That isn’t swing music because, well, I don’t know why.” **

They’ve also heard “You guys are in love, can’t we have more of that? Like your last two routines?”

[Hint: "Last Two Routines"]

They also hear “What is it about? A routine’s got to have a story!”

Well no, it doesn’t have to have a story. The world is full of art that’s perfect without imposing a story on it. Flowers don’t have stories, neither do mountains or sunsets. Neither do “Beethoven’s Ninth,” the ballet “Les Sylphides,” or Picasso’s “Jeune Fille Endormie.”

** re: “That isn’t swing music“ (Don’t read this if you’re not a musician! You’ll fall asleep!) Swing music must be comprised of a number of beats per measure where the number is indivisible by 3 (so 2, 4, or 8 beats per measure.) In other words, not a waltz or polka, not 3 beats, or 6 beats, can’t go “OOM-pah-pah OOM-pah-pah.” People also used to say swing music has to have accented triplets. But most of what we dance to today doesn’t have accented triplets. So any music is swing music as long as it’s not 3/4 or 6/8 timing. That’s it right there, the full definition.

*** (Really don’t read this. You’ll fall into a coma) Actually it’s not just numbers divisible by 3 (like 3/4 or 6/8 timing) which are non-danceable. Other what are called “irregular” timings are not danceable either. Like Don Ellis’ “Upstart” in 3 2/3 / 4 timing or Conlon Nancarrow’s annoying “No. 41a,” in 1/vp : v2/3 (that’s the square root of pie over the square root of 2/3.)   I suppose you could swing dance to these pieces, but you’d have to have a good enough ear to hear – and good enough wcs muscle-memory to dance to – a regular 4/8 rhythm layered on top of these irregular meters. Kind of like tapping a waltz with your left hand while tapping a march with your right. It’s possible, and could even be awesome in a non-traditional sort of way.

**** (Seriously! This footnote don’t read even if you are a musician.) We cannot dance to most of the fantastic dance rhythms of Cuban or African dance music because they do not have steady, regular beats, but instead have complex poly-rhythmic structures which are not only based on 3-beat measures or phrases – triplets, in other words – but have, in addition, a contrasting 2 or 4 beat pulse on top. We do of course dance to Cha music, also Rumba (aka Nightclub Two Step.) But these are the Anglicized, Ballroom-ized versions, with steady beats, not the rich traditional ones. Cha, Rumba, and Salsa (aka fast Rumba) music – the sound of these dances where they originated in Cuba (via Africa) – and the way they’re still played and danced today in Cuba (and parts of Africa) – these songs are not wcs-friendly.

***** (This part is just for masochists) The reason no one can define “swing music” is because that “lilt” or “accented triple” or “the limp” as Mario calls it, or “the swing” as jazz-era musicians used to say – that sound – is based on something called “clave” which even the pickiest mathematician-musician freaks can’t agree on or describe accurately, because not only is the beat based on an irregular rhythm and barely-perceptible dotted-note accents and rests – but – most importantly – it fluctuates, moving this side and that of the beat, like the sound of wind in trees. Read about clave. You’ll love it. If you gotten this far I promise you will love reading about clave.

****** (If you’ve disregarded the warnings and read anyway I’m sure you now have a splitting headache) Tempo is different from rhythm, as of course you know. Tempo just means fast or slow (“bpm” - "beats per minute.") Some people feel swing music must be fast enough to not look or feel too much like Rumba, Argentine Tango, or Adagio. But these days we dance to music so slow you can nap between footsteps because with a good ear you can feel a west coast rhythm in much of today’s slow pop music. And you can always put fast dancing into slow music -- much easier than putting slow dancing into fast music, right?   But not too fast either, according to others.  It shouldn't look like Lindy; or make people my age lose our false teeth and toupées.

Back to Greg and Lemery:  So far this great new new piece has received a rawther chilly reception. But Greg and Lemery are no dummies - they're veteran competitors – Greg since way back in the Paleolithic era in ballroom, country, ballet, jazz, and hip-hop, and Lemery is an ex-Ballroom/Latin Champion. So they know their way around a competition floor and are neither surprised nor discouraged by the response so far. They knew what to expect.

Tonight’s version did feel different. I hope they keep at it, and I hope they do well with it.  I love the interesting music; the futuristic, jagged choreography; the 80′s punk-rock fingerless gloves. I love that they chose “risk” over “strategic.” I guess I just love the creativity.

Luis and Jennifer, “Wicked Game” (James Vincent McMorrow)

Gorgeous atmospheric song, rueful, melancholy, sometimes almost silent.

[I'm a big fan of silences in music. That's from my music background where "rests" (silences) were just as important as "notes" (sounds.) You counted rests, experienced them as part of the music.

[Also, not that this has anything to do with Luis and Jen or anything else I just thought I'd mention that I'm also a big fan of screaming with is why Lonnie Gordon's "Bad Mood" - that yell at :30 - omg I love that yell. Any song with yelling and screaming. But that's not from my music background. That's from my family background.]

Anyway, I am really loving Luis and Jen’s routine. Just the quiet drama of it is so beautiful.

And I love how Jen accelerates an exit and is then so still and quiet immediately after. And the barely perceptible accelerations and slowing down’s just this side of the melody. Love how the choreography swells and falls with the music. Just beautiful choreography.

And her costume! Dazzling craftsmanship! It’s all Jen’s handiwork! She designs and constructs by hand all her costumes. The detail is simply stunning – you can’t see it well in this video so go take a look at the detail if you get the chance to see them live. Jen has an eye for gorgeous color, shape and texture in clothing - all her outfits, on the floor and off, are a pleasure (both she and Luis have this talent – Jen and Taletha told me at the 2011 Open that Luis is the designer of all routine outfits, and non-dance outfits, too. (I can understand this because Genieboy is the designer of mine. If GB hadn’t been creating buildings he would have been creating women’s clothes.)

Oh SwingDiego. Last night (Monday night) was the final closing dance – people were still limp-dancing at 10am this morning (Tuesday), 90 degree blazing sun outside and these bent-over hobbling zombie people come staggering out into the light, squinting at Life Outside Of A Ballroom, trying to grapple with the meaning of it all.

So much more to tell about SwingDiego omgawd! So much happened. Some good, some not so good, just so much – such a rich weekend in every way.

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