Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blues comps at lindy events and cross-competition

So there was a very active thread recently on Bug's Question of the day, about
Why don't more blues dancers go to events like ILHC and Lone Star to compete in the blues divisions? Why don't the lindy hoppers who compete in the blues divisions at ILHC and Lone Star come to Blues events and compete?

I pretty thoroughly regret* having jumped into the fray the way I did, but tangents about specific events aside, if I may take the liberty of synthesizing some of the answers, there seemed to be some consensus that, beyond the overlapping-but-not-identical pool of competitors, competitions at blues-specific events ("blues comps") and "blues" OR "slow" comps at lindy events (often used interchangeably even if labeled one way or the other) have different judging outcomes because the two communities value different things. One of the specific things that the blue community values is a particular blues aesthetic. Little to no value is placed on a blues aesthetic at an unspecific "slow" competitions.

In counter to that, some people were all like "what does that even mean?"
And one person commented that there are only two kinds of dancers, good dancers and bad dancers, and the good dancers are the ones that "make it happen" at comps. I think this is an oversimplification, and kind of mean in context, and an example of why people sometimes think that lindy hoppers talk shit on blues, with the implication that blues-identified dancers don't win at blues-comps-at-lindy-events because they inherently aren't "good dancers." Furthermore, I think that someone can be a good dancer and be at the top of one style (lindy or blues) and not necessarily be at the top of an other style (blues or lindy) without losing their "good dancer card."

I submit, as an example, this video of ballroom swing, which found its way to me via a completely serendipitous route that had nothing to do with the blues/lindy discussion, but served as the impetus/inspiration for this blog post:

Are these people bad dancers? Is the dancing in this video bad dancing? And how, as presumably a swing dancer if you're reading this blog, do you feel watching that video?

I would say "No.", "", and "put off." to those questions, respectively. They're dancing with a great deal of control, and pretty arguably "to the music." They look like they're having fun. But that dance doesn't look like a dance done by good swing dancers to the same kind of music looks. (I picked the video below because I don't think it'd be a fair comparison to have ballroom dancers dancing to JJ&W and lindy hoppers dancing to, say, Slim and Slam.)

In this analogy, lindy hoppers are the ballroom dancers and blues dancers are the lindy hoppers. A swing comp at a ballroom event is like a blues comp at a lindy event. There can still be good dancing going on but what goes on in the colony doesn't really hew to the same ideals as what goes on on the homeworld, because the values aren't the same.

So that this post isn't in a void, without examples of blues dancing or slow dancing at lindy events,

Here are the "slow dance" finals from ULHS 2011 (which was a strictly) ((which everyone ran around calling "the blues comp" regardless [which is not the organizers' fault])):

And here is an all skate from the Bambloozled 2011 Jack and Jill:

Now, I am by no means the keeper of the blues or anywhere near the top of any dance field, lindy or blues. But I would point out that the biggest difference between the opening all-skate in the first video and the second despite the very similar music is how much less is going on in the latter. You don't even have to be a dancer to pick this out**. But I do think that both videos have a whole lot of "good dancers" and good dancing.

I don't think it's at all hard to imagine how blues dancers doing less get lost in a prelim field of dancers doing "more," as judged at comps at lindy events (whatever they're called), by judges who are not looking for "blues aesthetic." (Even if you completely ignore the factor of familiarity with the individual dancers which I don't think can actually be easily discarded.) I also don't think it's at all hard to imagine blues-identified dancers realizing that they're unlikely to win slow comps at lindy events and not entering, even if they're also lindy hoppers and will be at the event, because they know the music will make them want to dance in a style that isn't going to be rewarded.

To summarize: Judging blues dancing by lindy hop standards is the re-telling of an old story, like judging swing by ballroom standards- what looks awesome to one group doesn't look awesome to the other. The more established group might think that the less established group doesn't have "good dancing" (and might have some specific valid points), and the upstart group disagrees and thinks the more established group doesn't get it and looks all hyper like whoah when they try and dance the upstart style. Blues dancers don't enter comps at lindy events because they don't think they'll win, and entering comps is about wanting to win. Exclusive lindy hoppers, as was adequately covered in the original thread and not at all in this post, don't enter blues comps because they don't go to blues events.

*Primarily, I regret if anyone thought I was trying to talk shit on the Tri-Swing Tournament or Lindy Focus. That was not my intention. It was a phenomenal event, and I really admire that the organizers were thinking outside of the traditional box, trying to mix it up and include multiple styles in a fun way for a unique comp. And the finals were super fun to watch.

** I checked by asking my non-dancer husband what he thought the biggest difference was between the two clips. He has no idea why I'm writing this, and his baffled response was, "They're twirling around a lot less [in the second one]??"


  1. 1. I think that jive video is amazing. Those dancers are ridiculously skilled. But I don't like watching it, because ballroom dance competitions are very boring to me.

    2. The blues dancers aren't actually doing less, which I think is the problem. We see lindy hoppers expending all of the energy in a blues dance rock stepping and turning and rock stepping and turning and we think they are doing more. Wherein we see blues dancers moving slowly and we think they are doing less. But the blues dancers in the video are connecting in really amazing and subtle ways that don't read as flash.

    3. I think lindy hop is all about flash and a specific aesthetic. I think blues dancers understand the subtleties of connection and the judges can see that within the dancer. I think lindy hoppers need to see a specific style of the time...which is why some of the most amazing lindy hoppers in the U.S. never compete.

  2. In that ballroom clip I must know what is happening at about 1:06 and WHY!