Finding the Lindy at Tea Party

I attended Tea Party over the weekend.  I could probably write about a number of topics if I wished to.  Things I took away from a private with Davis Thurber.  Connection and rhythm ideas from classes with Andy and Nina that I recognized from J&J videos but had never broken down and learned.  Impressions from the invitational crossover, in which the world learned that Nina can spin multiple times on one knee(!), and get up flawlessly afterwards.

Or I could expound on my hunt for a term that describes the feeling that comes after a dance where your partner takes all your creativity and energy and kicks it up a notch and sends it right back at you, causing you to step up your game, which makes them step up theirs, causing you to step up yours, and so on an so forth, until 3 minutes later at the end of the dance you are this mix of happy, content, a little exasperated, and thoroughly drained because both of you gave all you had and more.  (I never did find a term I liked, but I had several of those sorts of dances over the weekend prompting the hunt as I recovered in the aftermath of each of them).

But what I really want to talk about was finding the Lindy at Tea Party.

Now I don’t know what was wrong Friday night and early Saturday night, but the Lindy at Tea Party was lacking.  Maybe it was the lack of a live band. While the djs chose great music, live music just adds an extra something.  Maybe it was the space.  The social dancing was consigned to a basement room with poor airflow and pillars breaking up the floor.  The competitions were held in a large, well lit room, and the audience was held back from the action.  Maybe it was the audience.  With half the people there being West Coast dancers and either uninvested, uninterested, or outright disdainful of Lindy, the crowd energy wasn’t there.  Maybe it was the competitors.  Whether they were trying to play it cool and safe to match the West Coast performances, or hurting from the lack of energy, or something else entirely, the strictly comps and even sadly the invitational Lindy looked….well lacking in comparison to what people knew it could be.  Maybe it was formatting.  The final of the advanced strictly was the only strictly run in jam format and the music was chosen to end with the last couple’s shine.  The energy just died when the music shut off.  When contrasted to the advanced J&J on Sunday, where the music played on and a wall of dancers came swinging out to end the round in 1 more minute of all out all skate, well people knew on Sunday what went wrong in this particular case.

But despite all the negative you might be reading above, I had a great time at Tea Party because halfway through Saturday night I found what I was looking for.  In that darkly lit, poorly ventilated room down below with the pillars, Rigamarole came on and touched off a jam.  People circled up and packed shoulder to shoulder, fighting to get closer, to see, to cheer, to rock out; because they cared.  The dancers who went in threw down.  Some were great, some were bad, some were just goofy, but not a one of them played it safe and the audience loved them for it.  The energy sustained itself for 3 songs.  And when it was done people went back to dancing but the room had changed.  People were happy, and doing a little something more on the floor.  And in the hallway outside or along the walls as others rested they talked about the jam.  Everyone trying to express what it was that had just happened in their own way, but with one common message coming through loud and clear.  That was what they had been waiting for all weekend.  Thank goodness it finally had happened.

I couldn’t find a copy of the version of rigamarole that touched off the happy, but here is Crytzer playing a version of it at DCLX last year.  Enjoy and I hope to see both him and whoever is reading this at this year’s DCLX about a month from now.

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6 comments on “Finding the Lindy at Tea Party

  1. Stacia says:

    Hey Jason – Thanks for your post. I’m curious what you’re alluding to with the lindy hop advanced strictly and advanced j&j finals? I was in the audience for the strictly, and thought that one was a pretty strong strictly comp, as they go. Lots of good energy from the competitors, and what Lunou (sp?) and Alain Wong did right at the end of their spotlight (the last spotlight) was super entertaining, in my opinion. As for the j&j, I was in the finals and due to the taping policies at BTP haven’t been able to watch them since. What was your takeaway with what went wrong in that comp?

    I agree overall that it kills energy in a jam style final to have to switch songs, especially if that has to be done just prior to the all-skate at the end. I think the fact that BTP has such large finals (9-10 couples in each of the above mentioned), and doesn’t have them done to live music (where the band leader could plan solos accordingly and the final chorus so that every couple got their uninterrupted spotlights and all-skate in one song) is what makes these unfortunate song breaks a necessity. I don’t envy the dj’s that have to try to find songs to fit this way.

  2. Mari says:

    For the competitions: I think there was a turnaround in competitors; the levels are shifting and adjusting as more new couples advance, and the advanced couples we are familiar with graduate into newer levels of mastery.
    The formatting has pretty much been the same for the event for the last few years as I know, having volunteered in running the comps too. Though the jam style is a must for finals to bring good energy, and usually it is just the advanced divisions. I think there were less people who showed up to the J&J finals to watch and sadly the energy suffered for it :(

    Additionally, I have to say having been at BTP since 2004 and growing up with the scene there, it is the mix of westcoast and lindy that is much different from other lindyhop events I attend. I agree the basement was NOT my favorite location for dancing and the living room area from a few years ago was my favorite – open, breathable, lounge-able, and right next to the cross-over room. I also LOVE doing west coast and pushing myself to explore new areas of dancing and leaders too.

    I thought the westies were surprisingly energetic and supportive, but not as much as previous years, and we all know that events fluctuate in terms of attendance, energy. Every year is new and fresh, and creates it’s own memorable moments such as the West Coast versus East Coast Invitational Swing battle from years past and this year’s Cheer-Off.

    I loved it this year too – and feedback wise, we definitely needed some fans or something in the lindy room. Bluh it was sticky/smelly.

  3. jkmeller says:

    Hey Stacia – I wish I could find the blog post, or the talk, or the after class wrap up where what I was trying to convey was pointed out to me, because whoever first brought it to my attention, said it a lot more elegantly than I will be able to. But since I can’t, let me link to another advanced strictly video to get us on the same page and then I will try.

    There are differences, like having a band, but we also have Alain and Lunou in the end position and finishing up their second spotlight strong. But now start the video up again (midway in if you wish) and shut it down around 4:40. That’s it, that’s all she wrote. Imagine Alain and Lunou walking back to the line up because things are done.

    Hopefully you now have a feeling of “where was the rest of it”? The competitors still jockeying in the background doing something with that energy and coming out one more time, together, everyone united and swinging out? The break away from that unity as everyone remembers that this is their last chance to make an impression and fights (or doesn’t) for position and some aim to have a good time and others try to whip out that one last trick they have saved up for the end?

    It’s powerful stuff, (or at least I think it is), and to me is the competition equivalence to the difference between ending a sentence with a period(.) or several exclamation points(!!!). While you didn’t get the benefit of seeing this final little bit in your J&J as a competitor, as far as these end capping pieces to a jam format comp go, the advanced J&J swing out into an all skate at Tea Party this year was one of the best ones I have seen on an absolute basis and made the lack of similar finale at the end of the advanced strictly stand out even more in my mind.

    So that was what I was trying to convey however imperfectly. Individual competitors did well but when trying to figure out why at the same time I was sort of “meh” about the competition as a whole, that’s where I placed the problem at.

    On an unrelated note, thank you for the dance last night at Boston’s Monday Night Practice. (I was the awkward intermediate lead in the aloha shirt).

  4. MeggiD. says:

    I haven’t read this post carefully, nor have I read the comments carefully. The advanced J&J at BTP was great! I don’t pay attention to contest formatting or song choices so much – I just focus on how the dancers react. The couples in the finals demonstrated a range of exciting things: some were clean and crisp, others were really excited, others were just making it work while keeping on smile on their face. The entire range was there. I hope I can see a video of it someday.

    I may be somewhat biased as many of my friends were in the finals, and I had competed in the prelims without making it to finals. After watching this competition, I felt that the judges made wise decisions about who to final. I definitely learned something from the experience.

  5. [...] Jason has some interesting observations over on his blog  about the weekend. He and most everyone I talked to noted the lack of live music. Not that people didn’t know that going into it, but it’s such a standard feature of any Lindy event these days, both big and small, that it’s a big deal when it’s not there. But I started a time when that wasn’t the case. In fact most of the events we went to were westie events that had some sort of Lindy component to them, so BTP felt more familiar to me. [...]

  6. Alex says:

    Hey, Jason –
    The version of Rigamarole in question was by Mora’s Modern Rhythmists. I’d be happy to forward you an MP3 if you need it. Alternatively, you may be able to find it on Grooveshark or Spotify.

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