How welcoming is the swing dance scene to same-sex dancers and members of the LGBT community? In this post, we'll explore both the positives about partner dancing outside of traditional gender roles and the ways in which our communities can still improve.
Nina Simone was a genre-defying musician whose recordings blended jazz, folk, classical piano and blues. She recorded countless iconic songs during her career, including a popular rendition of the jazz standard “My Baby Just Cares For Me," and was active in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. In 2018, she will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Born into slavery in 1849, "Blind" Tom Wiggins was a musical prodigy and autistic savant. After starting his musical career before the age of ten, he became the first African American musician to perform at the White House, for President James Buchanan. He was also the most highly-compensated pianist of the 19th century. Read on to learn about his unusual life and why he was billed as “The Last American Slave.”
Thank you everyone for an amazing 2017 at Boulder Swing Dance. This has been a year or growth for our school and community. It has been an amazing journey, and I look forward to what 2018 will bring.
We set out this year to improve the opportunities and experience of our intermediate dancers. We started an intermediate team, the Flatiron Flyers, and it has been incredibly inspirational watching the members grow and develop. We have also been hosting specialty workshops every month, and have added a more advanced level 2.5 class. We are going to tweak some of these ideas in the coming year to offer even more ways for our intermediate dancers to continue to grow through classes, teams, and practice groups.
Our dance ambassador program has also been a huge success. This program is so important to helping support and encourage our new and visiting dancers, and welcome them into our community. A big thanks to Cherelle, Stephenie, John, Heather, Andy, Debbie, Todd, Brett, Anthony, Eddie, Larisa, and Kevin who served as Ambassadors this past year, and to Amanda Armstrong for coordinating the program. In 2018 we are going to expand the dance ambassadors. If you are interested in becoming an ambassador, we will be opening up applications in late January.
This coming year our theme will be back to basics. I don’t mean that everyone should relearn their dance basics (although that never hurts). What I mean is that we are going to revisit and improve all of the things that have made our school and community successful. In 2016 we focused on strengthening our community, while 2017 was the year of the intermediate. As our scene has gotten bigger and more diverse our community now faces new challenges. How do we stay friendly, welcoming, and accepting, while still providing opportunities for our students to develop and grow in the dance? We don’t have all the answers yet, but we are going to rededicate ourselves to making our community friendlier and more inclusive while scaling to an even larger size. Besides our Dance Ambassador program and community outings, keep your eye out for some new experiments and initiatives.
In 2017 we drastically overhauled our Level 1.5 curriculum. It is now significantly better–so much so that we are going to making some changes to our Level 2 that will raise the level of the class. We will also be adding a third month to our Level 1.5 in the spring that will cover 6 count patterns, some Charleston, and possibly Balboa. We are excited about these changes, and we think you will love the new material. We aren’t quite ready to roll all of these changes out, but they will debut in an few months. We are also, for the time being, going to drop our Level 2.5 class. Instead, we will be either running a team (that anyone can join) in that slot, or specialty classes. We found that the Level 2.5 format was to limiting for the needs of our more advanced students. This will give us more flexibility to design programming that better suits our dancers.
In 2018 we are also going to work to improve our music. This includes the music that we play in classes and the live and DJ’ed music at our dances. We want to provide more music education to the community as a whole. As a dancer, the more you know about the music the easier it is to improvise and play. As someone wiser than I said, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”
In February we will be starting weekly classes in Lafayette. This will allow us to offer classes three nights of the week! We are also tentatively planning on holding a monthly weekend dance to bring students together from the different nights and locations. We also are going to add a couple of special workshops with some of our favorite out-of-town national dancers (one in the spring, one in the fall). Sarah will also be debuting a new Swing Sweat fitness program in late January.
I’d also like to thank our incredible staff who have worked their butts of behind the scenes in 2017. These folks are incredibly dedicated to our community, and have put in countless hours to make everything run smoothly. Sarah, Lisa, Auliya, and Catherine have taken care of all the business related operations. Without them, the lights would not stay on. Our teachers have done an amazing job this year as well. Sarah, Anthony, Heather, Skeye, Freeman, Kevin, Molly, Kevin, Tiffany, Brandon, Catherine, and Lexi have all worked hard on delivering high quality classes. Together we have spent a great deal of time working to become better teachers, and to improve our curriculum–a journey we will continue on in 2018.
Finally, I’d like to thank each and every one of you. Our amazing little community would not be possible without your continuing support. It is a joy to see you at our classes, dances, and events week in and week out. This is our community, and in 2018 we would love to hear your suggestions on how to improve it. If you have ideas, please let us know. Let’s make 2018 swing hard.
Two weeks ago, Denver was host to one of Colorado’s biggest swing events of the year, Lindy on the Rocks. This weekend-long event combines world-class instruction, live music, competitions and lots of social dancing. The Boulder Swing Dance community was out in force at this year’s Lindy on the Rocks, with staff and students alike flocking to downtown Denver to learn, dance and compete. Check out this recap for contest results and videos, as well as an overview of different Lindy hop competitions.
Join us this October for some spook-tacular festivities. We're hosting our regular classes in Longmont and Boulder, including our Flatiron Stomp with Jeremy Mohney and his band the first Monday. The last Monday we're having specialty drop-in classes as well as a Halloween-themed dance complete with decorations and costume contest. Also join us for our monthly social event to Anderson Farms, and come see our students perform at Rocky Mountain Balboa Blowout!
Today we’ll be taking a miniature tour of jazz and Lindy hop in American visual art. I was inspired to explore the topic after coming across some stunning images by the early cartoonist E. Simms Campbell, who created several prints and watercolors of 1930s Harlem culture. I figured other swing dancers might enjoy his illustrations, so here they are—plus art from several other artists besides: Frank Myers, William H. Johnson, and Richard Yarde.