For the first 4 months of 2013, Shannon and I coached our team through two competitions and successfully completed another undefeated season! This year brought a number of challenges along with the added pressure to match the success of our Back Bay Shuffle routine.
Because we’ve been asked on numerous occasions on how we do choreography, we have offered some insights about this year’s process.
Challenge #1: Finding Music
This task is always a challenge EVERY year.
You’d be surprised how many songs we preview before finding a routine song. I thought I had found this year”s song last August, though it would have required us to be proficient in other dance forms to do it any justice. Eventually the idea slowly turned into a possibility for another occasion, perhaps a Classic or a Showcase routine.
I later became inspired after watching Christian and Jenny perform in their Point-Of-View swing dance video. The song that they dance to is “All the Girls Go Crazy about the Way I Walk”, which several of our team members got to dance to while attending a Central Ohio Hot Jazz Society concert last year. At that point I began to collect more Dixieland Jazz music. We hadn’t toyed with something that was straight-up Dixie before, even though in 2010 our St. Louis Blues routine that we took to the International Lindy Hop Championships was relatively close to that genre. Before I knew it, I had enough ideas to make my obligatory “Possible-Team-Routine-Songs” cd which we listened to on our way to teach a weekend workshop.
Months-and-a Lindy-Focus later we still hadn’t made a decision. Shannon had expressed interest in a song on my cd that was later identified as Dippermouth Blues (aka Sugarfoot Stomp), though she asked me why I had faded-out the ending. After re-tracing my audio-editing steps multiple times, I gave up and just had Shannon play the song for me from the cd that I had left in her car. After realizing that this version of Dippermouth Blues was originally produced with the fade-out, I told Shannon that we couldn’t use that song because of that reason. Fortunately this sent me back to some of my previous ideas which led me to the songs I eventually edited together:
Triangle Jazz Blues and the Original Jelly Roll Blues by Lu Watters & the Yerba Buena Jazz Band.
Challenge #2: Still A Bit Odd
Last year’s routine was ground breaking for us. We had successfully choreographed 4 leaders and 5 followers seamlessly in the routine, making the audience play “Where In the World Is Carmen San Diego?” with the extra follower throughout the whole routine. Some judges thought it made our routine distracting/too busy; but our smoke-and-mirrors method seemed to work really well.
Since we still had an uneven number of leaders/followers, you would think that we would have used that same formula this year. Nope. I personally didn’t want us to work in the shadow of 2012. It took us a crazy amount of hours to configure a routine with a leader/follower imbalance and for sanity-sake, allowed us to put our efforts elsewhere this year. We decided that we needed to forget the Back Bay Shuffle routine altogether and start with a clean slate.
Challenge #3: Small But Mighty?
The fact of the matter was that we were a 3-couple team. We’ve seen well coordinated teams so large and dynamic I thought I was looking through a lens of a kaleidoscope. A 3-couple team will only make 2 types of shapes when dancers are paired: triangles and lines. If we tried to make a circle with 3 couples it would look exactly the same as a triangle. Having understood our limitations in partner formations, we found that our opportunities to make more shapes was during the solo jazz sections.
Knowing an imminent threat of bigger teams, we also had to consider how this year”s routine would be competitive. Having a smaller group with less couples made it easier to harmonize our movements and coordinate choreography, though togetherness does not solely win competitions. After some brainstorming it became clear on what direction to take: EMBRACE THE SILLINESS.
The Original Jelly Roll Blues is a very happy song and Lu Watters & Yerba Buena Jazz Band”s sound is so alive. This allowed us to paint pictures for the audience and it gave us a way to use elements from cartoons and Disney films. A BIG part of this success was our dancers. We were very blessed to have animated individuals on our team. They kept the energy high and continued to captivate the audience for over 3 minutes. For anyone who’s done any type of show business, keeping the audience attention for longer than 2 minutes is not a simple task. Exploiting these talents faired to be a good decision.
To all of our hard-working performers:
Binaebi Akah, Gail Clendenin, Erik Hernandez, Daniel Hoy, Ali Lodico
To our ‘stunt’ man, alternate and fashion guide:
To our practice video YouTube uploader:
To our local comrades, many of which were part of our summer performance group:
The OSU Jitterbucks: Lee Conley, Kerry Dibble, Rebekah Farrar, Rachel Gribben, Lawrence Small, Hew Smith, Stanley “Frisco” Steers
The entire SwingColumbus community for your support!