Monthly Archives: March 2011

Songs of the Month Club: March 2011

As a DJ, I’m constantly hunting for new songs to play or familiar songs that I might be missing from my collection. Sometimes, I look through the depths of my collection to discover gems I never even knew I had or that I had forgotten about. As a new feature for All the Cats Join In, I thought I’d share my DJ finds with you at the end of each month.

March 2011:
“Something’s Gotta Give” — The McGuire Sisters. I played cocktail music for a birthday party where the guest of honor had been in a McGuire Sister-esque group. They asked for a medley of McGuire Sister songs, so I did some research and found this totally danceable tune.

“Conjunction Junction” — Cartoon Theme Players. This one has been around for years, but I’d never gotten it for my collection. Its always a hit.

“Rhythm of Love” — Plain White T’s. I think this is the Plain White T’s way of making up for “Hey There, Delilah.” A great danceable song with apologies to all dancers for the horrid dancing in the video. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Big Band, C-Jam, Jazz, Music, Pop

Why I Love Solo Charleston

This past Sunday, we started teaching our annual solo charleston routine to our Annapolis crew, and I had such an amazing time. I was reminded of how much I love solo charleston and jazz steps. It just feels so comfortable in my body. When I first tried my hand at solo charleston, I felt like a bumbling idiot who fell apart anytime I tried something beyond a basic. It took practice to get comfortable with each movement, and to figure out how to transition into and out of the moves. (Transitions are always key!)

When I’m practicing a partnered dance, my focus is most often on developing good partnering skills. I try to minimize styling (when I’m practicing) to clean up my technique. When I’m practicing solo dancing, I no longer have to concern myself with good partnering and can focus on what I’m doing with my own body. I can play with rhythmic variations and syncopations without worrying if I can lead it. I get deeper into the music, listening for crazy little rhythms and trying to figure out how to put those rhythms in my body. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under C-Jam, Charleston, Technique

All Cats Go To Heaven: Pinetop Perkins

Blues pianist and legend, Pinetop Perkins passed away yesterday at the age of 97. I remember the first time I saw him at Glen Echo. The room was packed, and there was a large crowd of non-dancers clustered at the front of the stage to watch him play. He hobbled out with his walker. . .I don’t recall if he had his oxygen tank with him that night, sat down at the piano with his frail looking body, and then tore that piano a new one. It was amazing to see, and I had a fantastic evening.

The last time I saw him, he had clearly lost some of his edge, but was still just as entertaining. The man filled with such joy when he played for all those people. Over the years, he played with all of the great blues men. Most notably, he toured with Muddy Waters for years. This past year, he won a grammy for best traditional blues album. I can’t imagine a better way to go out of this world than with another Grammy.

The Pinetop Perkins Foundation has been established to honor this blues giant. The foundation helps young musicians starting their career, and older musicians at the end of their career. Consider making a donation in honor of this legend, and the wealth of great music he has left for us.

Photo courtesy of the Pinetop Perkins Foundation.

2 Comments

Filed under Blues, History, Music

Whirling Dervish of the Ballroom

Whirling dervishes have always fascinated me. These mystics spin in circles as a way to alter their consciousness. Years ago, I came across an article about them that had some really interesting facts. They spin in circles with their eyes closed, entering a trance. They spin at a rate of 20 to 30 circles each minute, a rate which coincides with frequency of theta brainwaves, the ones that are responsible for daydreaming. Since then, I can’t help wondering if Lindy Hop isn’t somehow connecting to the same sort of meditation.

For instance, a lot of music for lindy hop hovers around 200 beats per minute. Divide 200 beats into 8 count groups, and you get 25. If you did swingouts for a minute straight, that would be 25 revolutions with your partner, well within the spin rate of 20-30 that the dervishes do. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under C-Jam, lindy hop, Theory

Jazz Women Are Not Unicorns

Name the top three most important women in jazz. I’m guessing you came up with Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and then a third who was most likely also a singer. If you’re really the adventurous type, maybe you thought of a woman pianist/vocalist like Carmen McRae or Nina Simone. Generally, the history of women in jazz is told through the prominent singers and the occasional pianists, and not much else. Just take a look at this CD titled Women in Jazz from Putumayo. Every artist is a singer, and while I love all the artists on there, women have been doing a lot more for jazz throughout the years.

In fact, during the 1940’s when the men went off to war, many women played in various big bands of the time. Trumpeter Billie Rogers and vibraphonist Marjorie Hyams both played for Woody Herman’s band.  There were even some all girl bands like Ina Rae Hutton and her Mellodears and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. And of course, there are many pianists including Lil Hardin Armstrong, Mary Lou Williams, and Marian McPartland. Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under History, Jazz, Music

Shoe Wardrobe Tour: For Him

And now, for a tour of Craig’s dancing shoe wardrobe. He has the same casual and dressy dance shoe categories that I do. In addition, he tries to find everyday shoes with leather soles that can double as dancing shoes.

First up, his casual dance shoes. We found these Pumas at a DSW. When we go to look for dance shoes, we keep two questions in mind: 1) Is the sole flat enough to be sueded? and 2) Is there room in the shoe for athletic insoles? The Pumas were a “yes” to both with the added bonus of a sweet black racing stripe down the side. When Craig’s dancing, the white shoes draw your eye to his feet, especially if he’s wearing darker colors. The cobbler attached the chrome leather to the bottom and tinted the leather black on the edges so it blends perfectly.

Here’s another picture of Pumas from the side, so you can get the full racing strip effect. Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under lindy hop, lindy wardrobe

Shoe Wardrobe Tour: For Her

Yesterday we talked about the major factors to consider when purchasing shoes: comfort, smoothness and grip, and style. Now for the fun part: a tour of our shoe wardrobe. I’ll start off with my dance shoes, and then talk about Craig’s. Initially I thought I could discuss all of our shoes at once but we simply have too many! Come back tomorrow for a tour of his shoes.

These Keds with a chrome leather sole are my go-to shoes. I purchased them for under $20 at Rack Room, swapped the factory insoles for a more supportive option, and then took them to my cobbler, Eugene. He glued chrome leather to the soles and neatly trimmed the edges. I’ve had these for about two years and they’re starting to show it, especially with the hole in the toe.

When it comes to choosing a cobbler, I prefer to take my shoes to a shop where they perform the work on site. I’m suspicious of places that send the work out. Eugene’s shop looks like it’s been there for a couple decades and smells exactly like how you think a cobbler’s shop should smell. He charges about $50 for the service. Pricey, but for two years worth of wear I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth. It is possible to

buy chrome leather on your own and glue it to the sole. I plan on trying this in the future on some shoes I don’t care as much about and don’t plan to wear regularly.

I love red shoes and accessories. These red mary janes are from Dancestore.com. Again, I put in supportive insoles. I purchased them for my wedding reception three years ago and wore them fairly consistently for a while. They’re super cute but I don’t wear them all the time anymore because the felt on the soles is beginning to separate from the shoe. Now, I only wear them for special events and often pair them with a red flower pin/hair accessory I made. I’ll show you how I did it in a future post. Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under lindy hop, lindy wardrobe