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Boston Tea Party 2008 – Part 1

April 1, 2008

The Boston Tea Party is a national level swing dance event that encompasses workshops, competitions and fantastic social dancing. It’s a pretty ‘big’ event – and really kicks off the Spring for dancers and most people become regulars once they attend one. There’s West Coast swing, Lindy Hop and Balboa and as of the past 2 years, we have had the hugely successful Crossover room where people can dance to Soul music as well. The emergence of all that – and further history of the Tea Party – are best left to other bloggers or to a later blog, but that should be enough of an introduction to the event.

This was my third Tea Party and my favourite so far.  It had almost everything I crave for in a dance event: really good workshops that gave me ideas to work on, fantastic social dancing, me feeling ‘on’ all weekend, the company of dance friends I have made from the US and Canada, watching high energy competitions and finally, the feeling that I competed well, myself.  I think this would be a great event to start this blog off from.

Before I go into actual details, I wonder if anyone else feels that each Tea Party seems to have certain ‘theme’ to it: in the kind of music played for the dance evenings, in the workshops, in the kind of moves seen in the Invitational Jack and Jills – that seem to set a tone for the rest of the year. For instance, in the 2006 Tea Party, so many workshops were focussed around Tandem Charleston moves. In 2007, we  seemed to have the ‘fast music’ theme: and the workshops were based on dancing to fast music and sure enough, the general tempo of music in the Lindy room was fast. Both years, the other events I subsequently went to, mirrored these things.

This year, on the music side, Artie Shaw seemed to be a favorite. The songs the DJs seemed to favor were his trademark punchy, driven songs that are overlayed with Artie Shaw’s typical vibrant clarinet playing. Songs like ‘Everything is Jumpin’ were played a lot, but the DJs seemed to eschew the more frantic ‘Traffic Jam’, ‘Carioca’, ‘Man from Mars’ that are the usual jam circle suspects. That seemed to me to be a feature of most songs played over the weekend: the songs were fast and pulsey, had a strong beat yet seemed suited more for the social floor than a jam circle, as perhaps was the case this year. I must say, in particular I enjoyed the sets Naomi Uyama played.

On the instruction side, I felt instructors in several workshops seemed to be keen to talk about ‘rhythm and syncopation’.  It is a very neat idea on several levels. One can of course, just dance to the music, obey it, so to speak, as it plays. But just as jazz musicians like to fit improvisations, and different phrasings within each 8-beats, dancers ought to be able to create space for themselves within that framework. They should be able to take varied moves and movements and fit them inside the space of the 8-count. The easiest example, of course, is executing a little kick-ball-change within a 2-count. There are several variations thereof as well. That is an example of taking a small time-space, just 2 beats and filling it with something that goes by relatively faster. Kevin St. Laurent and Emily Hoffberg talked about this in one of the Friday workshops. Peter Strom and Ramona Staffeld on the other hand, chose to fill in quicker 8-count with moves that seem to (over)flow the 8 count.  The move they chose to illustrate the point with quick stop on 5, then a seemingly long flowy turn of the follower.

I am looking forward to incorporating these ideas into my dancing – not just these moves, but the ideas and possibilities they can provide. It shall help to not just complement the music,  but pay more attention to it and then being inventive within the phrases while staying in its overall frame. Isn’t that what jazz musicians do? So it makes sense as dancers who dance to swing and jazz music to do the same.


From → Dance Events

  1. Adam permalink

    I think that Tea Party takes a good pulse of the national/international community and represents the trends that are constantly evolving among dancers. This happens with both the music played and the dancing/classes/concepts and moves taught by the instructors.

    I don’t think that it’s causal, though; Tea Party certainly doesn’t start these trends. It enforces those trends that are already moving about in the amorphous swing dance vocabulary by bringing in national instructors and drawing international dancers.

    I thought Tea Party was great this year too! Looking forward to next year 🙂

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  1. And I am feeling ‘on’… « Dhruv’s life in the Lindy, Blues and Jazz dance world

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