Monday, February 9, 2015

Currently Listening 2/3



I've always loved big band sounds, which probably stems from my illustrious history playing in a high school jazz band (I know, I know; try not to be too impressed). As an extension of this, I've been forever drawn to jazz and music derived from it. And so it didn't surprise me that, when introduced to swing music by a friend of mine, I adored everything about it. What did surprise me was how impressed I could be by watching people dance to it. There's much to be said for the way some individuals can embody the music they're listening to, moving fluidly to the rhythm as though no longer bound by the laws of physics. Outside of YouTube parkour videos, it's not often you look at a person and wonder how it's possible for them to move as they do.

The video above exudes so much style it's hard not to imagine the dance taking place in a speakeasy; never before had I thought it possible to have such sass during counts of eight. At one point, the duo pauses mid-performance so that the man can light up a cigarette. And you know what? I can't even say they break the rules of the dance by doing so, because some of the beauty here lies in the fact that there aren't very many rules. Swing music and dancing originated in Harlem in the 1920's as a colloquial dance - that is to say, as a dance of the streets. You wouldn't find this taught to others in a ballroom and you wouldn't find people talking about it as highbrow. It was a dance that was learned by watching swing dancers do their thing and trying to imitate it; it was a dance that allowed people to let loose and have fun. Here, improvisation is key. If you're wondering where I'm going with this: yes, swing dancing was like breakdancing a century ago.

It's beautiful to know the history of swing music and then watch videos like this - because though updated and modern, the dance is still permeated with a 1920's vibe that can't be shaken. If for nothing else, that blend of modernity and antiquity is worth the watch. And because they're so hip. They're so damn hip.

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