Board Games Swing Dance

What would a Solo Jazz card game look like?

I’ve recently started getting into board games and I’ve become obsessed with the excellent review site Shut Up & Sit Down. In one of their podcasts (I can’t remember which one) they talked about an interview with video game designer Sid Meier. He was asked “which comes first: the theme or the mechanics?”

It’s a good question. Games seem to work well when the theme and mechanics complement and reinforce each other, but this must be a hard balance to strike.

His answer was something along the lines of this: first you pick a topic that you enjoy (mediaeval sieges, competitive winemaking, beehive management), then you identify what’s fun about it, and base your mechanics on that.

So what’s a topic I enjoy?

I spend quite a lot of time dancing to Swing and Hot Jazz from the 20’s and 30s. The solo dance form to that music is variously referred to as Solo Jazz, Jazz Roots, Solo Charleston or Authentic jazz.

Sometimes it’s just social, sometimes it’s for formal or informal competition. You can dance it on your own, simultaneously with other people, or one at a time showing off in a jam.

But my favourite form is one-on-one, face-to face: trading one phrase at a time – showing your own ideas about the music but also taking what the other guy did and improving on it: duplicate and elaborate.

…which I realised a few days ago sounds like a pretty interesting concept for a game.

If I took what is fun about solo jazz dancing, and expressed that in terms of game mechanics: what would that look like?

Swing Dance

Analysis of Spotlight entrances – ILHC Champions Strictly Final 2010

I’m entering a few divisions at the London Jitterbug Championships in May, and one of the things I really need to work on is getting on and getting off in a Ninja fashion.

To that end I’ve been watching some big international competition clips trying to work out what’s what. In this post, I analyse the spotlight entrances of the Champions Strictly Final at ILHC in 2010:

Swing Dance

Lessons learned from Lindy Shock

I’ve got back from the excellent Lindy Shock swing dance camp in Budapest on Wednesday, feeling exhausted but with some serious new dance technology under my belt.

Ali and Katja at Lindy Shock 2011 by Eric Esquivel
Ali and Katja at Lindy Shock 2011 by Eric Esquivel on Flickr

On the flight back I reflected on how my experience was affected both by how I prepared and how I approached things while I was there. I’ve learned a lot from previous camps – primarily that sleeping and eating are purely functional activities designed to maximise dancing fun – but still made some basic errors.

Here’s what I learned:

Swing Dance

4 reasons why Imperial College Swing Dance will be good for London

Something exciting happened today: Imperial College Swing Dance was announced, bringing the grand total of student swing dance societies to two (alongside the LSE Swing Dance Society).

Classes start on the 14th of October, and there’s a free gig with the Imperial College Swing Band on the 6th to kick everything off. Both are open to students and non-students alike.

Why am I excited? I think this will be great for London for a number of reasons:

Swing Dance

Vintage at the South Bank – a guide for Lindyhoppers

This weekend Wayne Hemmingway’s Vintage festival comes to the South Bank Centre as part of the 60 year anniversary celebrations for the Festival of Britain. It’s a celebration of all things vintage from the 1940’s through to the 1980s and although it had its teething troubles, it did get some positive feedback from vintage lovers (a good roundup of reviews can be found on the Tissue Clouds blog).

My assessment is that there are potential good times to be had here for Vintage-loving dancers as long as you set your expectations correctly: as with any vintage event there will be a mixture of hardcore Vintage lifestylers and vintage tourists, for whom the mere sight of a cravat is an exciting novelty. There will be dancers there, but don’t expect to be able to dominate the dancefloor.

Tickets are £60 , but Time Out are selling tickets at £19 – not sure exactly for which days…

So what does it hold in store for Lindyhoppers and which day should you go on?

Swing Dance

ESDC ‘Blues’ Comp

I’m nearly a month late on this, but I wanted to share my thoughts on this clip from the first European Swing Dance Championships:

This was advertised on the ESDC website as a “Strictly Blues” comp and the compere introduces it as a “Strictly Blues Final”, but there’s something not quite right: to my semi-educated eyes, there are 3 couples on that floor dancing Blues and 3 couples dancing ‘slow swing’.

Go to 1:15 and look at who pays attention to that second big beautiful brass gliss. Look who’s listening to that big fat blues pulse in both of the songs. Now look at who came last (Fabien & Lisa and Chris & Annette). Did they give the best performance on the floor? Probably not, but they arguably exhibit far more of the elusive ‘Blues Aesthetic’ than some of the couples who placed higher.

So what’s going on?

Basically it sounds like the competition was advertised to some of the dancers and perhaps some of the judges as a “Slow Strictly” – certainly Jo Hoffberg’s blog post refers to it as such.

What does it matter what a competition is called? It’s important because the result of a high-profile competition says something about a dance. This result doesn’t quite say is “Blues is just slow Lindy and West Coast Swing”, but it doesn’t help the cause of a dance which needs to project a clear unique identity if it is going to continue to grow.