Stompology is one event that I’ve mentioned time and again as a great workshop. Put on by Groove Juice Swing in Rochester, NY, it is in it’s third year. Unlike many events focusing on the partnered aspect of jazz dance, whether that is Balboa, Lindy Hop, Charleston or so on, Stompology focuses exclusively on the solo dances of the jazz family. Tap and soft shoe, charleston, black bottom and much more.
The line up this year included Andy Reid, Naomi Uyama, Jojo Jackson and Mike Faltesek with each of the teachers brings a unique array of style, skills and knowledge.
Friday I arrived off of the train in time for the late night. Held at The Keg, a sports bar, it was a relatively nice change of pace for a late night. There was a front room with the bar area and a second room which held the dance floor and impromptu stage for the musicians. The floor was a faux wood with decent give and slip. The feel of the venue was cozy yet not cramped.
Gordon Websters band started off with some easy swinging tunes until the “secret special guest” arrived, Wycliffe Gordon. I have heard many exceptional musicians and bands but when Wycliffe started to blow on his trombone the energy in the room vaulted. He laid out licks that made the hair on my neck stand up and gave me goose bumps. It was truly a great start to the weekend.
Saturday morning we kicked off with Andy’s class entitled Looking Good & Feeling Good where had us learn on a routine with the intention of working through the movement and giving it some quality, even at one point having us dance the routine with almost no movement except for our core. The second class was Mike & Jojo’s Washington (the state) Style class which was a fast routine with tight footwork and nice break steps.
With a nice break for lunch, we returned to do Naomi’s Arms are the New Legs class outdoors. It was sunny and being that we were using our arms more than anything else, it wasn’t going to tear up the grass. Unfortunately about half way through our fun was spoiled by a bit of rain and we had to get back inside. It was a challenging class and played up on the exceptional clarity Naomi has in her movement.
The last class of the day was actually two classes that you had to choose between. I attended Mike and Andy’s A Mellow Dichty class, which I had missed at Camp Jitterbug, which was a slow jazz routine done to Sunnyside of the Street in the vein of Coles and Atkin‘s soft shoe routines. One of my favorite classes for the weekend. Unlike faster routines where you might be able to jumble through a section, their slow jazz routine required more control and emphasized quality of movement.
The other class taught by Naomi and Jojo was a solo technique class where they had each person dance individually in a circle within a provided framework and provided constructive feedback on what they could work on. The most common feedback: look up. I heard quite good things about the feedback itself, the only complaint I heard was that it would have been nice to have a change of song throughout the session. Flat Foot Floogie is perhaps only good for the first half an hour.
Saturday evening the Cangelosi Cards played with Gordon Webster at the Tango Cafe. These musicians have an excellent relationship with dancers, providing a wonderful atmosphere and range of tempos to dance to. It may help that they play almost every week with dancers present in New York. Sadly, I was exhausted and didn’t dance a great deal during the band. During their last song, a jam circle broke out which was great to see. As the energy of the jam died off however, we pulled it in to the band to give them the rest of our energy as well as thanks for playing.
The late night returned to the Lindy Compound where Ryan Swift DJed. The compound, as always, is a great place for a late night. The energy of a house party is much more receptive to a variety of interests than a dance only venue. This time it turned out particularly nice with an impromptu musician jam out on the back porch with folks playing guitar, a wire table top like a washboard, glasses and even drumming on a plastic cooler. Everyones participation, whether they were just standing and listening, tapping out a beat with their feet, or playing an instrument, created a communal vibe that really stands out in my mind.
Sunday morning Mike taught a tap for lindy hoppers class starting with a warmup that the Condos Brothers used and followed it up with a short routine. The second class of sunday was the Washington (the district) Style class with Andy and Naomi. A really creative routine put together to one of the catchiest tunes of the weekend whose name I can’t remember. The playfulness of the routine fit the music incredibly well.
After lunch, Jazzin’ with Jojo was a jazz routine similar to a big apple in that it was performed in a circle with various changes of location as well as a series of spotlights in the center of the circle. Each time they ran the routine they chose different people to spotlight in the center which created a really good vibe for the dancers.
The last class of the weekend, as every year, is a jam class featuring all four of the instructors where they break the room into smaller groups to work on jamming solo movement. They provide various rules or guidelines for each exercise and it was really fascinating to watch the interpretations of it all. Probably one of the most interesting suggestions that the instructors put forth was taking a jazz step and perform it in reverse. This created some really interesting variations on steps we would already know and took creativity to alter them so they would work. Try to do an eagle slide in reverse.
Overall, Stompology is one of my favorite dance weekends to attend since it focuses exclusively on solo dance and allows each individual to push themselves to whatever level they are comfortable with. There should be more weekends that focus on the quality of an individuals movement and their ability to dance independently of a partner. Many lindy hoppers come to the dance from the reverse direction, learning to dance with a partner before they learn to dance by themselves. If one doesn’t understand how one can move their own body, being able to guide anothers movement at the same time becomes all that more difficult.
Did you go to Stompology this year or in prior years? What are your thoughts on dancing solo? Let me know. Comment.
Pictures are courtesy of Ryan Swift.