My partner, Sarah Eberspacher, and I have finalized our documentary plans for the next 10 weeks. Our lead is Jenna Stworzyjanek, who runs Big City Swing in Chicago. She and her partner James Pustejovsky will be competing in the American Lindy Hop Championships in May right here in the Windy City.
I have always considered my involvement with the lindy hop scene to be part of my work in cultural conservation, so I am thrilled about this documentary opportunity. Lindy hop brings the most joy to my life of any activity.
I applied for a grant earlier this year to write about the spread of lindy hop around the world. Here is how I described the dance:
“In Lindy Hop, a partner dance with grounded posture and fast footwork, couples bounce, jump and throw each other in aerial displays of athleticism. The social dance is normally done to the music of artists such as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Count Basie and was named after Charles Lindbergh, the wildly popular early American aviator.”
If you would like to see an example of excellent lindy hop, check out the competitors in the pro strictly competitions at the International Lindy Hop Championships here.
Our goals now will be to film Jenna and James as they prepare for the competition, as well as to follow them around at ALHC to capture the emotion of pre- and post-performance. We will also be interviewing other dancers around Chicago, as well as setting up interviews with the ALHC judges and organizers. On Sunday, Sarah and I will be hosting a small gathering of dancers in my home to nail down some solid interviews. The inspiration for the set up was taken from the Jonestown documentary. At the end of the movie, it’s clear that the documentarians gathered many of the Jonestown participants in the same house, but varied the location of each interview and the lighting for diversity.
Some archival research is also in order to get a few solid clips of early lindy hoppers. I have a few favorites, but we need to narrow it down and maybe find some fresh material. The same goes with songs. Some potentials are Alligator Meat by Johnny Otis, Solid as a Rock by Ella Fitzgerald, or Flying Home by Lionel Hampton. I also love music by Fats Waller and Cab Calloway. These musicians are easy for a non-swing audience to connect with because their music is so much fun. We could also feature more contemporary jazz bands, such as the Careless Lovers (I played their song “Black Coffee” for my non-dancing roommates and they went around singing it for several days after) or The Solomon Douglas Swingtet. After all, this is a documentary about lindy hop in 2012.
If you would like to get a feel for our main character, you can check out this brief segment we did at the end of March. Check it out on my Vimeo here. Most of this footage will not be used in our documentary, but is interesting background.