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Midsummer Night Swing - Smooth Moves Dance Contest

by Robert Abrams, Lisa Allen
July 9, 2003
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023

Midsummer Night Swing - Smooth Moves Dance Contest

Lincoln Center

Article by Robert Abrams and Photos by Lisa Allen
July 9, 2003

The Smooth Moves dance contest, sponsored by Vaseline Intensive Care, was held this evening at Midsummer Night Swing. This was an open Swing contest. The contestants included everyone from professionals who, in the past, have placed at Blackpool, to regular social dancers. It was also open in that any style of Swing was acceptable. The contest got warmed up with a slow all-skate. This first dance gave the audience a glimpse of the radically different styles the dancers were to showcase. Next, each couple danced a solo to recorded music of their choice. At the end, there was another all-skate to faster music. The contestants were judged on dance technique, skill and energy. And, because of Vaseline's sponsorship, the healthiness of the dancers' skin was also judged by a dermatologist. The contest was judged by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin, the ever charming owners of Dance Times Square and superb dancers and teachers in their own right, Rudy Mangual, editor of Latin Beat Magazine, and a licensed dermatologist.

One could easily raise an eyebrow at the idea of judging skin quality as part of a dance contest. It should not matter to how well people dance, and just feeds into our culture's oftentimes emphasis on the superficialities of appearance. Yet, if you have been around dance competitions long enough, you know that something like this goes on all the time, except that people don't acknowledge it explicitly. It shouldn't matter whether one person is wearing a normal dress and the other is wearing a $1000 plus dress studded with rhinestones and specially made for dance competitions (which, according to common dance competition scuttlebutt, you had better not wear more than a few times, or the judges will stop noticing you). If the goal is truly to judge dance on the dance alone, explicitly accounting for the influence of other factors will, in all likelyhood, help make the judging more accurate. If we are to judge dance at all, a highly subjective art form to say the least, then we might as well make all of the factors that go into that judging explicit. If judging skin quality once in a while keeps people talking to each other about what ought or ought not to be a part of the judging system, then that is a good thing.

The issue of judging skin quality is a minor assessment issue compared to the difficulty of trying to score lindy hop, west coast swing and east coast swing using a single scoring system. I believe this is a worthy challenge and applaud the organizers for trying. After all, lindy hop tends to be flamboyant where west coast swing tends to be understated. It is the equivalent of one person wearing a sparkling ball gown and the other wearing a nice pair of jeans.

The bottom line was that the audience was treated to some very fine dancing in all styles by both professionals and amateurs. #101 (Mickey Fortanasce and Megan Smith from NYC) danced lindy hop with some sweet aerials where he swung the woman over his shoulder. #102 (Mark Eckstein and Nicole Frydman from NYC) danced west coast swing with well connected partnership. #103 (Etta Dixom from Brooklyn, and Clement E. Poussaint from Manhattan) got down with a soulful lindy hop. #104 (Christian Perry and Annette Nicole from Greenwich, CT) put out a very extended aerial combination. They were very limber and used the whole space of the dance floor. #105 (Chell Downey and Bobbie Cherry from Bradenton, FL) danced east coast swing elegantly in a yellow dress reminiscent of Contact. #106 (Daniel Ponickly and Nell Mooney from NYC) danced lindy hop with sure-footed command of the floor. Their moves were well shaped even in mid-air. #107 (Pete and Aida Guzman from Queens) was an amateur couple who danced east coast swing with a nice partnership. Their ease and confidence built the more they danced. #108 (Ligaya Fish from Hartford, CT; and Steve Neeren from NYC) danced west coast swing with sharply defined movements. They did a good job of translating west coast swing's understated style to a large stage. #109 (Greg Mullins from Chicago, and Esther Wohl from NYC) was a jack and jill couple who had just met at Midsummer Night Swing and decided to enter the contest on the spot. Their dancing showed off a nice lead and that they were having fun. #110 (Aaron Goldberg and Kristina Hoke from NYC) danced east coast swing with lots of energy. #111 (Way Gee Ho from North Bergen, NJ; and Celeste D. Lee from Queens, NY) danced east coast swing with sensual style. They were fun to watch.

#108 (Ligaya and Steve) came in third place. #106 (Danny and Nell) came in second place. #104 (Christian and Annette) came in first place. Christian and Annette will dance against the West Coast winner on July 23 in the finals at Midsummer Night Swing. The West Coast winner was picked in a Salsa contest, so the finals should be another hybrid dance challenge. I know I am looking forward to it.

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