This post is written in reference to a blog post written by Neil Figuracion [1] about Jonathan Stout’s recent DJ set at LindyGroove.

If you haven’t already checked it out (which I recommend you do) Neil writes how at Lindygroove, a venue normally associated with… well groovy music had Jonathan Stout (notorious for being a proponent for authentic swing music) DJ [2] this past April 1st and how it brought a level energy to the place that has been absent for awhile.

Neil’s writing reminded me of my own Penn State scene in several ways. That people are there to hear music that they like and are used to. But like him, I want to see people bringing amazing energy to their dancing and tearing up the the dance floor. I’m spoiled enough that when I am back home in southern California I get to dance to live music organized by Jonathan Stout every Wednesday at Southland Strutters Ball. Normally I have to go to a nationally recognized camp or competition weekend back east to feel the level of energy that is brought to Strutters on a weekly basis. I wake up days the PSU Swing Dance club has a dance, hoping for a glimpse of that energy. However I am often left unsatisfied.

However  here in State College, Pennsylvania the problem is that first off anything DJ’ed over 180 BPM starts to clear the dance floor, quickly. Even slamming songs like Artie Shaw’s ‘The Carioca’ or Chick Webbs ‘Lindy Hopper’s Delight’ will make it so I can count the number of couples dancing on my left hand. I attribute this fact due to first off the scene consists of mostly beginner to intermediate dancers, a lot of the people don’t dance to faster songs because they don’t have the technique for it, think its ‘balboa’ music[3] or plain aren’t used to dancing to faster stuff.  Second there is this unspoken expectation in Pennsylvania that for some reason the last portion of a dance “has” to be blues dancing. People start to grumble and even demand it from the DJ’s the thirty minutes before we have to close up shop if it hasn’t been played.

This puts me in a hard place. On one hand one of the things I believe as a DJ is paying attention to the floor and catering to the dancers. On the other hand I do help run this scene and I want to nurture and challenge my fellow dancers and not just maintain the status quo.

So this Tuesday, I have a DJ slot. Normally I dramatically alter my DJ set’s on the fly to stay within the safety 130-170 BPM range, and play slow tunes or hand it off to another DJ to deal with the Blues section. This time I am holding my ground and going to keep em’ flying. I’ll update you folks later this week to tell you how it goes.

[1] Neil runs a fun class called the Lindygroove Technique class, out in Pasadena. What I really like is his class focuses more on what makes the moves work compared to getting a move working.

[2] When I got the email newsletter about Jonathan Stout DJ’ing at Lindygroove, like many people I thought it was perhaps an attempt at humor by the Lindygroove staff because of the knowledge of how Jonathan’s views on swing dance music sharply contrasted the ones’ held by many Lindygroove dancers.

[3] One of my giant pet peeves is how some people believe that all fast music is “balboa music”. While I love Balboa as much as my other fellow Bal dancers, its not an excuse to ignore or neglect the idea of fast Lindy (which I enjoy as well).

Edit: Due to conflicts with my schedule, I was unable to DJ this set but I have it saved. There will be a post when I can finally get a chance to DJ it.

Neil Figuracion

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