Friday, August 2, 2019
Thursday, December 6, 2018
I am so ever grateful to Seth Harris for using me as one of the subjects of his latest art pieces. I was flattered when he asked me. In all sincerity I had never had anyone to say they wanted to paint me or photograph me personally. As a plus size woman it has not been my reality. I end up in lots of photos with other people, or by my own request but never been asked! So Seth if you read this I personally want to say thank you...it was an esteem builder! Seth was able to capture my true joy with this Harlem originated dance called the Lindy Hop. I partnered with an amazing dancer Lalaina Rkt (LaLa). And believe it or not we danced for only two hours downtown at Ripley Grier Studios while Seth went to work photographing us dancing to the grooves of Lavendar Coffin by Lionel Hampton, Flying Home by Count Basie, Shiny Stockings by Ella Fitzgerald and host more on LaLa's phone. All the while taking turns with LaLa's wife Mianja because she too would have their special painting done as well. We changed into different color outfits and I am ever so glad he chose red with my white highlights. I am a member of the best sorority in the world Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and wouldn't you know those are my sorority colors "Crimson and Creme." Seth got it all right! We all went for drinks, shared laughs and brewed with excitement about the paintings to come! And what an amazing job done. I personally have never had a painting or drawing of myself. Lindy Hop makes you happy and Seth has managed to express this in all of the paintings he has done of Lindy community members. I was able to purchase the print copy as well as this bag through Society 6. My bag has become a talking piece about Lindy Hop and me dancing. People have responded so well to it. I usually invite people that show interest in the bag out to dance and a few have started attending my events and other events in NYC.
Seth Harris is a Brooklyn based fellow lindy hopper that is also an oil painter. He is self taught learning the skill while serving as a sailor in the US Merchant Marine. According to his website www.BrooklynSeth his paintings often emphasize people and places that are important to his life. Particularly his dance paintings, as he has been active in the New York City Lindy Hop and Balboa dance scene for several years. If you would like more information about Seth Harris or his art, visit his website at www.brooklynseth.com
Swingin' @ the National Black Theatre with Ronald Jones and myself has been one of my dreams come true. With the gracious support of the National Black Theatre's General Manager Nabii Faison we are able to provide a safe, creative and inclusive space for our bi-monthly Lindy Hop Dance events.Wanting to bring our love and the historical legacy of the Lindy Hop back to Harlem what better place than here. The National Black Theatre is located on 5th Avenue between 125th & 126th street. It is with humility, respect of the past, admiration and historical responsiblity that we pay homage to the woman that had a dream for Harlem. Harlem to many was a place of depression, but for Dr. Teer it was place that she could see her dream of creating a theatre space that could and would enhance the African American cultural identity by telling authentic stories and of the Black experience. Founded by Dr. Teer in 1968. Dr. Teer was an actress, director, producer, and community galvanizer.
Friday, October 12, 2018
May 29, 2015 | 12:38am
At the stroke of midnight one recent Friday at Minton’s, Wayne Tucker’s quartet comes out swinging — literally — with Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll.”
For the next 20 minutes or so, the trumpeter and his band — David Linard on piano, Tamir Shmerling on bass, Charles Goold on drums — hold the stage, before yielding to a time-honored tradition: the Friday night jam session.
Saxophonists, a trombonist, singers and the occasional tap dancer come up to the bandstand, call out a song and show their best stuff. Their audience — a mix of students, couples out on a date and small groups of friends — sip cocktails or nibble on hot dogs from the cart near the bar.
Tucker’s jam sessions began in April, but historically date back to the ’40s, when the Harlem club was called Minton’s Playhouse. Henry Minton opened the club in 1938; a tenor saxophonist himself, he saw to it that his place put musicians first.
And so Minton’s became the spot where musicians would go after they played elsewhere — not only for a hot plate of soul food but for the chance to heat up that stage, including Thelonious Monk, Kenny Clarke and Charlie Parker.
Tucker, a 28-year-old who’s played with everyone from Delfeayo Marsalis to Elvis Costello, says he’s mindful of both Minton’s history and its current clientele — making sure the music is accessible even to novice jazz fans.
And while Minton’s can no longer afford to serve up heaping plates of soul food to everyone who plays, the Friday night jam sessions offer hot dogs — an innovation by co-owner Alexander Smalls and chef de cuisine Joseph “JJ” Johnson.
The club closed after a fire in 1974, and when Smalls reopened it in 2013, the mood at Minton’s was far more elegant. There was a tasting menu and white tablecloths, elements he says were “off-putting” to many.
“There’s no charge to enjoy the music at the jam sessions, but we needed to have some [food] for customers who don’t want to come here for dinner,” says Smalls, a former opera singer and part-owner of Minton’s sister restaurant, the Cecil, next door.
And so, though Minton’s serves an upscale menu earlier in the evening (items like smoked praline pork chops with bourbon yams and snap peas, $29) when there’s a cover charge — $10 for bar and lounge seating, $20 for dining room seating — Smalls aimed to make late Friday nights different.
“I mean, it’s jazz and hot dogs!” he says.
By 2 a.m., Tucker and the many musicians who’ve taken a turn in the spotlight are clearly feeling that spirit. Samuel Coleman, a dance instructor who specializes in jazz, is getting his groove on, swing-dancing with one of his students, Julia Loving, a 43-year-old librarian from The Bronx, between the rows of tables in the dining room. A group of musicians and guests are chatting at the bar, patting each other on the back if they happened to go up for a song.
One of them is Charles Turner, a 26-year-old jazz singer who held everyone rapt with his rendition of George Gershwin’s “But Not for Me.” When asked how Minton’s compares to other clubs he’s played in, Turner says this Harlem spot is doing exactly what Smalls, Tucker and Henry Minton himself set out to do when it first opened.
“They’re tweaking things here to embrace the artist and make it more accessible to the audience as well,” Turner says. “That spirit of music and community is still very much in the air here.”
Thursday, October 4, 2018
On Sunday, September 9, 2018, 25 resilient people despite the rain decided they would give up there warm comfortable homes to spend a Sunday with us at the Jazz Corner the final resting place of so many great musicians and dancers at The Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. At this time we celebrated the lives and legacies of Jazz/Latin Jazz/ and dance legends such as Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Illinois Jacquet, Max Roach, Jackie McClean, King Oliver, W.C. Handy, Ada “Bricktop” Smith, Cootie Williams, Coleman Hawkins, Milt Jackson, Jonah Jones, Ornette Coleman, Celia Cruz, Miles Davis, Harold Nicholas, our beloved Ambassador of Lindy Hop, Frankie Manning and others. We were accompanied by Mercedes Ellington grand-daughter of the late Duke Elington as well as Judy Prichett long time companion of the late Frankie Manning. We danced and shared personal narratives in a befitting tribute to them at their final resting place. #swingwithusproductionsnyc
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
With New York City as the back drop who could go wrong. The night was alive. My Harlem lindy hop family showed up. Many of whom I have taken classes with for the last four years. It was good to see them and dance with them. Some I lead and some I followed. Three bands playing and at least 1,000 people swinging to the beat. For a brief moment the historian in me thought about being on the flight deck of a World War II aircraft carrier and the brave men that once graced its landing. I even thought of Japanese Kamikaze fighter pilots landing on this very deck. Then I thought about the lindy hop and how its a happy dance that promotes good times and then I thought about my love for a dance and music of a time period not so long ago. I felt nostalgic. I remember thinking I am sure during off time these sailors used to dance and very possibly they may have even danced to some of the tunes I am hearing tonight. So as Gunhild raised her bag pipes and started singin' "When the Saints Go Marching in" it was perfectly appropriate for the nostalgic feelings I was having. In remembrance of those sailors during the Memorial Day Weekend I danced the happy dance on their flight deck.
Friday, January 13, 2017
I learned some amazing choreography both tap, soul and lindy while attending Paulette Brockington's American Lindyhop Championships in Detroit, Michigan back in October. This dance routine Samuel Coleman and I are doing together was one of the many choreographed pieces of the great Chester Whitemore. What an fun and educational experience. We also had the chance to learn from Norma Miller.
Friday, January 6, 2017
Thursday, December 22, 2016
I've battled with my weight for more years than I can count. I am still struggling to lose more. Even though I'm brilliant at most things lol being overweight has caused me a great deal of frustrations, angst, and insecurities. As a result it has caused me to lose a loving relationship not too long ago and most of all get some not so great marks on my yearly physical. I realize that as I get older my health is not as easily something I can place on a back burner, especially with regards to having a child. So the lifestyle change began 3 years ago even though it was gradual. Lindy Hopping became this lifestyle change. The most important impact of this change has been a total weight loss of 52 lbs. since I started. This has been an amazing journey for me because I've struggled with losing weight most of my life and I never truly found a diet or exercise that fit me or my personality. The only difference now is that I have a tool to help me lose it and that is Lindy Hop. If taken seriously a lot more of my weight will dissipate. I try not to throw pity parties for myself because I am well aware that have been blessed with so many great things, opportunities, financial security and most of all a wonderful family and supportive friends.
So looking back while moving forward I had a significant amount of weight loss to be proud of. I have 50 more lbs to go and I know I can do it. I can tell by my West African waist beads that I am losing inches. I have to weigh in every week with this new program I am on. So kudos to Lindy!
PS, did you know it can get quite expensive shopping at the plus size stores for pretty dresses? Vintage plus size is outrageously priced!
AND Yes that is me in the red dress dancing with Sydney at the 2016 Midsummer Night Swing Dance Competition at Lincoln Center.
AND Yes that is me in the red dress dancing with Sydney at the 2016 Midsummer Night Swing Dance Competition at Lincoln Center.
Keep Swingin’ Y’all!
Monday, December 19, 2016
Paying homage to the past is much more important to me than my plumpness. The picture above was taken back in August 2016 after a Jazz mobile block party down the street from the where the Savoy Ballroom once stood. The Savoy Ballroom remembrance plaque stands between 140th and 141st and Lenox Avenue in Harlem, NYC. After doing research and listening to Ms. Norma Miller, I discovered that the Savoy Ballroom extended for an entire block. The Savoy was owned by a Jewish man named Moe Gale, but managed by an African American man named Charles Buchanan.The Savoy Ballroom was on the second floor of a two-story building stretching the entire block. It easily could hold up to 5,000 patrons. It opened up in 1926 and was one of the first racially integrated public places or dance spaces in the country. If you were African American you could only work at places like the Cotton Club. Ms. Norma Miller said what she loved about the Savoy was that people of all races would come to dance. She loved watching the Italian guys from the Bronx dance. It is where lindy hopping legends came from all of the boroughs to showcase their abilities and have plenty of fun. They graced the dance floors with unique style and grace. According to Ms. Norma; Frankie Manning, Al Minns, Leon James, Shorty George Bearden, Leroy “Stretch”Jones, Twistmouth George, and Edith Matthews and so many others would assemble to listen and dance to Chick Webb Savoys greatest band leader and drummer. Competitions and social dancing came alive on any given night. Today sadly all that remains of this “Home of Happy Feet” is this stone plaque. But I will remember and help to share in its memory.
Friday, December 16, 2016
I saw this post on an internet site that read So....can actually fat people swing?
Reading this made me realize a great many things about perceptions. I now also understood why there are times other heavy set females and myself are often hugging the walls at swing events. There is an unstated realization that comes with that question. My reality is...of course I want to scream out
YEAH I CAN DANCE,
and aim it directly at those leads that walk right by me to the slender female next to me. I sometimes feel invisible. I'm not sure if it is my weight, my color, my hair style, but I am not and others are not unapproachable. So I believe some leads make mental assumptions, have preconceived notions derived from historical mistreatment of us that fit somehow in that "others" category. Then they see me dance and here they come over and over again party after party. I've been actually lindy hopping for a little over three years now and I must be honest at first it was quite a turn off. I almost gave up a few times to the utter dismay of my dance instructor Samuel Coleman because I am not the wallflower type. But one day that all changed for me. I decided to stick it out thanks to a few magical dances with one of my favorite lindy hoppers the premier choreographer, lindy hopper and tap dancer Mr. Ryan Francois. At various events during the Frankie 100 lindy event in NYC he encouraged me to dance. One night when he came to Harlem my Sammy Swings crew and I met him at Harlem Shake. We all danced outside on the pavement. He said we have to find more guys in Harlem to dance with you all. From that moment I was even more determined to prove that big girls can lindy too. Thanks Ryan!
A Parade for the Big Girl that Lindy Hops Too
Written By Julia
The cats’ meow in your dancing garb,
At the Renny; Savoy, and the segregated Cotton Club
All eyes on me front and center
I flipped him because I could
I was all woman, powerful and strong
In the imagery of how it used to be... Harlem was envogue
and so were you
Wishing I could be born again,
as dancers like you Miller, Washington, Gibson and Watson
and on an air step Saturday nights
Bringing back Calloway, Ellington, and Basie
While at the dance camp and I could see them too
The sight of you doing …
those jazzy African rhythms the cakewalk, blackbottom, boogie forwards, boogie backs or even the Big Apple would mesmerize any ballroom crowd
He was smiling and in my smile there was a joy
Something of an internal happiness drawing me to my own dance parade
Hughes said it simply
To fling my arms wide In the face of the sun, Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening... A tall, slim tree...
Night coming tenderly Black like me.
I am Dancing and Whirling and Dancing at the big girls parade.