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A Lindy Hop Pentathlon

So it seems my last post got quite the audience in Finland of all places so Tervetuloa!

I spent this weekend watching the ESDC live feed (and getting drunk on Twitter) and it got me thinking about competitions. Specifically some sort of multi-division contest designed to really pick out the best of the best.

What better model than the Modern Pentathlon – with it’s mix of running, swimming, shooting, fencing and show jumping. (well okay, perhaps not such a good model – but whatever I like the number 5)

So what should this Lindy Hop Pentathlon contain. Here’s my ideas:

  • Social dance/improvisation – Lindy Hop is a street dance and the social dancing is a huge part of the scene and what many competition divisions attempt to replicate. Improvisation (it’s a jazz dance) is critical in this.
  • Choreography – Though it is a street dance Lindy Hop achieved fame through iconic choreography like the Hellzapoppin’ routine. The ability to choreograph routines is part of what makes someone a great Lindy hopper. 
  • Solo dance – Dogpossum has convinced me that solo dancing is really important if you really want mad skillz. It’s also a big part of our current scene and historically important too.
  • Role switching – If you can’t do both roles I don’t think you can call yourself an advanced dancer. 
  • Icons of Lindy Hop – I also reckon that a Lindy Pentathlon needs some spice, something added to the usual comp divisions, something that represents the Lindy Hop and something that really gets the crowd fired up.
  • A Team Event – though it does have it’s individual elements, at the end of the day Lindy Hop needs a team of two people to work. The pentathlon should be entered by a couple.

And what should be out:

  • Other dance styles – No Balboa, No Blues, No Shag. This is about being the greatest Lindy Hop couple, not the greatest vernacular jazz dance couple. So these other styles are out.
  • A separate event – this should be taking place at an existing competition
  • Gimmicks – dance marathons, jazz alphabets, memorisation of routines etc. Yeah I know it’s a fine line between gimmicks and icons, but this shouldn’t be too silly.

So with all that in mind here’s my list of events for a Lindy Hop Pentathlon:

The Partnered Contests (in at least one of these events the couple should switch roles for the entirety of the event):

  • Strictly Lindy – improvised with partner, to unknown music
  • Jack and Jill – improvised with random partner, to unknown music
  • Showcase/Classic – choreographed routine to music selected by couple

 The Mad Skillz Contests:

  • Solo dance – charleston, authentic jazz it’s all good
  • Huge Air – this is the addition, something to up the stakes and get the crowd pumping. Here’s how it goes down. Four eights, thirty two bars, one chorus to pull the craziest most-crowd-pleasing air step(s) possible. To be judged by audience acclamation. For fairness the same chorus could be used for everyone.

Competitors would be judged as a couple with their individual scores in the solo dance and J&J contests would be added to their score as a team. Each event would be equally weighted. To raise the stakes the scores could be tallied and tabled before the Huge Air contest – so the audience knows where everyone is placed going into the last round. This could also be held in conjunction with other events – only those entering all 5 would go into the pentathlon.

So there’s my idea. Would it ever make it into an event? Probably not and I’m not really advocating that it should – this is more of a thought experiment than anything else.

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