At 3am Sunday night / Monday morning, the 2nd annual International Lindy Hop Championships came to a rousing close in Washington DC. It was an incredible weekend of lindy hop competition, social dancing, live music, workshops, and socializing with dancers from around the US and all over the world.
One of my fondest memories from ILHC09 is the California Rolls team performing a beautiful routine to the Nina Simone song "Love Me or Leave Me." Here's my video of it:
Even if you know nothing about the history of the song, it's an incredible performance that deserves at least the 3rd place prize it got in the team division.
But what makes it so poignant for me and many of the others who were there was how risky doing a routine to that song is. Because "Love Me or Leave Me" is not just another catchy, melodic jazz song. It's a part of lindy hop history, a song that is inextricably linked to a team routine that changed lindy hop forever.
Let's go back ten years, during the height of the swing revival.
In 1999, a team of eight gangly teenagers from — of all places — Ithaca, New York, came to the American Lindy Hop Championships in Stamford, Connecticut. Most of us had no idea who these kids were or what business they had in this national dance competition.
These eight high schoolers proceeded to blow all of our minds.
Under the guidance of their teacher Bill Borgida, these teens added a new quality of movement, flow and grace to lindy hop that in my opinion changed the dance forever. For many of us who were there at ALHC, or watched the tapes later, this routine and these dancers gave us new heights to try and aspire to. Many of those teens have gone on to become world famous performers and teachers in the swing community. For this reason, the "Love Me or Leave Me" routine by Minnie's Moochers remains one of the most influential pieces of choreography in the modern lindy hop movement.
So for the California Rolls to pick that song for their routine took some guts. Those of us from the era have strong feelings and connections to the Moocher's routine, and can't hear that song without thinking of it.
That said, by the time we got to the final bars of the California Rolls routine, I had a hard time remembering the Moocher's routine at all. The California team's choreography encapsulated the musical phrasing, tone, structure, and energy beautifully. And they injected humor and lightness into the routine, while the Moocher's routine is more serious in tone. Plus there's just so many of them doing this intricate choreography during a very long and difficult song to dance to.
I still get chills watching this routine every time. Congrats to the California Rolls and their leads Ben and Sheri! I have even more respect for you.