Power to the People
by Leslie Vreeland
Sep 27, 2012 | 531 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Montrose Community Band Concert, Grand Junction Poetry in the Streets, and Learning to Swing

“Lindy” Hop sounds like it may have something to do with New York’s famous cheesecake. In fact, it does have something to do with New York: it’s the oldest form of swing dance, and it started in Harlem. The Lindy’s roots were in the Charleston. In the 1930s, it was danced to the music of Benny Goodman, Count Basie and orchestra leader Chick Webb, who would soon introduce a teenage singer named Ella Fitzgerald to the world. The dance fell out of favor after World War II as jazz styles changed (bebop and cool jazz, two new forms, were for listening to, not dancing). Then rock and roll arrived, which pretty much polished the Lindy off for good, at least, that is, until the 1990s, when neo-swing bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, movies like Swingers and a Gap jeans commercial dubbed “Khaki Swing” revived it. That’s when Chris Shima started dancing it. Shima, who has appeared in TV commercials and videos and been a judge for swing-dance contests, has been doing the Lindy for years; beginning in October, he’ll teach a weekly class on how to dance the Lindy for Weehawken.

The Lindy has given Shima a lot. He met his wife, Wendy, through the dance, when she came to him for lessons in Orange County, Calif., a dozen years ago. The couple became dance partners, demonstrating and instructing the Lindy Hop for others (naturally, they did the Lindy at their wedding). Swing dance teaching inspired Shima to become a teacher. Today, he instructs second-graders in Montrose, and Wendy Shima is the founder of the new Montessori school in Ridgway. From partners in dance to partners in life, and now partners in dance again: she will help instruct the Lindy for the course he will teach through Weehawken Arts. Great fun, good exercise before the snow flies, and “no two left feet,” he promises. “I know how to break the dance down into simple steps, the same way I do for my kids.” If there’s enough interest, Shima, and Weehawken, hope to grow the Lindy Hop into a robust swing dance program for adults, to rival Weehawken’s already-popular dance classes for children. For more information or to enroll, visit weehawkenarts.org

In Telluride this weekend, there is also dance with roots in New York: Paul Taylor 2 appears Friday at the Palm. It’s the first in the Palm’s Live at the Palm entertainment series. Now in its sixth year, the series runs through February, and features programming for the whole family. Taylor 2 is a touring offshoot of the Paul Taylor contemporary dance company in New York. Taylor tutored Twyla Tharp, among other prominent choreographers. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has deemed Taylor’s performers “one of the world’s most exquisite ensembles.” For more information and to purchase tickets, visit telluridepalm.com.  


This Sunday, Sept. 30, the Montrose Community Band takes the stage for its annual fall concert. The theme is “A Return to the Classics,” and will include a march (“The Fairest of the Fair”) from classic band composer John Phillip Sousa; “The Blue Danube Waltz” by classical composer Johann Strauss II; and a folk trio by 20th century composer Clare Grundman, “Kentucky 1800,” which includes a classic set of tear-jerking lyrics (Hear that lonesome whippoorwill? He sounds too blue to fly. The midnight train is whining low: I’m so lonesome I could cry).

Clearly, “classic” doesn’t mean “standard” to this band. For that matter, many of the other songs on its repertoire aren’t classics at all. “They are exciting, and most people haven’t heard them before,” says Band President Jim Gibson, who plays baritone sax. “When you go to the symphony, you hear a lot of Brahms and Mozart, and not a lot of John Cage and Phillip Glass. But they’re different, and they’re who I like,” Gibson adds. In the “different” category, listen for “The Immovable Do” by Percy Grainger, in which there’s “a drone of High C” throughout the piece, and “Canzona” by Peter Mennin. Mennin’s composition was originally a 14th century Italian poetic form; the form was set to music in the Renaissance. “Mennin brought the Renaissance form to our modern era,” Gibson says. He describes “Canzona” as “light, and with a little bite to it.” The same might be said of the mix on Sunday’s program. The concert is at 3 p.m. at the Pavilion; tickets are available at the box office.


If you’re in Grand Junction this Friday, swing by 4th and Main around 6:30 p.m. It’s the third annual “Poetry in the Streets,” a poetry-and-prose recitation sponsored by the Western Colorado Writers’ Forum. At the mike will be war veterans, teens from the Dept. of Youth Corrections, children from Riverside Education Center and patrons of a local soup kitchen, along with the writers and poets who’ve worked with them in the WCWF’s “Voices of the Grand Valley” program. The program aims to help give citizens – particularly youth and the disadvantaged – a voice through their prose and poetry. As the WCWF’s founder Sandra Dorr explains it, “There’s a long American artistic tradition, particularly in hard times, for writers to seek out stories of people who are the most voiceless.” What emerges is strong stuff: “lyrical, wild, beautiful life stories and poems, in the voices of the people themselves.”

Writer Rebecca Mullen taught teens at the Correctional Institute this spring, and knows about strong stuff. She had imagined the teens were incarcerated “for petty theft,” she says. Instead, “These were hardened criminals.” They were also children, of the same age as her own. To break the ice on the first day of class, Mullen told a story about her dog. Soon, the class was chiming in with its own stories. Mullen was struck by the kids’ sense of wonder: she passed out a fistful of pencils at the beginning of the hour, explaining that each student should choose one. “It took 20 minutes for all the pencils to get handed out,” she said. Everyone wanted to take their time picking a writing instrument – “I got the feeling they rarely got a choice about anything.” At the end of class, a student approached her as he was heading out the door. “Thank you so much for teaching this class. You’ve changed my life.” “I said something like ‘Oh, thanks.’ I didn’t want to appear too moved, so I kind of blew it off,” she recalls. The student turned around. “No, listen to me. You changed my life.” “These are the kinds of things you don’t anticipate,” she said. “It had been such a simple thing for me. All I had done was shown up.” Mullen will read from one of her works about teaching the class at this week’s event. Coincidentally, one of her students was due to be released from incarceration a day after class ended last Spring. She hopes she’ll see him, and he’ll read from his own work, this Friday. To learn more about the Western Colorado Writer’s Forum and its programs, go to westerncoloradowriters.org.
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