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My Mistake Where Someone Else Suffers


April 13

I spent most the morning at Starbucks writing up the report for April 12. Back at the house John left around two in a taxi taking the projector to the Green Room. In the evening it would be my Lindy Hop show at 6:30 followed by Kino Shorts at 8:30. After John left I stayed and wrote some more until I left at 5:00.


I found John at the Green Room still working on the set up. I talked to the guy setting up chairs in the auditorium about dancing. He was a guy I knew from my shows at the Green Room in the 90’s. He had traveled with dance groups before that, including a group that did an act based on the Nicholas Brothers jaw dropping staircase splits performance from the movie Stormy Weather which would end my show. I told him about my luck in taking classes both from Ruthanna Boris in ballet and Tommy Rall in tap dancing and men’s ballet techniques. I didn’t start dancing until I was in college but any male lug could get into the ballet classes. The woman all had to audition. Even so, all my classes with Ruthana had roughly ten women for every man. It got me into better shape than when I was a wrestler in high school. My favorite class from Tommy Rall was ballet partnering. There were only ten in that class. The best women dancers were in it, and since partnering had to be one to one with men, I was in it too. Most of the dancing was done by the women and all of the lifting was done by the men. It was fun and I was good at it. At the same time I was learning to Lindy Hop.

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A nice crowd came to the show. I was to be introduced by Fiona Ledgard. She was a member of Kino who had a radio show. She was a young woman of slender build and a pleasing appearance. She had promoted the Lindy Hop program on her show. We were on a limited time schedule. John had asked me to shorten the program but I told him if we ran a tight ship we could fit in my short intro, the whole set of films, and a short Q and A afterwards. Everything ran fine and on schedule up to the Q and A. That would be Fiona asking me questions followed by questions from the audience. There was a request I do a, demonstration. I did that by myself, showing the basic six beat step of the Lindy that is counted: one two three four rock step. The one and two are taps with the left foot. The three and four are taps with the right foot. The rock step is a step back with the left leg and when it comes down it is back on count one. It does take a little getting used to, doing a six beat dance to four four music. In the Disco era the Hustle made it easier, but by doing so took out the ability to improvise, by making it one two rock step. The Hustle was a boring dance  and easy to do.

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Then there was a question about doing aerials which in the thirties were called air steps. In my film show many different aerials were done. Those are the flashy steps where the women are lifted and thrown around. To be an aerial someone’s feet have to leave the floor. The clip I showed them from the movie Hellzapoppin had the most of them.

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I told the audience that most aerials were not hard to learn per se but that only very good dancers could do them and keep time with the music and not interrupt the dancing. Lesser dancers would come to stop, do the aerial, and start dancing again, when it was over. Lindy dancing is fun just staying on the ground. Aerials are what people remember from watching it. Someone asked if I could show or teach a simple aerial. That is when I should have said, Gee, I think our time is up here. Instead I offered to teach the first aerial done, which is called an over the back. It was done by Frankie Manning in the Hellzapoppin clip.

The floor was good  for dancing. It had a sort of rubber surface with give in it. Fiona would be the person I would teach. I guess that was because she was handy and no one from the audience stepped forward to volunteer. She was wearing sturdy looking shoes.  I should have known better.

The over the back looks flashy but isn’t complicated. It also uses interlocked elbows instead of hands which makes it safer.  There is no twisting or other mis-direction stuff to complicate it. The way it works is the dancers stand back to back and link arms. The man then bends over which lifts the woman as she kicks up. Her momentum than carries her over the mans back, doing a sort of assisted back flip, and she lands on her feet facing him.

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I linked arms with Fiona. I then bent as she kicked. Since my head was down I couldn’t see what went wrong. She didn’t land square on her feet and eventually landed on her shoulder. I helped her get up and asked if she was all right. I was worried that she’d hit her head. She said she thought she was all right. I told her I was sorry. Since I was the dancer and she wasn’t I I felt both bad and responsible that she’d hit the floor. That was the end of the Q and A.

Then things were changed over for the Kino Shorts show. A full house showed up for that. I took the opportunity to go get dinner. I saw the last short, about a legendary Manchester punk bank the Dust Junkys and their lead singer Nicky. There was a Q and A after with Nicky, the film’s director, and an guy interviewing them. There were a lot of questions.

When that was over a guy came over to me who was very mad. He was Fiona’s boyfriend. He said her chest hurt and they were going to take her to the hospital for an xray. He told me I was to blame.  I told him the I knew that, and  I hoped she was OK and that I was sorry. If he would have decked me I would have  figured I had it coming. I really felt awful. I just hadn’t thought there could be any downside in an aerial like that. It was something I had done many times before without a problem. I guess all those times were with experienced dancers and also when I was younger. I really should have known better. The Green Room got Fiona a cab and off they went.

The next day I found out she had a fractured breast plate. It is now healing. I hope it heals completely and there are no lasting effects. I know that I will never do another aerial with any dancer ever again.



Everybody Dance!


April 2 Duselldorf, Germany

I was awakend by a bird that sounded more like an electronic alarm clock than a living thing.  It would go peep peep peep peep peep  peep – pause – peep peep.  It then would repeat it in a very regimented way.  Each peep itself was sharp and almost metalic sounding.  Last fall I read The Wind Up Bird Chronicle while I was in Europe.  Maybe what I was hearing was a wind up bird.  Bright sunlight had filled the room by the time I got up at 8:00.

The free breakfast  wasn’t bad at all, but all I had with the not very good, and not enough of it, coffee,  toast and a couple of croissants. I grabbed a banana to eat later on my way out.  Back in my room I turned on CNN and actually got some baseball news.  I left the hotel at 9:30. My intention was to walk to the train station  but was talked out of that idea by the desk clerk.  She told me it would be over a half hour walk but only three stops on the Metro.  It was already warm and it looked like it would be a hot day. At the Metro I found didn’t have the coins to buy a ticket and the machine didn’t take cash.  There are no attendants at Metro stops like in the subway in New York.  There are also no turnstyles.  You can ride a train without a ticket and the chance of getting caught is slim.  I took my chances.

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I got to the station an hour and half  before train time.  I walked out of the station looking for a Starbucks.  I gave up and went back inside and bought a Trib and asked the clerk if there was a Starbucks nearby.  She said in the station at the opposite end.  Sure enough, a real Starbucks with plenty of seating and free wifi.  I posted a report on my blog and announced it on facebook.  I walked to the platform five minutes before scheduled time and found a cryptic note on the board.  It was cryptic  only  because I don’t read German.  I was able to decipher, which was proved by an announcement, that the train was delayed 25 minutes.  I went back to the Starbucks and sent Volker in Hamburg  a message to adapt accordingly.   Back at the platform I found a place to sit.  There was an air of stoic resignation among the people waiting. It was present in their postures and in the tones of their voices.   Many lit up cigarettes.  The sunshine and warmth made it less bad.  A train arrived but it was the one scheduled and not the tardy one.  When the late train did arrive it had no signage saying it was the right one.  All of the long time loiterers got on and so did I.  The cars were of an old design with all chairs and no compartments.  An announcement said it was a replacement train.  I was amazed they could rustle one up in such short order.  It even had a bistro car.


At Dortmund that train terminated and we all got off and boarded a more modern replacement train across the platform.  I went into an empty compartment but was soon joined by an older couple who were speaking a language I didn’t recognize.  I would guess it was a Slavic language.  They kept up a lively conversation for most of the trip. No conductothe old curiosity shopr arrived to check tickets or give out free beer vouchers.  I got deeper into The Old Curiosity Shop.


Hamburg is one of my favorite train stations.  It is laid out sort of like a football stadium.  The tracks are on the playing field and the concourses are accessable by  stairs and  escalators at each end.  I got off the train and walked toward the South escalator.  Looking up I saw Volker and Esther waving at me from the top.  The train was almost and hour late.  That didn’t leave time to go to their  flat and then to the theater.   The event would be the film Hellzapoppin at 6:00 and my Lindy Hop and Jitterbug show at 8:00.  Dancing was to follow.  Volker suggested we get coffee.  I suggested we drop all my appurtenances at the theater first.  It was a warm day.  The Metropolis Kino was built in 1957 and at the time was the largest theater in Hamburg.  It had 70mm and Todd A-O.  It is now on the wrong side of the tracks from the train station. The other side is all upscale shopping.  The Metroplis side has bars and sex shops and even small grocery stores.  Past the Metorpolis in a nicer area we found a cafe with sidewalk seating. The sign in the window said it was a Bistrotecque.   I ordered a chef’s salad.  Since I didn’t understand their order I was surprised that it was pie.  I was pretty sure there would no time for dinner later.


A crowd of fifty or so came to see Hellzapoppin.  The program had been written about in a feature article in the newspaper.  There might have been more people but it was possibly the first really nice Saturday of the the year.   I should not have been surprised when it hit the screen and was dubbed into German.  That compromised most of the repartee between Olsen and Johnson but since that’s  not  exactly Shakespeare, and not much of a loss,  the film was still enjoyable.  All of the musical numbers were in English and all of the running around  and slapstick was universal.  The evening had been co-sponsored by one of the local Lindy Hop clubs.  A young woman introduced Hellzapoppin at length using words Harlem New York, Savoy Ballroom, Swing Music,  and Frankie Manning more than a  few times.


I’d forgotten to take the slips of paper out of my reels that list the contents before giving the films to the projectionist.  That allowed me to visit the projection booth to get them.  To get there we had to go outside to an alley and then up a fire stairs.  I was told that was fire code to keep the film isolated from the rest of the theater.  That was done even though showing of flammable Nitrate film had stopped by 1957.  The crowd was closer to 100 for my show.  That is much better than my shows here last year. Even with that many the crowd was spread out in the big old place.  Everything ran smoothly and looked good on the huge curved screen.

Metropolis Kino Lobby – Soon to Become a Dance Floor

At the end of the show I got a lot of compliments on it. I was introduced to both Volker and Esther’s moms, women of my age.  Most of the crowd then went into the lobby where a dance floor had been created in the uncarpeted area where tables had been  All were dressed for a special occasion.  A DJ provided vintage dance music and most everybody danced.  So did I. I danced with a whole bunch of women.  They knew the basic Lindy without being expert but all had personal style. I really had a ball.   The music was eclectic with most of the tempos being what the hep cats used to call “Business Man’s Bounce.”  That was just as well.  Dancing generates a lot of heat.  The woman tending bar told Volker that she had never seen so many smiling faces at the Metropolis.