The Lennart effect

Mr. Lennart Westerlund.

To many swing dancers and Lindy hoppers, this name speaks a lot for itself. To many new dancers , this name does not ring a bell at all.

I am one of the latter. Knowing nothing about him until I first heard about his visit to Singapore, for a weekend of  ‘ in celebration of Frankie Manning’ . The printed flyer of this event did not help either , I had mistook the picture of Frankie in his younger years as Lennart, until Sing corrected my innocence.

Sing went on and explained a little more about him.  Among them, she mentioned something about  Frankie,  Herrang , Harlem Hotshots . Very interesting .  It stirred my interest, I took the flyer with me and placed it in my car.

Few days later, I was driving Christian Bossert and Nadja Sieger to airport. Nadja saw and picked up the flyer : ” oh look, how to dance like hot shots , by Lennart ” .  she mentioned a little something more about Lennart, and she insisted “you have to meet him, and learn”  .

Few more days later, at a dinner after swing fling, Adam started telling his experience in Herrang dance camp, and briefly described this man. He also was kind to post some pictures and videos of Herrang with Lennart in it. That amazed me.

That is how I first got to know Lennart, through word of mouth alone. Upon hearing all that, I was very excited, and decided right away to sign up for his lessons. namely
1. How to dance like a hot shot
2. Big Apple (Frankie Manning) -(post lesson video)
3. The best of 28 years of Herrang
4. An intro to the roots of tap

During one fateful day, Sing offered JUYL the chance of a lifetime to have an special interview session with Lennart. Totally unexpected, as JUYL is very new. When we heard it, Agent J and myself were extremely excited.

A few days before the weekend with Lennart, I started reading up online on Lennart . The more I read, the more I felt worried because I was about to meet and interview a man of such high stature and experience, an expert dancer himself , extraordinary artist with an air of excellence surrounding him and his works. I was worrisome, but nevertheless intrigued.

I finally met him in person, at Abrazos before the Big band dance , Stomping at the Savoy. At the corridor, I talked with him.  Given his credentials, I was apprehensive and expected to meet a snobbish, cold and difficult man.

Well,  in reality, I found out he was very friendly and interested to talk although he had a long and tiring day.

Lessons day.

I showed up early and eagerly. Who does not want to dance like a hot shot anyway?   So I went in and readied myself for some serious boot camp stuff with lots of work out, many variations,tonnes of steps to learn, bombastic terms and Lindy lingo to catch up.

But it was nothing like that.

During SeaJam 2010, Dawn gracefully and impressively showed us what dancing really is :
– Musicality, jazzy feel in dance.
– Rhythmic groove that comes from within.
– It is not only portraying and dancing to the music, it is about being part of the music.
Very delicate  to grasp.

Lennart echoed the same. He went on to explain more.
He is a walking African American dance historian and artist. He walked us through the history and evolution of it all. chronologically. How it all began, what happened as the scene was molded, evolved, migrated, and developed – which lead to the different trends and types of music that we now know of.

If knowing the type of dance is easy, the next part may not be.
Dancing is about being one with the music, feel the music, the underlying mood and expression in that music . It is :
– knowing the tempo – fast, moderate, moderate slow
– sensing the intensity – peaks and fades
– finding the turn – when the mood of the song changes.

To a swing dancer, that means dancing and making use of – the beat/bass section, the rhythm section (or sections) , and sometimes the middle section and dance it from the inside out.  With such knowing and understanding of the music, ability to sense it , and to add such
flavours into the basic dance steps, you are on your way to dance better. and perhaps like  a hotshot !

In a nutshell those are the key fundamentals.
In summary , to dance like a hot shot is to swing better. To swing better is to have rhythm in the swing.  So, learn to find the rhythm in every song.

Lennart taught (and imparted) a lot more during the lessons, words alone can not possibly package everything right here. The whole experience of learning from him directly, is not transferable.
Nadja was right. Be there. You have to meet him yourself.

The interview.

Getting up close and personal with Lennart about his passion was an inspiring moment for me. I asked him prior to interview, would he like to know what the interview questions would be? He told me he preferred
not ,  and would love taking the questions and answer them straightforwardly.  I realised he loves surprises and willing to share frankly .

The 30 mins interview session was cordial.  Sing,  Agent J, and myself asked him some interesting questions. Lennart answered and spoke passionately with great details and vivid descriptions. He spoke about how he started dancing, how he became involve in Herrang Dance Camp , his fond encounters with Frankie, his take on the future of swing and Lindy hop dancing, his other hidden talent beside dancing and that laksa is his favourite Singapore delicacy.
He unveiled many valueble insights and shared openly his lifelong journey. He is such an artist but humbly said he did not see himself so.

His passion resonates in me and propels me to grow.
So, if you notice I dance better, it is the Lennart effect.

Swinging off ,

Anthony , a.k.a Agent A


One thought on “The Lennart effect

  1. Pingback: Up Close and Personal with Lennart Westerlund « Jazz Up Your Life Singapore!

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