Walter's Random Musings

Victorian Picnic

Video of the "Impressionist's Picnic": an artful gathering in 19th Century attire.

This is a re-post of something that I first posted in 2006.

Some Reflections From an Aging Fencer

ImageI fenced for about seven years, while in High School and College, and then when I got out into the real world, I no longer had a place to fence nor people to fence with, and I stopped. A couple of years ago, a fencing school moved into my neighborhood, and I started up again. All in all, despite my 27 year hiatus, it's gone remarkably well, and I think I am now a better fencer than I was when I was 20. Since I am over 50, and inclined to reflect on almost everything about my life, I have been pondering the meaning of this as well, and drawing a few conclusions that tie into whole notion of getting older and still staying in the game.

Flying Down to Buenos Aires on the Pan Am Clipper

A video mashup of a Pan American promotional film called "The Lindberg Trail", that was shown all over the country in the mid 1930s, some vintage travel posters, and some period music. This is in aid of a presentation on the experience of travel in the 1930s that I will give on Sunday, June 6th 2010, at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.

Some Places to Rent a Costume

I am constantly being bombarded with questions from folks new to the vintage dance scene about "Where can I rent stuff". I have generally dodged the question, since I have seldom been impressed with what is available from retail costume rental places, and the movie shops are expensive and intimidating for the uninitiated. I worry that any recommendation will be perceived as an endorsement, and in my limited experience, I have yet to find a rental place I could give my unqualified endorsement.

However, the fact remains that there are countless newbees out there who want to join in the fun, don't have the time or skills to make stuff themselves, and either can't afford a costumer or don't have time to wait for a costumer to makes something.

Victorian Dance Demographics

One of the more interesting features of a "Fan Page" on Facebook is the ability to gather demographic information on your fans. The demographics shown below were derived from the Social Daunce Irregulars Victorian Grand Ball Facebook Page, which currently has about 450 fans. These statistics are, of course, not necessarily indicative of all Victorian dance groups, or vintage dance groups everywhere, but they seem to be, from what I have seen, fairly typical.

A Ballroom Guide

ImageWhat follows are a few guidelines for those engaged in "Vintage" dance -- though to be honest, I think they would apply equally to a disco. Good behavior is good behavior. I will address these comments primarily to the gentlemen, but much would apply to ladies as well.

1. Don't dance every dance with the same partner. Back in the day, dancing more than two dances with the same partner, especially your spouse, was considered to be highly unsociable. The same applies today. Mix it up, and pay particular attention to those who are not being asked to dance.

2. Back in the day, ladies never asked men to dance. That is one rule that is generally ignored in the modern "vintage" ballroom. Ladies need not wait to be asked in the Victorian age of the 21st Century. Conversely, men should not just sit back and wait to be asked, but assure that more reserved ladies get to dance as well.

3. If you are asked to dance, but say that you are "sitting this one out", then you can't say "yes" when a better partner asks. It's very rude to thereby say "No, I am not dancing this dance with YOU" to the partner you first refused.

Dancing Badly is Not Historically Incorrect

In trying to recreate historical dance, or any other historical performance art form where sound or film recordings are not available, you constantly run into the question of "what is authentic"?

With social dancing, this is a rather acute question, as the sources for these dances are generally dance manuals. These dance manuals are often very specific on the proper way to perform the dances in question (except when they're not, and assume that everyone already knows the fundamentals of the dances performed - but that's another issue).

Certainly. to dance the dance exactly as described in the book is more than likely correct for some portion of the dancing population of the time, but what if you dance that dance some other way -- is that wrong? Is that unhistorical? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.

Using Facebook For Your Organization

Over the last year or so, I have set it as a professional development task to put Facebook to work for some of the organizations in which I am involved, and figure out what it is good for and where it falls short.

Here are a few of my observations:

An organization with a formal existence and a real relationship with its supporters/clients etc. should create a "page" rather than a "group". The "page" format is more conducive to presenting a coherent message and managing your image. It also has useful analytics on traffic, demographics etc.

A group is fine for informal communities of interest, and has a nice "email all" and "invite all to event" feature, but it doesn't let you assume the identity of the organization. You are always you. Note however, that if what you are about is sharing photographs, you should stay a "group". The "page" format no longer allows "fans" to post pictures more than one at a time.

San Francisco - Market Street - 1906

This video is too splendid not to share. It is a leisurely cruise down Market Street in 1906, perhaps just a few days before the earthquake destroyed it all. Look for the wonderful interplay of streetcars, horse carts, carriages, automobiles and pedestrians - especially the kids playing dodge-the-streetcar and hanging on the back of an automobile. Having grown up in the Bay Area, I also loved the sense of familiar but different feeling I got seeing this street I have visited countless times.

The Shocking Waltz

We modern folk are quite fond of looking back smugly on the people of the past and labeling them as ignorant, bigoted and prudish. In many cases this might be justified, but sometimes, when you take a hard look, you can see what they were talking about.

Almost every discussion of the history of the Waltz begins with a bemused mention that people once found it scandalous and shocking. Ha ha, what silly folk they were.

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