Home > Interviews, Music > Bobby White interviews Jerry Almonte, DC Lindy Blogger, Dancer, and Man of the Town

Bobby White interviews Jerry Almonte, DC Lindy Blogger, Dancer, and Man of the Town

Wise Learned Person

Photo by Doug VanSant

Jerry Almonte is that breed of dance celebrity known as a Wise Learned Person. Yes, we know he’s young. But, he’s earned the title. Aside from his popular blog on Lindy Hop and the scene as a whole (jsalmonte.wordpress.com), he was an organizer of Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Celebration and has been an intricate part of the DC scene since 2000. We asked him about a ton of things, which might seem random, but that’s the great thing about a Wise Learned Person–they have an answer for everything. ~~ By Bobby White

When did you first start dancing, and what was one memory that sticks out from that time?

My first class was January, 1999, but I didn’t go out regularly until winter 2000/2001.  Until then it was just something to do once a week.  The thing that really drew in was finally going to the dances around DC and experiencing the energy of the people and then later the creative possibilities of the dance.

My first teacher was a 17-year-old, very excitable Naomi Uyama.  She was the first person I ever saw perform when she and her partner did a run through of a routine just for our beginner class.  They won the very first Lindy Hop division at the 1999 North Atlantic Dance Championships with that routine.  I find it amusing that over 11 years later, I still find myself talking about her award winning performances.

Do you have any special memories from a previous DCLX?

The Boilermaker Jazz Band in 2005.  The band played the main dance the first part of the evening, and then three members plus local musician Craig Gildner played the late night.  Not only did some of those guys played for 6 hours, they played with an energy and intensity that had the crowd begging for more at the end of the late night.  Completely exhausted, the Boilermakers gave it to them in spades.

A close second is Sunday afternoon dance from 2004 in Dupont Circle.  The power wasn’t turned for our sound equipment and we were struggling to find a way to play music.  Then out of nowhere, a trombone shout band coming from Sunday services came through the circle and started playing gospel inspired New Orleans music.  It was a very random event that felt like it was meant to be.

What’s your favorite thing about what the swing scene has become, compared to what it was early in your dancing  days?

A lot more versatility in the individual dancers.  Before, people were either groovy and sexy or old school and raw.  Now people have figured out that it’s possible to be either and much, much more.

You’ve done countless of the thankless jobs in event organizing. If you don’t mind my asking, what keeps you working your butt off for the dance scene?

Wise Learned Person

Photo by Doug VanSant

The same reason we do anything:  Chicks and Cash.

Actually that’s not even close to true because if it were, I’d be working an event every week.

You played a large role in the Frankie’s 95 event, including wearing an important-looking headset most of the time. What was your greatest memory from the event? The most frustrating memory, if you feel like saying?

I actually blogged about this very topic before the new year.  My greatest moment was also almost the most frustrating.  In retrospect it was a zen like realization of how awesome can also equal crap.

One memory I didn’t mention in that post was being in the room for the first day of full rehearsals for the Sunday show.  It was like going to the first day of school—if you went to school with 50 of the absolute best Lindy Hoppers in the world.  I’ll admit that it was exciting to be in the middle of all that creative energy.  Even jaded veterans were a little giddy.

You have a blog about your adventures and thoughts, a lot of them regarding the swing scene (http://jsalmonte.wordpress.com). What is the post you’ve made that’s gotten the most response or prompted, in your opinion, the most interesting discussion?

A post called “The Barbell Perspective” got a lot of thoughtful responses.  That surprised me because I wasn’t very satisfied with it when I put it up, but I had gone some time without posting anything so I thought something was better than nothing.  I’m learning that sometimes it’s good just to throw stuff out there for discussion just to see where people take it.

You’re an avid watcher of dance clips. What do you hope to see when you see a clip? Do you look for anything in particular?

I try not to have any expectations when I watch a video.  I hope that it will be good, but I’ll settle for hysterically bad.  Mostly I watch to see what people are about or what they’re saying with their dancing; whether it’s pure enjoyment or exploring something truly outside the box.  How people dance says a lot about them even if they’re not conscious of it.  The dance isn’t defined by whether or not you do triple steps.  It’s about what you bring to it and gives you a framework to physically express it.  Lindy Hop and dance in general gives me a window to peak into the human condition.  Also, watching people fall down never gets old.

Off the top of your head, what is one dance clip someone should go and watch right now? Why?

I’ve been watching Todd Yannacone & Naomi Uyama’s performance in the All Star Jack & Jill at this year’s Lone Star Championships over and over again.  It’s just a fun dance clip.  Two great dancers working well together and just jamming it out.

I’d like to talk about their quality of movement, impeccable sense of rhythm or their ability to project to the audience, but really, it’s all about the booty shakin’.  Seriously, that’s what separates the people that can dance from the people who just do Lindy Hop patterns.  Plenty of people work endlessly on their technique but can’t show some life where it counts.  I hope people watch this and realize that they can do both and have a blast at the same time.

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Categories: Interviews, Music
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  1. March 29, 2010 at 10:59 pm

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