Written (copyright) by Harri Heinila
As I have worked with my PhD dissertation, which combines dance, politics and culture in the context of Authentic Jazz Dance and Harlem, I have gone through many different opinions about dance and its surrounding environment where the internet discussions are concerned. One striking feature in these opinions has been how easily these “researchers” speak about their subject. Even large subjects are explained easily like they are simple entities, not complicated and versatile subjects at all. Anybody, who has lived this life by somehow looking at what happens in this world, realizes that life is not a simple thing to perceive. So, how history can be that?
That is why it has been amazing how so-called “Google historians” have succeeded in promoting their “truths” about history. The term “Google historian” was invented by dance historian Peter Loggins, who was getting tired about people, who “googled” his research results and advertised those as their own. He had a site called ‘Dancehistory.org’ which he closed down years ago after these occasions. As I was one of writers in his site, I first felt that was unfair to us, other writers in the site. After years I have understood that more and more. Why do you give information to others who do not even mention your name when they promote those results as their own?
It is very easy to be a “dance historian”: you can get details from here and there and put them together as a story. Basically, you need not to analyze how those details match to other details of the subject and to the surrounding environment, and to the earlier research about your subject. If you can sell the story to people, who do not know enough about the subject, it is that easy: you created “history”.
Just some examples about this: first, the Charleston and speakeasies. I have been astonished how easily people accept the story about the Charleston was largely done in speakeasies. Anybody, who has researched the Charleston and how it was danced, knows how the Charleston was banned from ballrooms because it was too wild for dance floors. How is it possible that it was done in speakeasies then? It is quite logical that speakeasies were places which were hidden. If they had trouble with dancers, it was over, when officials got idea about that. So, speakeasy owners likely did not want any trouble. Think about that.
Secondly, I know people who have taught Chorus line routines (or Chorus girls routines) to ordinary people, even if they have never talked with any chorus line dancers or even have never seen any living one. That is like anybody can learn to dance those routines. That is something which really underrates what chorus line dancers did. Basically, if those people do not know anything about chorus lines, but they have seen in YouTube, why to go to their lessons? You can do the same by looking those chorus line clips in YouTube.
Thirdly, some people claim that they teach Savoy Ballroom style Lindy Hop, even if those people never have been at the Savoy Ballroom or even never have seen the building. Are they really “authentic” in what they are teaching? For example, I have learned from dancers who have been at the Savoy Ballroom. Can I claim that I teach Savoy Ballroom style Lindy Hop? Definitely NOT. I can only claim that I teach what I have learned and made by myself. Think about it.