Tag Archives: Minnesota

HAPPINESS ON THE FLOOR

KEEPING IN THE SWING OF THINGS TOGETHER

SARAH MORAN, Special to the Star Tribune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by David Joles

Photo by David Joles

 

 

 

 

Dance partners Allen Hall, 77, and his wife, Rudy Hall, 64, have danced every other night this summer. “It’s a mild form of insanity,” Allen said.

Allen Hall, 77, and Rudy Hall, 64, swing dancers • South Haven, Minn.

Him: When I was a kid in St. Louis a long time ago, I always wanted to be a jitterbugger because the coolest guys could do the jitterbug. I was too shy to ask girls to dance and didn’t know how to do it anyway. But a long period of time transpired and I married Rudy, and she’s always been a dancer. She got me into dancing and into swing dancing, so it took a while but I finally had the little light pop over my head and I said to myself, “Maybe I’m going to be able to do this.”

Her: I started doing the Lindy Hop in 1953. My family [members] were musicians, and I tried my hand at playing instruments, but I couldn’t make myself stay with it because when I’d hear music I just wanted to dance. It took me years to get Allen to dance. He was too shy to dance when he was young, but after he retired he had more time. I was still going out dancing with friends and I’d come home every night soaking with sweat, talking about what a good time I had. Finally he said, well, maybe he should take a renewed interest. He took some lessons, and I taught him also.

Him: We get it where we can. We’re home about five months of the year in Minnesota, and I’m guessing we dance about two or three nights a week — sometimes more. We’re on the road in the motor home the remainder of the year, and last year we danced almost every other night.

Her: I was so in love with dancing and music, and of course I was driving to dance a couple nights a week without him, and there was just always something missing, but I couldn’t put my hand on it. Once he started dancing with me I just looked forward to it a lot more because I knew he was going with me. It was just a totally different feeling. It seemed like my dance was more complete.

Him: Every marriage is different, but I think successful marriages rely at least in part in having something in common, so we have this. This is a great part of our social life, our friends are mostly all younger people who also dance. There’s no intergenerational friction in dancing. They don’t care if you’re blue and have only one leg — if you can dance, you’re in.

Her: We both have something to look forward to together every week, and sometimes every night because we dance so much. It just keeps the relationship together.

Thanks to John Cooper for this inspiring tale!

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LESLIE JOHNSON, JAZZ HERO

Jazz is full of people who burn brilliantly for only a short time.  Then there are heroic figures who keep on keeping on for decades, selflessly giving. 

Leslie Johnson has been the editor and publisher of THE MISSISSIPPI RAG since 1973.  Today I received an email from Leslie saying that she could no longer go on in those demanding roles because of her illness: she’s been fighting cancer for three and a half years.  You can read her farewell at www.mississippirag.com., but I just wanted to add a few words that perhaps Leslie herself would read. 

I started to write reviews for the RAG in 2000, and became the paper’s New York correspondent in 2007.  In the early days, I often picked up the phone and called Leslie when I had a question — because it was such a pleasure to talk to her, and because she worked such long hours putting out the paper that she didn’t always get to her hundreds of emails.  She was fervent, cheerful, determined, and genuine.  And I think she worked the longest hours of anyone I’ve ever encountered.  For thirty-five years, mind you.  It wasn’t for the money: operating a traditional jazz paper is not the Way to Wealth that Benjamin Franklin had in mind.  It was because she loved the music, believed in it, and believed in the people who played it, those who produced the CDs, put on festivals, and wrote about it. 

She believed in jazz in a practical way.  And this came through in the first conversation I had with her about the house style, or what she expected from reviewers.  I don’t remember exactly how she said it, but she made it clear that hers was not a paper that delighted in putting artists down.  To her, traditional jazz was having a hard enough time.  Her paper’s mission was to celebrate and praise rather than to carp about faults.  Fair enough, I remember saying, “But what if I think a CD is really an inferior piece of work?”  Well, she said, she would return it to the musicians and say that she didn’t think the CD was up to their usual standard and the RAG would rather not review it.  That was Leslie’s tough-minded kindness all out — and readers of the paper will note we reviewers were encouraged to tell the truth, but to check our razors at the door. 

Our phone conversations were also delightful for me — a born-and-bred New Yorker — because Leslie spoke what I think of as pure Minnesotan.  I remember (and I can hear her voice now) responding to some statement of mine that she seconded, “That’s for darn sure!”  It’s not a typical Manhattan form of agreement, and it gave and gives me great pleasure.

I said above that Leslie believed in jazz.  Many people I know would make the same statement of themselves, but their belief takes shape as pure enjoyment: “I believe in jazz, therefore I listen to _________ every night when I get home.”  Leslie’s belief went beyond a set of speakers out of which music came, although she loved to listen to the music.  It wasn’t an abstact reaction to jazz, either.  She worked for thirty-five years FOR jazz, and the RAG has been the result, month after month. 

It’s been a privilege, and honor, and an education to work with and for Leslie Johnson — a true jazz hero.