So Let's Talk about THE HARVEST MOON BALL and ILHC's THE NORMAlizer
In August of 1935, twenty-thousand spectators packed Madison Square Garden for the first Harvest Moon Ball. There would be contests in Fox Trot, Waltz, Tango, Rumba, and Lindy Hop. The Lindy Hoppers --- chosen from prelims held in major Ballrooms around New York, including the Savoy --- were told they would be judged by the same rules as the ballroom dancers. This meant no breaking away, no jumping, and every competitor staying in their specified corner. In other words, not Lindy Hop.
Some couples, like Maggie McMillan and Frankie Manning, tried to stick to those rules and still represent the dance they helped create. Others, like Leon James and Edith Mathews, broke every rule. They took top prize.
Lindy Hop itself also took first prize --- it was the highlight of the evening, and for as long as there was the Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, they almost always took the top three prizes at the yearly event. Norma Miller competed in four years of the contest, making her mark upon its history. Here is a collection of clips from Norma's years in the Harvest Moon Ball:
The contest was a relatively simple format --- five couples at a time would take the stage and dance for two or three minutes to blazing music. As years went by, this "amateur" contest became a no holds barred battle involving the best Lindy Hoppers trying to outdo one another.
Over the years it would be renamed the "Jitterbug" division, or the "Rock-N-Roll" division, but swing dancing was in the contest until 1978 --- when Harlem dancer, teacher, and Lindy performance group manager Mama Lou Parks would take the baton and held her own Lindy Hop Harvest Moon Ball contest.
To pay tribute to this rich contest's history and Norma's part in it, ILHC 2019 (Monday, December 2nd, 2019) is holding THE NORMAlizer contest! All lifts, drops, airsteps, acrobatics are allowed. Judges will be looking for spontaneity, creativity, and connection to the music. The finals will be done with two-couple battles, NCAA bracket-style, to a live band, round by round, until the winners are crowned. That winning couple will take home $2000 in cash.
And, in the spirit of the original Harvest Moon Ball, contestants may be asked to stay in their spots, not break away, and not have their feet leave the floor. But you know what to do with those rules.