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The Lindy Focus Saga Episode Two: The Choosing

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In the midst of the scramble to register, there is one other super-duper important thing to think about; your roommates.

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You might not believe me, but it’s true.  Roommates can make or break an event like this. A week in a hotel is a long time when you’re stuck with someone you don’t like.

166996_1585411400944_2764739_nBut fear not!  I’m here to give you a few things to think about before you go choosing roommates all willy-nilly.

The first you’ve got to know about Lindy Focus is that your hotel room is basically just a place for you to store you stuff and sleep.  You won’t be spending a ton of time there, there are simply too many other things to do.  So, bearing that in mind, you don’t necessarily need to fill the room with your best friends.

The first step in the roommate-selection process is knowing what you want.  There are going to be things that you are willing to compromise on and things that you absolutely have to have (or not have).  What are they?  Do you like the room cold when you sleep?  Are you a light sleeper?  Do you like to stay up late?

Things you shouldn’t have to (or can’t) compromise on: 1) the gender of the people in your room, some times people are downright uncomfortable sleeping in a room with the opposite sex. 2)  Perfume.  If you’re like me, you can have a hard time handling things like body spray and perfume.  My nose goes haywire and starts sneezing and that makes for a crappy day.  So I make sure I don’t stay with any middle school boys and their Axe.  3) how you sleep.  It’s nigh impossible to control where you move while you sleep, so if you’re prone to “lobserting” or the flailing of arms and legs during sleep, then you either need to find someone who’s ok with having your body parts in their personal space or volunteer to sleep on the floor.  It sucks for two people to get no sleep.

The absolute key to getting along with  your roommates no matter what is just to be courteous.  If you wouldn’t want someone traipsing around at 6am throwing clothes out of their suitcase while you’re trying to sleep, then don’t do it to someone else.

This is what I find important roommate-wise, but I’m sure there some stuff that I’m missing.  So, what is most important to you in a roommate?  What makes for an ideal stay?

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The Lindy Focus Saga Episode One: Acceptance

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There are two words in the swing-dom that can send a shiver of excitement through a room: Lindy Focus.  And there’s good news for those of you who know what those two words mean.  Registration is open.  That’s right.  Go sign up now!

But for some of you who are new to the world of swing, you might be wondering what this is and why it’s such a big deal.

Jam circle

Let me try to explain.  Have you ever dreamed about what it would be like to be on a movie set with Chris Hemsworth, George Clooney, Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone all at the same time and they all tell you they want to be your best friend and you get the starring role in the film and the film is being talked about in the Oscar pool… Ok you get the idea, basically it’s a dream come true.

Lindy Focus is a lot like that.  Basically, it’s a week of intensive workshops with some of the best swing and blues dance instructors in the world.  But it’s much more than that.  Let me start at the beginning.

So, you’ve organized a carpool and you’ve got your roommates and you’re feeling like a kid on Christmas.  Literally.  Because Lindy Focus starts the day after Christmas. Best. Christmas present. Ever.

After the hours long car ride to beautiful Asheville, North Carolina, you come up the final hill and the sprawling Crowne Plaza hotel opens its arms to greet you.  You check in and dump your stuff in your room and run off to go explore.  As you whittle away the hours until the first bit of dancing,  you marvel at how big the swing dance community is.  It’s really a worldwide phenomenon.

Then the dancing starts.  You dance song after song and not one of them is awkward.  Everyone you dance with is wonderful.  You’re up until the last of the bluesers at the late night trickle off.  You finally make your way back to your room and fall into bed, completely exhausted but at peace with the world.  You could die happy now.

Happy Birthday, Maggie!

But wait! There’s more….

The next morning you audition for placement in your Lindy Hop track.  Levels 3-9 require an audition.  But don’t fret.  It’s not this terrible fiery ordeal and the judges are normal people, just like you and me.  So breathe and just dance.  Waiting for your results has you quivering with antici………………….pation.

Finally, you get your level and you can settle in.  Or you can appeal and try to get a higher level, that’s cool too.  But for the most part, the judges are pretty dead on.

For the next week, the best of the best fill you with their vast and mighty knowledge of all things jazz, swing and dance.  It’s a lot to take in, so I definitely recommend bringing a notebook to take notes in.  A sad mistake I made last year was not having one and it made practicing rather difficult.

Live music at Lindy Focus

At the first official evening dance, you get to hear the first strains of the live music.  Last year’s choices included Ben Polcer and Paul Constentino of Boilermakers fame.

But holy goodness, the best is still yet to come: Instructor Showcase.

Let me tell you, I don’t think I have ever nerded so hard about dancing in my life.  By the time all of them were done dancing, I was pretty much in a puddle on the floor because of so much awesome.   And don’t even get me started on the competitions.  It’s just too much for words.

There was one thing I wish I had known about when I went to LF last year.  No one told there was going to be a New Year’s Even Show.  Although, maybe it was a good thing I didn’t know about it.  I might have actually exploded with impatience.

From “New Orleans Bump” Lindy Focus XI New Years Eve Show

Well, I don’t want to spoil all of the surprises that await in Lindy Focus Land, so I’ll stop here.  But you should all know that this is such an exciting event and there is so much to look forward to.

This is only the very tippy top of a ginormous iceberg

For those of you have already been to LF, what was your favourite part?  And for those of you who haven’t been yet, what is it you’re most looking forward to?

The Dance Practice Blueprint — Dance World Takeover by Rebecca Brightly

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This is definitely worth a look!

The Dance Practice Blueprint — Dance World Takeover by Rebecca Brightly.

Masquerade in Blues III

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Pardon the absence.  Planning events can get a little crazy.  But I’m back now and I’m going to tell you aaaaalllll about planning this event.

First off, you should all know that this was not my first event.  The Jitterbug Club did Lindy Hop Drop Out earlier this school year.

But this time we added an intermediate blues workshop with the wonderful Jamie Lynn Figure.  And the magnificent Jared Clemens taught the beginner workshop.  And just so both of you know, I heard some rave reviews about your lessons.  You guys rock!

We brought in a new band for this dance, too.  The Blue Rails, a blues band out of Columbus, graced us with their rocking tunes.  Thanks a ton for playing for us!

This event brought in some new challenges.  This was my first time working with a band, so planning the logistics there was interesting.

We also had some difficulties with the sound at the Saturday night dance.  I know that stinks, and I’m sorry for it.  But I hope you all understand!

On that note, what do you do when you have technical issues?  How do you suggest handling that?

Also, I’ll post pictures as they become available!

PittStop Lindy Hop ’12

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November.  That’s right, you heard me right, it’s almost Thanksgiving.  And you know what that means: PittStop Lindy Hop.

This is my second time at this event, but it was nonetheless amazing.  There is no better feeling than walking into a venue so crowded with dancers that you can hardly walk ten paces without bumping into someone.  It, however, never becomes less overwhelming.

This year feature repeat performances by the Boilermakers Jazz Band, Glen Crytzer and his Syncopators and my personal favourite, Gordon Webster.  There was a new appearance from Jimmy Sapienza’s Five Guys Named Moe.  Those guys were pretty cool.  As always, all of these guys were fabulous; there is nothing better than dancing to live music and these guys know how to play for dancers.

Instead of a legit review of this year’s event (mostly because there’s one of those already, and you can find it here), I wanted to talk about this event in relation to new dancers.  For months before hand, I was nagging new dancers in the Athens scene to go to PittStop.  “It’s such a great first exchange,” I said.

But what is it that makes it such a great first exchange experience?  Is it the music?  Is it the venues?  No, I think it’s the people.  Not only are the people at this event great dancers, they are also just all around wonderful people.  Everyone is so accommodating and go out of their way to fix anything that’s wrong.

But it’s not only the event organizers that are wonderful, there is something about PittStop that just attracts the coolest people from all over. What is this mysterious force that attracts the most amazing people?  If someone knows the answer to that, please, let me know.  I’d love to bottle it and sell it.

I could keep yammering about how much I love PittStop, but I’m starting to be redundant.  So I am going to still my rambling tongue and sit on my hands.  So, thank you to everyone who made the weekend wonderful.  And to all of you who are waiting for that perfect time to travel, PittStop is your best best.

Time Warp Swing!

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It’s take two for Time Warp Swing at the Ohio State University.  Kerry Dibble and her fabulous helpers pulled it off yet again and we danced through the decades and the clocks jumped back.

Chris Shoenfelder and Liz Thatcher showed us the evolution of swing dance, from 1920s Charleston to modern Lindy and Blues.  We even got a taste of genuine Frankie Manning with several of the moves these two taught us.

Chris and Liz did a fantastic job of getting us to understand the concepts they were trying to convey.  The whole workshop felt like a team effort and not just being talked at.

After battling game day traffic, I finally got to evening dance.  It was my second time DJing outside my own scene.  And this particular dance presented quite a challenge.  All of the music for my set had to come from the 1920s and ’30s.  It was interesting to see how many songs I could come up with from that time period.  Within that small 20 year span I could see the evolution from something that is barely recognizable as jazz into the very thing we dance to today.    Kristen Marks, Rob Kapaku and Andry Rakotamalala took us right up to the present day with some of the best music ever made.

Later that evening, I competed in my second ever Jack n Jill and made the finals for the first time ever!  And congratulations to all those who made it that far, and especially Rob and Claire for taking first place.  You guys were fantastic!

Once again, mass kudos to all those who had a hand in organizing this event.  You all did a fantastic job and I can’t wait for next year!

Swungover*

Recently asked: Wouldn’t it be great to do an article on how to train modern Jazz bands to play better for dancers?

Indeed. I think such an article, if done right, would require me interviewing quite a few musicians and dancers and researching the thoughts of the original big band musicians and jazz philosophers. Until I can do so, I had a few quick notes on the subject.

First off, I’ve asked this question in some way to every band leader I’ve interviewed. Check out their responses below.

In addition to what those guys say, a few tips I think help a group get started:

1.

Short songs, around three minutes or under. Even the greatest swing bands in the world would tire a dance floor out with five minute songs where every band member gets a few solo choruses per song. (Concerning local bands beginning to play for dancers…

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CincyLX 3

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I can’t help but beam with pride when my city boasts its own Lindy Exchange.  That’s right folks, CincyLX 3 was this weekend.  And what a weekend it was.  Four days, Five bands and 30 hours of dancing.  Needless to say, I’m exhausted and still recovering.

But the CincyLX committee kicked it off right Thursday night with Ricky Nye Inc.  This blues, boogie and jump band kept the dance floor hot all night long.

As an added bonus for out-of-towners this year, some dancers gathered at River Downs Race track for some horse racing.  Apparently swing dancers aren’t an inherently lucky group of people, because I’m pretty sure everyone came out with less money than with which they came in.

But after the gambling, there was to be more dancing and this time to the jumping tunes of the Juggernaut Jug Band. And, yes, they play a jug.  Their tunes might have been a little on the fast side, but there’s no doubt they were talented.

Saturday afternoon took us dancers to Harmony Lodge and The Faux Frenchmen.  These four guys are a four piece acoustic Hot Club, gypsy jazz band who play all around Cincinnati.  They have three CDs out that pretty much rock.  You should find them.

Saturday evening brought us back to Bogart’s for the second time and also welcomed Blue Sky 5 for an encore performance.  From hopping originals to fantastic covers, these guys are welcome back in this city any time.  I can’t wait to have them back again.

A DJed late night followed and the CincyLX team did it again and chose amazing DJs.  Props to you all.

I made my graceful exit Sunday morning to attend some non-dance related things, but I’ve heard rumors it was pretty awesome.  With more from the awesome DJs and the fab Gypsy Deville, how could it not be awesome?

As always, a huge thank you goes out to the entire CincyLX crew for all the hard work they put into making this weekend great.  And to Jon Fisk and his mother, Rhonda for feeding a gaggle of dancers and letting us sleep in the spare house.

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