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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!

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Hawkeye Swing Festival 2012

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A friend of mine (the ever-wonderful Andry Rakotomalala) wrote this review of this year’s Hawkeye Swing Festival, in Iowa City.  You should all read it because a) he’s awesome, b) if you were there, you can gush over how great this event was, too; or c) if you weren’t there you can live vicariously though this.  Whatever your reason, you should read it and be amazed (literally, I drooled reading this and this list of big-time instructors on the bill (and that’s not all of them!))

This event was pretty amazing! By far one of the biggest event I’ve ever been to, but that’s not surprising seeing as I haven’t gone to many big workshops like Beantown, Lindy Focus, or bluesSHOUT before! This was definitely my first BIG event.

What I liked about the event was how big it was, first off; and the completely different swing culture in Iowa. A friend of mine (from Illinois who goes to school in Iowa) said that they love their fast lindy in Iowa, whereas in Illinois, blues was very appropriate later on in the night. Just the excitement of having over 200 people at the event made it so much more fun and the energy in the room was just beaming! These were during social dances! You could tell that everyone was having a blast! The instructors were having an awesome time too!

The big name instructors who were there were Michael Jagger and Evita Acre, Andy Ried and Nina Gilkenson, Mikey Pedroza, Andrew Thigpin and Karen Turman, Damon Stone, Bobby Bonsey, Jamin Jackson, Brian Eley, and Delilah Williams just to name a few. I got a chance to talk to Evita, Michael, Jamin, Damon, and Bobby during social dances and other times throughout the weekend and all of them were very personable.  However, my favorite instructors (apart from Michael and Evita because they’re just amazing) were Bobby and Delilah.  But… more on that after the explanation of the lessons.

The class levels were Elite, Advanced, Intermediate/Advanced, Intermediate, and Fundamentals. I had made the Advanced with some other friends and we had a class with Bobby and Delilah. If you don’t know, both characters are CRAZY fun! They just love having fun and playing around when they dance. During their class they spoke about conversation. Literally all we did were Susi Qs and on every other 8 one of us would do something and the partner would have to take that, copy it or make it their own. And we did that back and forth.  I had some of my best dances with some of the follows there that in class! It just opened my mind that dancing shouldn’t just be step, step, triple step, step, step, triple step with moves! You can still keep the count but DO something fun with it! That lesson changed my dancing for sure! Now I’m confident with every one of my movements and I have a lot of fun with my partner as we dance to the music! I guess their main concept was to have fun while you dance and be confident. This makes the social dance so much more enjoyable for the both parties.  It also helps them communicate and have a true conversation. Plus, Delilah and Bobby are also both very energetic, wild, crazy fun people in general just like me so we connected very well!

Speaking of connection, another fun class that wasn’t just “Do this. Do that. Now move like this, now move like that” was the improve blues lesson with Damon Stone. Apparently the instructor who was supposed to come didn’t show so Damon came in and taught us REAL blues. He stressed connection and the point that stuck out to me was: focus on your own dancing and you’ll be surprised at how well your follow reads your movements and works with it.  He had said this after saying we had no need to tense up our right arm when it’s around the follow.  We don’t even have to hold her.  As long as our forearms are on her back and she’s seeking that connection, every movement I make as a lead should be transmitted to her right away. After some of the class still tensed up, he turned off the light and made us dance with our partner without connecting. This was the fun part! We were just grooving like it was a house party! It was a serious blast but he did all that to explain that our own personal movements in blues are essential because if we don’t know how our own body moves, how do we know how to suggest our follows to do a movement as well? The lesson just stressed confidence again and connection.

Michael and Evita’s lesson taught us some crazy 10 count move.  I love their style of teaching, being funny while not distracting from the point of the class.  And the fluid movements were just really captivating.

There were some things I didn’t like, but that didn’t ruin my weekend. The building we were in was HUGE and the signs to get to the different rooms were confusing. It would have been helpful if the organizers had put up signs saying “Advanced Class this way —>” or something. I wrote a sign on our class door because the intermediate and advanced class room locations were switched! A lot of people were confused and that would have been helpful. Apart from that, everything else was just awesome!

MUSIC! Like I said before, there was a lot of fast Lindy, but as the night went on the music turned into blues. My favorite was probably Solomon Douglas and his band. They played just the right music at the right time.  Around midnight, the lights dimmed and we had some slow blues but there was still some Lindy here and there.

The DJs were fabulous! A lot of them realized how fast the songs were so they slowed it down a lot. My favorite set was probably Mike “the girl” Leggett because she had such a huge variety of tempos and it was a refreshing break from the band for a bit.

Finally, would I go back? Yes. I would definitely go back! If not for the instructors, then for the completely different swing culture.

 

Thanks for reading!  Be sure to comment and tell Andry how much you liked his review!

Dance Break

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Aaaand….I’m back…from outer space.  Yeah, ok, not really, but I do have a quick post ready for y’all.

I needed a mid-week break so I booked it up to Columbus with the fabulous Maggie Miller and made a vast improvement on my Wednesday night.

Nyoh’s Buckeye Bar and Grill is the hot spot for heptcats on Wednesdays with great DJs and some of my favourite dancers.  I had an absolutely wonderful time swinging out with great friends and meeting new people.  Nyoh’s is a nifty little bar with a small raised dance floor and half price burgers, if nothing else, the food should be lure enough to get you out there.  SwingColumbus packs the place and are always welcoming new dancers.

I met a doppelgänger, danced to Green Day and had Cane’s Chicken for the first time.  I’d call that a good evening.

Basically, if you ever happen to be in Columbus on a Wednesday night, make it out to Nyoh’s for dancing.  The drive is totally worth it.

(I told you this would be short.)

Blues In The Nite ’12

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Blues In The Nite ’12

As most of you have probably gathered by now, Blues is my favourite form of dance.  So when I got the chance to spend an entire weekend doing nothing but  Blues dancing, you can imagine how excited I got.

And let me tell you: Blues In The Nite ’12 did not disappoint.  I got my fill of grungy, raunchy blues as well as some decidedly lighter dances that kept me smiling the entire time.

I left Athens Friday afternoon (skipping class to go dancing is totally legit, right….?) with two other fabulous ladies (there was much giggling about attractive male celebrities) and we made a straight shot for West Lafayette, Indiana, with a quick stop in the Dayton area to pick up another friend of ours.  And together we braved the treacherous snow and long boring stretches of highway to out epic blues adventure.

We arrived just in time for the beginner lesson, taught by the wonderful Jamie Lynn Figure and Tony Goldsmith.  I had in tow withe me two people who had never had a Blues lesson before, and I think it may be safe to say: their minds were blown.  After one lesson, they were both hooked.  Now there’s no going back.

After the lesson ended, the DJs started with Bryan Sykes taking the first set of the night and Derek Camp spinning the last track around midnight.

What?  “Midnight?” you say “But that’s so early!”  But trust me, we needed our sleep for the next day: our lessons started at 10am.  Yeah….

And it’s a good thing it ended so early, that gave me time to get some late night munchies at an authentic West Lafayette tradition: Triple XXX  Family Diner (as seen on The Food Network.  They have great chocolate malts and three cheese and tomato omelets, but are better known for their Duane Purvis burger.  I’ll leave it to you to solve the mystery of what that is).  I found this place with the help of my gracious host, Andrew.  I should also point out that, in addition to his hosting duties this weekend, he also played a huge part in organizing Blues In The Nite.  So, props to you, Andrew!

But it didn’t take me long to get over my sleep-deprived, early-morning stupor and discontent (I am not a morning person, folks).  Almost as soon as the lesson started, I knew it was going to be a good day.  Michelle Richter and Dexter Santos got all of us up and moving with an introduction to Jook Joint Blues.  Basically, this is  Blues for small spaces: there’s little or no space between you and your partner, there is a lot of physical contact and you get to make a wonderfully close connection with your partner.  This was exactly the stuff i wanted to learn.  Even though it was only an hour-long lesson, I felt like I learned more in that one hour than I had since my introduction to Blues.

After Jookin’ Blues, we transitioned to Ballroom Blues.  It still manages to keep that intimate Blues connection, but in a slightly more upright way, reminiscent of classic ballroom dances like the Foxtrot and the Waltz.

Lunch came after the Ballroom class and I was lucky enough to eat with a nifty group of people and chat with Michelle during the break. At least this time I didn’t have to worry about being late getting back to the lessons: the lessons would start when we returned the other half of the teaching unit.

Luckily, we decided to return Michelle in time for a lesson on connection.  And what a sweet lesson it was.  Blues is a tug-and-pull, give-and-take and above all, a conversation with your partner.  With the help of Dexter and Michelle, I really made a connection with my dance partners.

The next lesson gave us a different view of what Blues could be.  It doesn’t always have to be this slow, slinky, sexy dance.  Each song has qualities all its own and each dance is a character unique unto itself.  Sometimes the dance is happy, sometimes its angry, sometimes its sad, and sometimes it is indeed sexy.

The final lesson of the day was Mo’ Better Blues, which was all about moving your own body, knowing what you can do, and still engaging your partner and keeping it interesting for him/her.  This was by far the most difficult class of the day.  Dexter showed us some pretty classy moves that I will definitely need to practice in the safety of my own kitchen before breaking them out on the dance floor.  Never the less, it showed me that, as a follow, I can rock my own moves and still keep the atmosphere of the dance (and laugh at my when I end up totally mutilating my footwork).

I think I got so much out of these lessons because, for the first time, I wasn’t intimidated by the instructors.  Most of the time I end up being a little star-struck or just plain scared, but not this time.  Michelle and Dexter did a wonderful job of making things easy enough for us to do, while not being too basic and treating us all like total newbies.

The weekend’s festivities continued after a dinner break and a quick trip to the bus stop to pick up a friend.

The Merou Grotto is a little white building on a dark street which can only be reached via shuttle.  Sketchy, right?  Yeah, ok, maybe a little.  But when you have a bus full of college students making up their own verses to “The Wheels on the Bus” and the best bus driver ever, what’s a road without streetlights?  And besides, once we were inside, I fell in love with the place.  A small building, in the dark with steamy windows and the best Blues tunes around.  It really doesn’t get much better than that.

And we danced Blues for SIX HOURS STRAIGHT!  Best night ever.  I like my Lindy Hop as well as the next girl, but there is just something so enticing and entrancing about Blues.  And you try to Lindy for six hours.  I can’t make it through one.

By the time 3 in the morning rolled around, I was so tired I could barely walk straight.  But I could not have asked for a better night.

While the dancing was done, I didn’t go home Sunday morning.  The Midwest Collegiate Swing Summit held court in the student union at Purdue and discussed everything from DJs to teachers to funding.  But I’ll give you all those juicy details later (because I know you all just can’t wait for that…)

So all in all, an absolutely great weekend.  Thank you to the Purdue Night Train for pulling off this fantastic event.  Thank you to Dexter Santos and Michelle Richter for teaching a fabulous workshop.  And thank you, in particular, to Andrew for hosting me an discussing books, movies and A Very Potter Musical withe me.  I will definitely be back next year!

DJ, Turn the Music Up

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I had my foray into the realm of DJ this past weekend at the late night for the Ohio University fall dance; and let me tell you, not once did I ever think it would be so nerve-wracking.  I kid you not, I spent more than two weeks planning what I was going to play, when I was going to play it and worrying about whether or not anyone would dance to the songs I played.    It was a long couple of weeks.

I had never realized just how much thought had to go into the music that we dance to.  To me, it was a bit like picking the perfect dress for meeting the my boyfriend’s parents: I know what I liked, and I know what he liked, but would Mom and Dad like it, too?

I kept taking songs out, thinking they were too fast for the last blues set of the night, or they didn’t have that good “blues” fell to them.  I’m pretty sure at one point I scrapped the whole list and started over with a blank slate.

I also didn’t want to stick with just “the classics, as much as I might like them.  I was playing the last set of the night and, it was almost a sure bet that a lot of those would have already played.  As a result, I ended up with a really modern playlist, with a vast majority of my songs being post-2000.  I included a song from Adele, some Maroon 5 and surprisingly, I even had Enrique Iglasias on my list.  I also had Nora Jones and Florence + The Machine on there as well as my current obsession, Ruthie Foster’s “Death Came A-Knockin'”.

So, now the question I want to ask is: what makes a good DJ set?  What is some advice from you more seasoned DJs out there?  What songs do you like to dance to?

Now that the first big plunge is out of the way, I really enjoyed the DJing experience.  It’s fun to test-dance new music.  I’d like to DJ a Lindy set sometime soon.

 

Death Came A\’Knockin\’- Ruthie Foster

Idlewild Blues- OutKast

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