Shortnin’ Bread – The Holy Lindy Land Sisters

A cabaret routine by the Holy Lindy Land sisters: Shirley Osher, Lilaj Feiguin, Yana Meystelman and Maya Shapira. Performed at the Glam Jam Showcase Ball, choreographed by Shirley Osher and Lilaj Feiguin. Music by the Andrews Sisters – Shortnin’ Bread.

For more performances by teachers and students of Holy Lindy Land, check out Holy Lindy Land’s YouTube channel.

Swing Castle Camp – Dance Like Royalty!

When Desert Stomp was over, I realized I didn’t have any dance events lined up to look forward to. Since I love the feeling of anticipation that leads up to going to a festival, I wanted to plan my next trip as soon as possible.

While looking up events, I came across Swing Castle Camp. First thing I thought was: “It’s in A CASTLE? Does that mean I get to dress up as a princess?!!” Fast forward through a montage of me trying on my entire closet with a tiara on, and I sat down to find out more.

Swing dancing black and white

Photo by: Teresa Marenzi & Daniel Bachler, Iconoclash Photography

Swing Castle Camp was founded following the success of Balboa Castle Camp. Peter Loggins convinced the camp’s founders to prolong the castle experience for another week . In his words: “To work with students for a whole week, in a beat up old German Castle. This is the weirdest, coolest, craziest thing you could ever attend, that focuses on old Jazz and Swing era dances.”

Being set in the uber-cool location of Beesenstedt Castle outside of Berlin between September 1-8, Swing Castle Camp has a special feeling to it. It’s nothing like staying at an ordinary hotel for an event. You eat, sleep and dance in an exquisite 19th century setting. Being a week-long event also sets it apart. Unlike a weekend festival where you hardly have time to get to know your fellow dancers, here you have time to really make new friends and dance with everyone. The intimate and relaxed feeling is also thanks to the fact that the camp is kept small to fit the space in the castle.

castle

Photo by tychopf

The camp offers 7 full days of classes in many swing era dances, as the organizers feel that people should have possibilities to dance differently and not limit themselves to one dance. Classes will include Lindy Hop, Peabody, Charleston, Foxtrot, St. Louis Shag, Carolina Shag and Blues. There is also a track dedicated to Solo Jazz, where classes are limited to 12 people to keep lessons cozy and have more personal feedback.

Who will be teaching these classes? Well, let me tell you. 12  international instructors are coming to the castle from all corners of the world: Pamela Gaizutyte, Andy Reid, Moe Sakan, Vincenzo Fesi, Peter Loggins, Katja Hrastar, Daniel Larsson, Rikard Ekstrand, Mindaugas Bikauskas, Giedre Paplaityte, Chris Härm and Jessica Miltenberger. That’s one impressive list right there!

Classes only start at noon to allow for the party atmosphere to go till morning. You can stay up till the end and not worry about missing classes! Befit to such a classy event, there will be live music every night including Norbert Susemihl and the Swing Out All Stars. I recently had the pleasure of dancing to a band led by Susemihl in New Orleans and I’m thrilled to get another chance. What’s more, many of the teachers are also musicians and will be playing as well.

Balboa Castle Camp

Photo by: Teresa Marenzi & Daniel Bachler, Iconoclash Photography

Speaking of the parties, I’ve heard rumors of a (cheap!) 24  hour bar with beer from a local brewery on tap. Simon the bartender wasn’t satisfied with the regular selection of beers, so he went on a tour of the region to find the very best.  If you need a rest from dancing and drinking, there’s also an outdoor pool and 24 hour sauna. This is my kind of castle!

If you still need more excitement, you can take part in any of the Swing Castle Championships competitions such as Jack & Jill, Solo Jazz, group battle and best appearance. Not only that, the last 2 nights will be extra special. The Friday night party will have a haunted castle theme with a chance to wear your best scary costume, and Saturday will be a black tie night. So make sure to bring your fanciest attire!

I’m always happy to know about discounts, so I thought you’d like to know that if you register in a group of 5 people from your scene, each person will receive a €100 discount. In addition, the Solo Jazz track has the early bird price extended, meaning it is also €100 less.

I’m super excited about going to the first ever Swing Castle Camp and plan on dancing my tiara off! Let me know if you’re coming too and we’ll plan for a dance and a drink together!

Swing Castle Camp website

Swing Castle Camp Facebook page

Swing Castle Camp 2014 Facebook event

September 1-8, 2014

Beesenstedt Castle, Germany

 

 

Please Help Mabel Lee!

One of the reasons I love being a part of the Lindy Hop community is that it is exactly that – a community. There are over 40,000 of us spread out all over the world (according to a recent informal poll by Juan Villafañe), yet we still manage to keep a sense of closeness. People who have never met feel connected though a shared love for Lindy Hop and will help each other out when possible. We see this all the time in acts such as offering a place to stay for a visiting dancer and helping them find local places to dance.

But what I think really makes us special as a community, is that we come through for other members even when it’s non-dance related. One example is the case of tap dancer, Ludovico Hombravella Suarez. He was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and needed help with living expenses for the time he is expected to go through chemotherapy. Friends of his formed an Indiegogo campaign, which raised double of the €4,000 goal in just a couple of days.

Today there is another opportunity to help an important member of our community. At 92, Mabel Lee is one of the living legends that contributed to the jazz dance world that we all love.

She just recently preformed at the famous Apollo theater in New York for Frankie 100 and is now in Seoul, South Korea. She traveled there to teach, and has broken her hip and shoulder. According to posts by Sharon Davis and Pamela Gaizutyte, she cannot fly home to the states until she undergoes surgery. For this to happen, her medical bills must be paid upfront, which may be as much as $30,000. The South Korean dancers have used all the funds from their event to get her medical treatment thus far, but more is still needed.

Any amount will help. Whether you can give the equivalent you would pay for a weekly social dance, a class or a weekend event, please do what you can. I’m sure that between all of us, we can come through for this woman who has already given so much to us.

For donations, please send funds by PayPal to Jandi Kim at lovelyjandi@gmail.com.

Please help spread the word, also through the Facebook event.

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UPDATE: Mable Lee is now safely back home in the U.S after receiving treatment in Korea and follow up treatment in New York. Thanks to everyone who chipped in to make this happen! We truly have a wonderful community.

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Wanted: Camel Walkers

April has been quite the month for me, I got to visit and dance in New Orleans then go to Desert Stomp in The Israeli desert when I got home. This much fun in such a short time feels like I’m getting away with something!

There’s so much to share about Desert Stomp that I don’t know where to start. Returning to the Adama center, where last year’s festival was held, set a familiar and cozy tone right from the start. It’s a small peaceful place which had everything we needed – we would eat, sleep, dance and party all right there. No need to worry about how to get back after a party.

We had an exciting group of teachers this year – our beloved  Ali & Katja, who we never let leave Israel for too long, champions William & Maeva, who were full of pep and laughs, and Ninjammer Max Pitruzzella, who schooled us in solo jazz. We had great taster teachers as well – Audun Kveberg & Kris Blindert and Cat Foley.

You know what? I’ll just let this teacher introduction video do the talking for me:

Who’s playing that tasty music in the video, you might ask. None other than The Facepalmers, a band who came all the way from Russia to play at 3 nights of parties at Desert Stomp. The best part is – each one of the band members are also killer dancers. Yes, we get spoiled in the desert. Even the event’s photographer, Alexandre – Light eX Machina dances as awesome as he photographs. And all these videos? Filmed and edited by our world traveling Israeli dancer Mikey Ariel. Only multi talented people here!

With so many great dancers around, the competitions were pure entertainment to watch. The solo finals made me laugh so hard, check it out:

And what’s a festival without a Jack & Jill?

The last night’s party had a Wild West theme, so everyone was dressed up as sheriffs, chiefs, bandits and saloon ladies. There was even a cactus and a road runner. This led to silly photo ops, all of which you can see on Light eX Machina’s site.

We got a rest from posing and dancing to watch a few routines put together by the teachers. The SwingStep team had a delightful moustached group number:

Ali and Katja’s fun choreography:

William and Maeva added some Wild West into their routine:

Max also performed with his intermediate-advanced group and his advanced group, with routines we learned during the workshops.

My teammates from Holy Lindy Land -Sharon, Yana and Lilaj and I also showed a new routine we’ve been working on. It was a lot of fun to create and perform it together, and next I’m going to teach it to our students who will also perform it.

A little bird already told me what’s in store for Desert Stomp 2015, and believe me – if you thought this year was crazy, you better get ready for next April!

When I Die, I Hope I Go to New Orleans

I have a memory of my parents bringing back Mardi Gras beads from a trip when I was a kid, and I’ve had this inexplicable pull to New Orleans ever since. I didn’t know anything about the place, but it always sounded magical to me. The closest I’ve ever gotten till recently was Disney Land’s French Quarter.

Since I’ve started swing dancing, I’ve had even more reason to go. Being the birth place of jazz music, it continues to attract flocks of musicians who you can hear playing in bars any given day of the week. I found a reason to visit for the Fleur de Lindy exchange. I was so excited to go that I was emailing the organizers months before, asking about registration and housing.

The French Market stage at the French Quarter Festival Photo by Derek  Bridges

The French Market stage at the French Quarter Festival
Photo by Derek Bridges

The exchange takes place alongside the French Quarter Festival, a 4 day long free music festival in New Orleans’ historical French quarter. With over 20 stages, it was dizzying trying to decide what to see. I have to say, it hardly mattered. You might plan on seeing a certain band but be pulled aside by the sounds of another on the way.

For example, one of my favorite moments of the festival was wandering around with a couple of new friends and coming across a busking bluegrass jazz band playing on a corner and dancing to their music. They asked us to stay for another song and played “Jitterbug Boogie” for us. We helped them make a few extra dollars and I found out I like bluegrass.

After being at the festival all day, Fleur de Lindy provided  parties with live bands every night. And not just any bands – I’m talking Tuba Skinny, Aurora Nealand & The Royal Roses, Norbert Susemihl’s New Orleans All Stars, Smoking Time Jazz Club, and Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns. I mean, DAMN. I still can’t believe I got to dance right up in front of them all playing live. Dancing to a live band where you can feel them playing and see them react to what’s going on on the dancefloor is one of the most enjoyable experiences there is as a Lindy Hopper.

Other than the spectacular music, there were so many fun dancers I got to meet. New Orleans is such a freindly and welcoming city, that meeting new people is easy as pie. I even got to celebrate Passover with locals I had just met, NOLA style , which meant listening to brass band music while sipping our Maneschevitz. As if the people weren’t enough, it’s also such a beautiful town, I’d be happy to just wander the streets at a quieter time for a day.

I’m so happy I was able to make it to Fleur de Lindy, I’m pretty sure I didn’t stop smiling for 4 days straight. I was so excited to be there, I could hardly get any sleep. I’d wake up before the alarm, as if my body was saying “How are you wasting time on sleep? Do you realize where you are?!”. And believe me, I am far from being a morning bird.

Since the event was an exchange and didn’t have workshops or competitions, everyone was just there to social dance and have a good time. For me, I actually feel that I learn the most from social dancing with new people than anything else. Going to a dance exchange also gives you the opportunity to see the sights outside of event venues. If you’re going to travel for an event, you might as well get to see the place you’re visiting!

Don’t pass up on visiting New Orleans and Fleur de Lindy at least once. It’ll be one of those things that you’ll look back on one day and cherish the memories.

I don’t know what took me so long, New Orleans. We’ll meet again, there’s no doubt in my heart.

Have you been to NOLA? Please tell me your favorite thing to do there so I can try it next time!

 

Feelin’ Blues 2014

I hope I never stop appreciating how awesome it is that as social dancers, we can go to some random country and spend a whole weekend studying dance, partying, taking part in international competitions and meeting new friends from all over the world. I mean, who’s going to top that answer to “how was your weekend?” at the office?

It’s been a few months since I was at such an event, so I was looking forward to the Tel Aviv based Feelin’ Blues festival.  I couldn’t wait for those few days and nights that would leave me with aching muscles and blistered feet.

Saturday Night Party Photo by Andrew Miller Dance Photography

Saturday Night Party
Photo by Andrew Miller

When a solo blues track was offered, I knew straight away that I wanted to try it. One of the reasons was that for the past year or so I’ve been taking different types of non-partnered dance classes and I’ve noticed how they’ve  influenced my partnered dancing. For example, I think modern and contemporary dance helped with being “in the moment” while dancing and by opening my mind to different ideas about movement. Improvisation classes, which many times will be without music, ironically helped me to be more aware of music and how to react to it, as well as develop my personal style of movement. With solo blues, I’d get to learn how to dance on my own to music I’d normally dance with a partner, so it would be able to contribute in a more direct way than the other dances.

The third edition of the international festival brought classes from 10 instructors over 3 full days of workshops: Joe Demers & Mike Legenthal, Chris Mayer & Amanda Gruhl, Adamo Ciarallo & Vicci Moore, Brenda Russell, Ksenia Parkhatskaya and Ron Dobrovinsky & Sharon Guzman. I wish I could have gone to all of their classes!

After spending all day trying to roll my knees and chest in opposite directions  simultaneously without looking at Ksenia like a confused puppy, it was great to go to the parties and have fun with partnered dancing. Each night took us to a new venue and a different atmosphere. Saturday night was a highlight with live music where you could tell the band was having just as much fun as the dancers, if not more. I’m sure it’s not often that they get to play to such an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd as the one they had last week.

Sunday night was marked by the nerves and excitement of competitions. This year, in addition to Jack & Jills and solo comps, there was a new division – showcase. Five different choreographies were performed, each with its own distinct character.

First place went to the charming Neomi Castell Colomé:

You can see the other showcases through these links: Noy Bieber Barnea, Taras Melnyk & Vitalia Brukhanska, Vivien Nivesse & Cassiope Sydoriak and Svetlana Kogan & Dmitrii Muravev.

Next up was the solo blues finals. I had been quite nervous since hearing that I was going to be a part of it since I’d never been in solo finals of any kind before. But when the time came, I was surprised to see that my heart was staying neatly in my ribcage and my dinner wasn’t trying to come back for an encore. I don’t know if you can tell, but on the inside I was having fun ;)

Of course there can’t be a festival without a Jack & Jill or two. This year had an open Jack & Jill as well as an advanced Jack & Jill.

I was honored to participate in the J&J finals as well, and was unexpectedly more nervous than in the solo comp. Nonetheless, I didn’t make my partner, Laura trip or anything! 

Full placement results for all the competitions can be found here. Oh, and also – bonus link for whoever was here for the first Feelin’ Blues in 2012.

And now, I shall leave you with an original first world problems blues ditty because I’m writing this in the middle of the night and I’m getting silly.

Woke up this mornin’/ can’t believe what I see

The wifi ain’t workin’/ and neither is the 3G!

Oh, I got the blues/ I said, I got the blues so bad.

 
 My baby gone left me/ nothin’ but milk in the fridge
 Yeah, that’s all he left me/ don’t he know that I’m vegan?
Oh, I got the blues/ I said, I got the blues so bad.
 

I encourage writing your own verse in the comments.

See you at Feelin’ Blues 2015! It’s going to be hard to top, but you just know it’s going to happen.

My Hop Across the Atlantic


I’ve been wanting to publish this post for a couple of weeks, but I got caught up in the rest of my life since I got back from a visit to the U.S. I was there to visit family, but managed to pencil in quite a bit of dancing along the way.

Getting to dance with and meet a whole lot of new people was just what I needed on the way out of a major dance slump. In fact, one of my favorite things to do is to dance in new scenes when I travel.  It doesn’t even have to be at an event, social dancing with new people is the important part. I always feel an effect it leaves on my dancing. It could be a styling I pick up, a new variation, a new fashion, even a new way to ask someone to dance. It’s usually a subconscious effect that I don’t even notice till I go back to my scene. I love having these little influences from all over the world that join together to become something that’s my own.

Jazz Age Lawn Party

New York’s Jazz Age Lawn Party – vintage swimsuit show
Credit: Jane Kratochvil - www.janekratochvil.com

First up was good old New York City. It’s always a treat visiting the birthplace of Lindy hop, with live music or special events happening practically every night. I got to go to the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island, sip a Bee’s Knees cocktail out of a teacup at a speakeasy to the sounds of Svetlana and the Delancey Five, watch over Gordon Webster’s shoulder as he was playing at Mona’s and dance with the ILHC-bound crowd to Gordon’s Grand Street Stompers in Hipsterville (a.k.a Williamsburg).

After that, I was part of the migration of Lindy hoppers to D.C. for the International Lindy Hop Championships. It was both humbling and inspiring watching the competitions and performances up close and personal, and the social dancing was probably the best I’ve had across an event. Even though I tend to prefer events with more dancing than watching, I’d definitely recommend going to a big competition event like ILHC at least once since it’s a special experience. Of course if you’re really into competing, you shouldn’t miss it. For some highlights and sound advice on expectations at dance events, watch this vlog post by Mikey Pedroza. Israelis – see if you can spot a familiar face in the video ;)

Max & Annie, together again! Copyright Andrew Fritz - www.fritztech.com

Max & Annie, together again!
Copyright Andrew Fritz – www.fritztech.com

The next weekend I kept travelling south and went to The Lindustrial Revolution in Charlottesville, VA. It was refreshing visiting a scene that was completely new to me. I signed up for it not knowing a single person who’d be there and left with a bunch of new friends.

I’m always excited to learn new things at workshops when I can, and this event had good ones. We had Michael and Jaya and Mike and Laura who all had us working hard to earn our social dancing nights. Another thing I learned thanks to the event is what steampunk is, since there was a themed dance night and costume competition. Apparently, pairing Victorian fashion with industrial inspired accessories is a thing.

I took part in the Jack & Jill, with the prelims being at the first party of the event. Like I said before, I didn’t know anyone there and no one knew me. No joke, when my name got called the only ones cheering for me were crickets. But that was actually one of the best things about the experience for me, as it made practically pressure free. I was just there to have fun and dance with new people.

I made it to finals (yay!), and though I was a tad nervous this time, I managed to not fall on my face during spotlights. We didn’t place, but like I’ve written about before, that’s not what mattered. I felt pretty good after the competition, because I could feel the difference from the last couple of Jack & Jills I’ve taken part in. It was like all those little influences from the past few weeks of dancing in new places had began to settle in and become a part of my dancing. I had fun and I gave it the best I could under pressure, which felt significantly better than past experiences. In the competition against myself, I had won. (I know, I know – cue gagging sound effects…)

Anyway, what I can take out of all this is, if you have the opportunity to go dancing in new places – do it! You’ll meet new friends, discover new aspects of the dance and improve your dancing. Even if it’s not some big event. When travelling to a new city, find out ahead of time it they have swing dancing, and plan to go. Especially if you don’t know anyone there.

Have you had the chance to dance in a far away scene? How, if at all, do you feel it improved your dancing? Feed the comment box!