When a Cactus Swings Out

Cactus worshipping

Just another party at Desert Stomp
Credit: Andrew Miller

I was lucky enough to be at the first ever Lindy Hop festival that took place in the middle of a desert – Desert Stomp, and it was right here in Israel!

A 3 hour drive through towns that turned into hills of sand spotted with tin-roofed shacks, goats and camels led us to an eco-village by the name of Adama. It was a spacious venue with plenty of chill out spots and a laid back vibe.

The majority of the attendees were Israelis from our local scene, but it was different seeing everyone in this setting. It was a festive ambiance and it felt like we were somewhere abroad and just happened to run into each other.

There were wonderful teachers at the event, each having their own main element they were teaching. Ksenia Parhatskaya taught solo and really made us sweat. Her fancy footwork does not come as easy to us mere mortals, but she drilled each movement until we got it. It was quite the challenge, but that’s why we got so much out of it.  In their entertaining classes, Ali and Katja focused on social dancing and showed us new ways to think about our connection. They taught us fun and cool exercises using those ideas, which we later tried out on the dance floor. Patrick and Natasha taught us about show and performance dancing, which was a new experience for a lot of us. In their upbeat lessons, they had us doing flashy moves made to wow audiences. A bonus of Desert Stomp was the scheduled practice time after each class. This provided us the opportunity to get  more personal feedback from the instructors about what was learned in class. There were also 3 great taster classes – Chris Härm with boogie blues, Roxy Hernandez from The Revelettes with gogo dancing and Eiki Gudmundsson, who co-runs lindyhopmoves.com, with hat tricks.

The instructors are really happy about something

The instructors are really happy/scared about something
Credit: Andrew Miller

After being in classes all day, there were, of course, the parties. On Friday night there was a vintage themed party and it was also the night of the competitions. I took part in both the Jack & Jill and the solo jazz comps. I’ll admit, doing improvised solo in front of an audience still freaks me out. I decided to do it anyway, as a way to face that fear and get more experience. I’m a big believer of doing scary things for the sake of getting through them. It makes you more confident that you’re able to do such things and makes the next times a bit easier.

I remember not that long ago that competing in a Jack & Jill made me just as nervous. I wanted it to be behind me so that the nauseous feeling would go away. Since then, I’ve participated in a few more and I’ve also worked a lot on my Lindy. This time, I was more relaxed and was able to concentrate on enjoying the dances with my Jacks rather than focusing on the fact that people were watching and judging me. Hopefully I’ll also feel better about solo comps next time.

Let me point out that I do not like competitions of any kind. I don’t like the feeling of having to prove that I’m better than other people. I also don’t like comparing myself to others because it often has the effect of making me feel not too good about myself.

In order to not feel awful about competitions, I’ve stopped thinking about it as competing against other dancers, and instead started seeing it as competing against myself. I try to do the best I can and better than I did the last time. That way, it almost doesn’t matter what the judges decide. Hey, if they happen to like what I did, I’m not gonna lie, it’s a super awesome feeling. But if they don’t, I’m honestly fine with it, as long as I know I gave it my all.

Competitions

Shake it!
Credit: Andrew Miller

Since Friday was somewhat of a stressful night for those of us who competed, Saturday’s party was an opportunity to let loose. As it usually goes at festivals, the last night was the craziest and the most fun. The theme was Arabian nights and everybody got dressed up in appropriate costume, which gave people a chance to get creative. There were turbans fashioned out of towels, T-shirts converted into Aladdin style vests and eye shadow everywhere.

I was having a pretty nerve-wracking week up until the weekend, but 3 days full of dancing, friends and dressing up helped me forget about it all and sent me back to the real world recharged. Desert Stomp 2013 was an incredible experience. Knowing the organizers, I have a feeling that 2014 will somehow manage to top it. Can’t wait!

Were you also at Desert Stomp? What was your favorite part?

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2 thoughts on “When a Cactus Swings Out

  1. I love coming to Israel— the dance events are fantastic! Nice essay, good points. It was my pleasure to take photos at Desert Stomp, and I look forward to returning for more fun and hard work

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