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 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!