It’s been a while since I got home from Swing Castle Camp, and I’m still mildly disappointed when meal time comes around and there’s no elaborate buffet awaiting me. I also tried to get people to start addressing me as “her majesty” when I got back, thinking that might help me ease back in to real life. It didn’t take hold as I would have liked.
As you can probably tell, I was thoroughly spoiled at the castle. I’d love to tell you all about it, although I’m a bit late with this post. It’s too good of a story to pass up on.
I wrote excitedly about the camp before going, but it managed to exceed my already high expectations. Aside from the regular reasons I was looking forward to this trip was, honestly, a chance to get away from what was happening in Israel. All summer long, we were surrounded by horrible news, violence and sirens. By the end of August things had mostly calmed down, but the aftermath was still felt everywhere. I was fortunate enough to have the possibility to take a break and leave the country for a bit.*
Living with a constant reminder that life as you know it could end at any time can make you react in a number of ways (nothing scientific here, just me and my psych education). A few of them are denial, depression/apathy, and living like there’s no tomorrow. I usually tend to go the typical Israeli “everything’s fine”-denial route. But under this more extreme scenario, I found myself adopting the latter attitude, granting myself permission to do whatever the hell I felt like in the moment. Things like going out to see a band instead of working on any of the several papers I had to turn in didn’t garner any second thoughts. If going out was what I felt like doing, that’s exactly what I did, and future consequences didn’t matter.
Yes, how very wild of me, I know. I didn’t quite start snorting cocaine and jumping off buildings, but for me it counts as reckless behavior.
As it goes, Swing Castle Camp had an atmosphere that encouraged the same sentiment. Case in point, the about section on the website ends with “Allow yourself everything”. This saying was also represented in a Russian poster that hung above the bar, hovering over everything we did. A Russian speaking friend offered a more straight forward translation: “Do whatever the **** you want”. Hedonism was certainly a characteristic of the camp, and it suited me just fine.
First of all, can we please talk about how magnificent this place is? It’s not just some mansion with a ballroom; but a spooky, charmingly slightly rundown, 100 roomed, full of secret passageways, straight up 19th century castle. You could walk around the place for a whole day and still manage to discover something new.
Meals were served 3 times a day, which consisted of delicious food we could eat on the sunny terrace or in the dining hall. As a vegetarian, I always had enough variety, and they even offered vegan options. The castle is situated in a sleepy German town surrounded by open fields, which provided for nice walks if you ever needed to get away for a bit.
I took this camp as a vacation and so only signed up for a party pass. I wanted to be able to rest and dance however late I wanted to without worrying about energy for classes. I volunteered at the camp to cut down on expenses, which usually meant manning the bar. I got to work with a lovely group and it was fun making people happy by providing them with their much-needed caffeine and alcohol. On occasion I had to be on duty during parties, but I would just keep dancing behind the counter. Luckily for me, the clientele was pretty understanding.
When I was done with my work during the day I would sunbathe by the outdoor pool, use the sauna, read, watch classes, practice with friends or just hang out with whoever was around. Since the days were so laid back, I had plenty of energy to dance by the time the parties started. One of the best things about the camp was the live music that was always wafting in the hallways. Many of the instructors and participants were musicians and so there were often impromptu jams springing up in addition to them playing at the parties. It started to feel like a regular occurrence, but that didn’t matter. Dancing with people from all over the world to quality live music in a chandeliered (I’ve decided that should be a word) ballroom, with everyone dressed up in vintage, is an experience I was utterly grateful for, every single night.
Here is a sample from the haunted castle theme night:
Of course I would have loved to take classes too. There was so much talent under that roof. Don’t take it from me though, watch this:
You’ll also want to watch the solo jazz duo tearing it up:
With this many teachers, it’s hard to believe the camp itself managed to stay so small. I loved that we had this intimate feeling where you got to know everyone at the camp and live, eat and dance together for a week.
Going off to this magical parallel universe where I didn’t have to think about anything other than dance, music, friends and fun is just what I needed to recharge. Nowadays I’m back to being a responsible grown up again. At least until next Castle Camp.
*Note: Politics are not the subject of this post or this blog. I realize that the thought of carrying on with “normal” life while a war is waging can seem incomprehensible, but if at all possible, it can sometimes be the only way to stay sane. I also realize that there are people who did not have the possibility to do this, a fact that pains me deeply and is one of the many reasons why these situations are so heart wrenching. That being said, the recent events are beyond the scope of this post and brought for context purposes.