Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reflections on Camp Jitterbug 2011

Camp Jitterbug is one of the biggest Lindy Hop events on the West Coast and is a real great time! It's a great opportunity to meet and dance with Lindy Hoppers from all over. With three days of workshops and four nights of social dancing, Camp Jitterbug is an unforgettable experience.

This year was my second Camp Jitterbug. My weekend started early Thursday afternoon since I came up with another follow for the Pre-Camp Jitterbug dance at the Russian Center with live music by Glenn Crytzer and the Syncopaters. We arrived in Seattle at 2pm and since neither of us had seen any of Seattle other than the dance venues wandered over to the Pike Place Market. The highlight of the afternoon was finding a street band playing Jazz music and swinging out on the sidewalk. (Tip: Trying to swing out while wearing a purse works very poorly, two purses just makes it silly!)

The Pre-Camp Jitterbug dance was a nice way to start the weekend. The Russian Center was a neat venue and was a great size for the number of dancers that were there. The band was great and it was fun to catch up with other Lindy Hoppers as they came into town. The social dancing was nice and relaxed since everyone knew that they had the entire weekend ahead of them to dance together.

Camp Jitterbug is kicked off by a spectacular showcase of talent in the Jump Session Show at Benaroya Hall. This year's Jump Session Show was truly amazing! The theme was a tour of swing dancing through the ages with performances that showcased the influential dances and the development of Lindy Hop as we know it. The show culminated in the introduction of surprise guest Norma Millers and a recreation of Hellzapoppin'.

I recommend starting at 2:00.

The Jump Session show was super amazing and left everyone energized and excited to dance.

The Friday night dance was also at Benaroya Hall on the stage and on a dance floor set-up on the foyer. It was a nice set-up for the Jack and Jill Prelims since there was seating to watch the competition and they kept music playing in the foyer for social dancing. It was a less pleasant venue for social dancing since the dance floors were in separate rooms and the dance floor in the foyer was both sticky and set-up on concrete.

Saturday morning started bright and early with track auditions for Masters, Advanced Plus and Advanced. Since this year was my first time auditioning, I played it safe and went for the Advanced track. Auditions were pretty simple: for Masters and Advanced Plus- social dance until you are given a wristband for your track, for advanced- keep dancing and if you are still on the floor when the judges are done pulling out dancers who belong in a lower level, congratulations!

Thoughts on Workshops and Instructors:
Kevin St Laurent and Jo Hoffberg - Advanced Lindy Basics
I thought that their teaching style was fun and easy to follow and had some valuable technique points about balance and distinct weight changes but it was basically an hour of walking. I admire them as dancers but this was not the best kick off of classes.

Max Pitruzzella and Annie Trudeau - Adding Contrast
I really admire Max and Annie as dancers but teaching is not their strong point. The content of the class was excellent and a reasonable challenge but they could have broken down the steps more. As an instructor, Max is unfocused and was just as likely to show off a complicated footwork variation as the actual steps he was supposed to be teaching. There's a time and a place to showoff and in place of demonstrating a specific move is not it.

Peter Strom and Naomi Uyama- His and Hers Styling
Peter and Naomi had a strong and clear teaching style. I appreciated that they took the time to breakdown the move carefully and followed that up with techniques of leading and following that made the styling options work even better.

Skye Humphries and Frida Segerdahl- Fast and Loose
This was an excellent class for me because fast dancing is something that I've been working on in my dancing. The classwork itself was pretty basic but it made up for it in speed. It was pretty interesting how Skye and Frida used basic solo Charleston moves to get us to use the techniques on our own before trying to dance with a partner. I wasn't thrilled with the scheduling that put a fast lindy class at the end of the day when everyone was tired but we all survived the experience.

Juan Villafane and Sharon Davis- Challenging Routine
I was really impressed by Juan and Sharon's teaching. They were able to breakdown the solo moves needed for the routine they were teaching clearly and were full of positive energy. There were some really neat swing out variations including the "Killer Diller Swingout".

Pontus Persson and Frida Borg- Charleston Variations
I was really excited for this class since a large percentage of the music in Portland right now has a strong Charleston beat and all that is being taught is the Charleston basics. I wasn't disappointed at all. I already knew some of what they taught but there was enough other material to add to my repertoire. Pontus and Frida are really approachable as instructors and are really good about giving individual feedback.

Andy Reid and Nina Gilkenson- Tension and Release
This class was conceptually one of the more challenging ones for me this weekend. I found it to be very helpful and a neat way to add more excitement to the dance even leading "just a swing out". I really enjoyed learning from Andy and Nina and I will probably never forget Nina's cookie thief analogy.

Chester Whitmore and Sing Lim
This class consisted of a routine based on using jazz steps in partnered dancing. It was a fun class but the focus was on the choreography instead of making the moves something that could be lead and followed.

Juan and Sharon - Improvisation
This class was so much about ways to improvise as it was about the phrasing in the music and how and when to get the most impact out of the improvisation. They strongly emphasized learning jazz steps as a way to improve dancing in general and improvisation specifically and finding what works for you and developing your own style.

Andrew Thigpen and Karen Turman- Lindy Hop Fun
I watched most of this class since the variations they were teaching had lots of jumping involved and I wanted to protect my ankle. However, it was a totally awesome class to watch. Who doesn't like air swivels? The final thing they taught was a move that required more than just one couple. The result was essentially a swing out that catapulted across the floor. Way fun but not necessarily very useful on the social dance floor, though there are certainly possibilities related to steal dances for the general technique.

Other Thoughts:
  • I still dislike the main dance venue, the Temple de Hirsch: Sticky Floor, no air movement and very warm.
  • The new late night venue wasn't as good as the Washington Dance Club was last year.
  • The Couples Lindy Finals were mind-blowingly awesome!
  • This was the second time in a row that I missed the Solo Charleston Competition due to being too tired/sick. (I'm going to be really mad if I miss it again next year!)
  • Having eight Lindy Hoppers in a hotel room is way cheaper and a great way to get to know dancers from your local scene
  • Hanging out in the hot tub is a great way to get to know the instructors.
  • Punk Rockers do not make good pool/hot tub buddies.
  • If you can, stay for the soul party and the after party Karaoke at Rickshaw's. Nothing is as fun as 40-50 drinking Lindy Hoppers singing at the top of their lungs (whether they know the song or not).
  • Spell Check gets really cranky if you don't capitalize Lindy Hoppers.
  • I should not try to write coherent blog posts before I catch up on sleep after a weekend of intense Lindy Hop.

No comments:

Post a Comment