Category Archives: People, Places and Events

I Went Salsa Dancing?

Last Friday I went to my first social Salsa dance. For those who’ve never ventured into a social dance of a different dance besides Lindy hop, everything is different. The vibe, the etiquette, the typical age and background of the dancers. Our Lindy hop scene is very young, vibrant, and inexperienced. People usually come dressed pretty casually, there’s no alcohol at our events (I know, surprised?) and the scene is really small. The salsa scene in Albuquerque seems more geared towards young professionals, who dress like they’re going out to a nightclub, and alcohol is indeed, in hand.

Let me actually back up a bit. I don’t really know about other cities, but in Albuquerque, salsa is THE partner dance to know here. Everyone wants to learn it, and honestly, who doesn’t? It’s energetic, it’s sexy, and it’s a huge part of the culture and heritage here.

Personally, I’ve never been super interested in learning salsa. I mean, I learned the basic and a basic turn in a PE elective dance class my freshman year of college, but I didn’t really learn it. And it wasn’t the dancing itself that drew me to going on Friday, either. It was to analyze the dance scene.

The salsa instructor who rents Rhythm regularly has begun a bimonthly social salsa dance, but so far, it’s totally been tanking. He and I sat down last Friday afternoon to talk about how to make the dance more successful. He’s a pretty introverted kind of guy, really soft spoken and tends to be pretty private, so advertising and promoting isn’t really his thing. He has, however, ordered some flyers and posters to be made to advertise the dance more. But I promised him that I’d help him get more people to his dance. So I did some investigating.

He told me that the hardest thing about the salsa dance scene is that there’s no cohesion amongst the instructors and organizers of the scene to create a single working unit. People talk crap about one another, they don’t support other organizers’ dances and don’t care about bringing new dancers into the scene. He said he hates the elitism that goes on in the scene, especially because no one isn’t even that good at dancing. So, I had to go see for myself.

So Dani Easley and I stroll to downtown to a hotel where the dance is being held. It was super night clubby, with crazy colored lights around the room, a full bar, and lounging furniture everywhere. There were a few people dancing at the time, but no one asked us to dance. So we just talked and listened to the band. And we sat there. And sat there. And then, we finally sat some more. And as we were sitting there and more people were showing up and dancing, I realized that what the salsa instructor said was showing to be true. Even though there were 40 people on the dance floor, no one danced with more than two or three other people. It seemed like everyone had their own clique that they danced with. And we still just sat there. It wasn’t until we saw a fellow lindy hopper there, who apparently does salsa too (and is GREAT at it! Who knew, Luigi?) did we even get asked to dance. And once people finally saw that we could dance, they began to ask us to dance.

I have to say, I’m really grateful that Lindy hop was my first dance. It made figuring out salsa on Friday so easy! It’s just step step step step. Plus, the fact that I don’t know anything about salsa made it easy to just have fun. Now, I’m not saying I’m an expert, especially when I was nearly tripping over myself dancing in heels (there’s a reason why lindy hoppers NEVER see me dancing in heels. It’s embarassing.), but it was so easy to catch on to. The connection is so much easier to understand, and half the time you’re not even connected to your partner.

However, the salsa teacher was right. The skill level wasn’t really too high overall, though I think that’s probably pretty typical of any dance scene. We still had a good time though.

The best part of the night, by far, was the band. They killed it. They totally KILLED it!!! They were so amazing. And the most interesting part about the music (which, for you salsa enthusiasts out there, was Cuban music) was that it was so similar to swing music. It was so complex, and there were so many different levels to each song that you could spend nearly an entire sound just listening to each instrument’s rhythm or melody before you could even hear the entire picture. Plus, some of those band members were pretty good looking. Yum.

I did have one “incident”, shall we call it, during my last dance of the night. This guy came up to me and asked me to dance, and he just was one of those people who I looked at and thought “I bet he’s super good”. First of all, I had to sow my arm back on after the dance because he was so rough with it, which is nothing I haven’t experienced before, so that was fine, but it was the second of all that left me in shock. He led me into a dip, normal, but then he pulled on my hair. I’ll say that again. He pulled on my hair. Like a yank. On my ponytail. You know, like on my head.

I was in so much shock that this had happened that I just, kept on dancing. Looking back, the only thing I feel like he could’ve possibly been doing is trying to pull my hair tie out of my hair so I could shake it out all sexy during the dip, but that wasn’t even close to what happened. And when it happened I was thinking, “Did you just pull my hair? Because I felt a pull. Did you pull it?”

Is this normal? I’ve never experienced anything close to that in Lindy hop. I’ve had someone compliment my hair before, but I don’t think that’s really the same thing.

So, I learned some interesting things about the salsa scene:

1. It seemed a lot of people were there to dance sexy with others, and not so much for the dance itself. There was a lot of hair tossing, legs wrapping around guys bodies and other general ridiculosity.

2. Despite how awesome I thought the band was, they seemed like a non sequitor to most people. There was little, if any, cheering for the band.

3. For it being a social dance, it wasn’t very social. People did not mingle.

4. I only saw a few really advanced dancers there, so either the advanced dancers weren’t out that night (my salsa instructor works Friday evenings so he wasn’t there), or there aren’t any advanced dancers.

5. All of the above seem like symptoms of a larger problem: an apathetic and a slowly dying scene.

It was definitely interesting to see how another dance scene in Albuquerque functions and all the quirks it has. More than anything, it looks as if there’s a lack of general cohesiveness in the scene, either amongst the leaders and organizers or by the regular dancers. I don’t know why that is or what the best way is to change that, but if my salsa instructor could somehow meet up with the other major salsa instructors and organizers around town and figure out a way to work together, it seems that it would only help the scene. Otherwise, the fragmentation could lead to either a massively cirppled scene, or a dead one.

It’s hard helping a dance scene that I’m not a part of. I don’t really know what to tell my salsa instructor to help him. He’s kind of flying solo right now, and I like this guy, so I want to help him. He’s truly passionate about the dance, the scene and rhythm.

More importantly, it’s a lovely reminder as to why I do what I do and what the goals of the Lindy hop scene here. We want to be inclusive, friendly, fun, and most of all, we want to love what we do. I do think our scene could use more hair yanking. That guy was really on to something there. More hair yanking. Yes.


Who’s The Elitist Now?

Sometimes life gets too busy to think about anything besides what’s going on, so sorry for being lame. I’m going to make an effort to write more.

Anyway, after our weekly Lindy Hop dance on Saturday, a group of friends and I went out to a pizza place for food. We ran into some other dancers there, most of whom I didn’t know (and I don’t think they were even at the dance) and we sat down to eat with them as one of our other friends were sitting there. There were probably 10 or 12 people.

One of the dancers who was sitting near the middle of the table, who I’ve never seen at our weekly dance before and only occasionly attends the Tuesday Rock-a-billy dance, began trash talking the lindy hoppers and calling us elitists. (For those who want a more comprehensive story about the Tuesday night dance can read my post about it here.) He then took his finger and pushed up his nose. (Excuse me, but I’m a Jew. I don’t eat pig, much less can I be one.)

Um, hello! We were sitting right there! It’s not like we can’t freakin’ hear you 4 feet away!

This mentality amongst non lindy hoppers in town has been around since before I ever began dancing. We’ve tried to make people change their opinions about us, but words and rumors spread much faster than people seeing our actions.

Has this guy ever danced with me? No. Has he ever spoken to me or to my friends? No. Then how does he know how I am, or how any other lindy hopper is, for that matter?

If he came to me or any of my friends and gave us a concrete reason why we’re stuck up, then I could at least respect that. None of us are perfect, and it’s extremely plausible that there’s been a time that someone has not felt welcomed or has felt left out in some way. If he had an actual reason, then we could at least apologize for our actions and move forward  instead of hearing him talk about us, perhaps even unknowingly, right in front of us. I mean, for all I know, he doesn’t actually even know who I am and wouldn’t recognize me if I were just walking down the street. (which, seriously, how could he NOT know who I am? A red carpet is thrown down for me everywhere I walk.)

It’s even possible that there’s nothing that a specific person has done, but it’s more of the collective “lindy hopper” group that seems to have done something, like a separate entity that no one person is actually a part of.

Personally, I don’t dance with a lot of people at Tuesday night. There have been numerous incidents where I’ve been pushed, pulled, jerked, yanked, stepped on, elbowed in the face and even kicked in the back by other dancers there, and not a single person ever apologized to me. I was walking by someone who was dancing and he elbowed me in the face, knocked me over, and casually turned to me on the ground and said, “Oh, sorry”, and went back to dancing!

About a month ago I was dancing with a Tuesday nighter, who was being particularly rough with me, and mentioned that I always look nervous when I dance with him. I told him he was hurting me, and he didn’t say anything and kept on being as rough as ever. Why would I want to dance with someone who doesn’t care if they’re hurting me?

I don’t really enjoy getting hurt, so I tend to dance with people who I trust to take care of me. I rarely turn someone down for a dance though if they ask me to dance. If people weren’t so rough, I’d be more than happy ask more people to dance. But with no health insurance and already dancing 7 days a week, I can’t really afford to get hurt right now.

I think a lot of it is rumor that’s been carried down over the years. Things were different 6 or 7 years ago. Many of the advance lindy hoppers didn’t dance with anyone except each other at the Tuesday night dance. They would sneak in so they didn’t have to pay, and one of them even told me that she intentionally looks angry and mean so that no one will ask her to dance. Even though I was learning Lindy Hop at the time, I still thought the lindy hoppers were elitist and kept to themselves. The difference was my reaction to it was, “They’re elitist? Awesome. I’m still going to learn this dance, so they’re going to know me whether they want to or not”. It didn’t matter to me. I just needed to learn Lindy Hop.

None of those people dance here anymore though. The crowd is completely different and is much friendlier than it used to be and they dance with a lot more people than the previous lindy hoppers did. But somehow people’s reactions towards us haven’t changed to coincide with our change, for a large part, anyway.

I speculate that the crux of the issue is that people feel insecure that they can’t do what we’re doing. Obviously, Lindy Hop looks a lot more complicated than the 4-count Jitterbug that most people do at the Tuesday night dance.

Don’t get me wrong; there are people who find us to be very approachable, who come ask us about lessons and other dances around town and even compliment us on our dancing. But it’s just as often that we hear about someone calling us elitist and stuck up.

Come on, let’s not be high schoolers about this. At least say it to my face. I’m more than willing to have the issue out with someone and even apologize if I’ve done something wrong.

I can see where some people are coming from. I can recall seeing the really cool kids in high school, being all cool with their friends as I watch intently, wishing I was one of them, wishing that they would just come over and talk to me. But they’re too busy being attractive athletes, flaunting their bodies around with their friends and laughing and having the time of their lives. God, they suck. They’re bad and mean people for ignoring me the way they have.

And then 5 years later I realized why they never came to talk to me. Because instead of eating lunch in the cafeteria like everyone else, I spent my lunches in the bathroom with my one other friend eating my bologna and cheese sandwich and knitting or playing Magic. Funny how that works.

It’s really about a lack of education. This isn’t much of an issue at the Saturday dance that Brett Dahlenburg and I run because the drop-in lesson is East Coast Swing, almost everyone is doing Lindy Hop, and I make a point to dance with every lead in the room and to talk to them while we’re dancing so we can get to know each other a little better. Lindy Hop is all around them and they’re not only used to seeing it, but used to the music we prefer to dance to. Plus, the dance is a quarter of the size of the Tuesday night dance, so it’s much easier to get to know everyone there.

But there’s a different group that runs the Tuesday night dance though, where the main lesson is 6-count Jitterbug, most people are doing 4-count Jitterbug to ridiculously fast Rock-a-billy music, and there’s far too many people to even think about dancing with everyone in the room. And no one ever listens to the announcements we make there about all the classes, events and dances that we’re organizing or see the flyers we personally put in each person’s hand to even know that they have the opportunity to learn if they want to. So it makes sense that when these Tuesday nighters see the lindy hoppers waltz in straight to the front of the room and do all this fancy shmancy Lindy Hop that they: 1. feel insecure about their own dancing, even if it’s something they only do once in a while and 2. makes the lindy hoppers look like they’re hot shots, and that they probably think they’re hot shots.

The funny thing is that most, if not all of the lindy hoppers feel just as insecure about their dancing as everyone else there, if not more.

Would it change their perception of us if we didn’t dance in front of the room? Probably not, as it never has before. Would it change if we spent the whole night doing 4-count Jitterbug and not dancing with each other at all? Perhaps, but as soon as we danced with our friends again, we’d be acting elitist.

The point is, if you’re going to dig on me or my friends, come say it to my face. The fact that I have to hear you talking about me behind my back within earshot is: 1. pretty immature 2. makes it obvious that you probably didn’t form your own opinion and haven’t done your research on the issue and 3. doesn’t make you look any better than what you’re accusing me of.

The Intercollegiate Swing Battle

Frankie Manning revolutionized Lindy Hop when he created ensemble dancing with Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. Couples were doing the same choreography together and at the time, it was completely mind blowing. Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers are the best Lindy Hop team that’s ever existed.

This past weekend was the 8th Annual Intercollegiate Swing Battle, in Denver. The focus of the event is the team competition, where college students represent universities and throw down for a traveling trophy with small plates that are added on each year with the winning team’s name on it. Most of the dancers at the event are young and inexperienced, but full of passion and excitement for the dance. Their performances often include elaborate story lines, colorful costumes and cheese. Lots of cheese. But you can’t help but love them. Here’s a clip of Swingopation from Utah State, who won first place. They had a totally kickass routine and they were really good.

It’s the perfect event for newbies to perform or compete and feel comfortable in their environment without the pressure of big shots dancing around them. And it’s not stuffed so full of classes and activities that the teams can’t harness their chi before the big event.

The Swing Battle has a really soft spot in me as it’s the reason that my team, Groove Juice Special, exists. Back in 2008, Jitterbugs Anonymous, the swing dance club at the University of New Mexico was invited to the event. I was president of the club, and my VP told me about the email we had received and said we should go. So we created a team called Jitterbugs Anonymous and a routine and went to the Swing Battle. We lost miserably, but we had a ball anyway. Here’s a now quite embarrassing video of our routine that year at the event.

After that year, several of our members graduated college, so we created a junior team to go represent UNM instead (who named themselves Jive O’Five), we changed our name to Groove Juice Special, got our act together, and played with the big kids at the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown in 2009. Jive O’Five went on to win 2nd place in 2010 and 3rd this past weekend. They went from not knowing what Lindy Hop was to placing in competitions in just a few years, and for some of the members just a few months. That’s pretty awesome.

I give a lot of credit for my improvements to Groove Juice Special. Without having peers and choreography pushing me, I wouldn’t have done so many of the crazy things that I have.

I hope that all of those kids on those teams will be able to say the same a year or two down the road. It’s not easy being on a team with 6 to 12 other people, choreographing, practicing at all hours of the day, dealing with bad days and grouchiness and fatigue and stubborn personalities. And it was a first-time performance for a lot of the dancers this past weekend. It’s incredible to see not only the excitement and passion they have for what they’re doing, but their commitment levels to be on a performing team.

Teams are important. They constantly push you to be a better dancer, to work and play well with others, and to dig deep. They teach you about being humble, compromise and camaraderie. And it’s a great way to learn to appreciate the dance.

I’m sure Frankie wasn’t necessarily a part of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers because of all of those reasons. It was to dance more, to perform and to make a living. But all of those things are come up while being on a team. None of us will ever compare to Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers or to Frankie, but it’s Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers who inspired an event like this, which has inspired so many young dancers to give it up on the dance floor.

Remembering Frankie

Peter Strom and I had an interesting conversation during 505 Stomp about the preservation of Lindy Hop. There were several reasons we discussed of why it’s seems so difficult to inspire people to dance, but one reason that we brought up stood out to us far more than anything else: Frankie’s gone.

Today marks 2 years since Frankie Manning passed. For many experienced dancers, Frankie directly had an impact on our lives. We took classes from him or heard him during lectures at events.

Our newer generations of dancers will never get to experience Frankie. They’ll learn from the professionals and from semi professionals and local instructors, only receiving 1st or 2nd or even 3rd generation knowledge that was passed down by him. And every single time it gets past down it changes, transforms into something else, is taught differently, is thought of differently.

If you’ve ever read Frankie’s autobiography, Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop, (which I highly suggest you read; it’s a great story) you’ll know that he talks about how he never wanted to teach Lindy Hop when the revival came. And when he did start teaching, he mentions how terrible of a teacher he was.

Obviously, that changed as Frankie became the guide to all of Lindy Hop throughout the world. He became the single most inspiring person, and all you had to do was be in the same room as him to be inspired to dance. Obviously, videos never do as much justice as experiencing it, but here’s a clip of Frankie talking about how he learned to dance, and a basic overview of his life.

Peter and I talked about how one of the great things Frankie and all of the old timers in general do is use cheesy catch phrases to teach. Many of them are vague and seem incomprehensible, until you finally understand them and then it all makes perfect sense.

Something I remember hearing Frankie say was to “be in love with the person you’re dancing with for the next 3 minutes.” When I first heard that I remember thinking, “That sounds really romantic, but I’m pretty sure that no matter how hard I try, I won’t really treat this person like I’m in love with them.” Looking back on it now, it’s really easy to see what Frankie was saying. And even though I understand, I’m far too uncool and young to say that in my classes. I would sound like an idiot. But how else do you get the same message across in the  simple and inspiring way that Frankie did? I’m an inexperienced white girl who’s had virtually no contact with black culture or history or people my entire life. And if I don’t know how to truly relate to a dance that’s so deeply rooted in black history and culture, how do I get other people to do it too? How do we live on as a dance and a community without him? How do we teach all of the great things he taught and get the same messages across? How do we preserve the culture and the spirit of Lindy Hop?

I think it’s all about remembering Frankie. His autobiography made me think a lot. A lot of people today complain about competitions, drama, politics and whatever else in today’s national and perhaps international scene. Those things don’t only exist in today’s world. Frankie dealt with all of those things back in his day too. He was arguing and fighting with people; politics and drama and hierarchies  and competitiveness existed everywhere. But the inspiring part is how pure his joy for dancing was. It was so simple. He loved the music; he loved the dance; and he loved sharing it. And that doesn’t take a lifetime’s worth of experience of black culture to do the same.

I just want to take this moment to remember Frankie and everything he did for every single swing dancer out there. Here are some of his greatest moments:

For those who don’t know, Frankie is in the overalls, dancing with Ann Johnson in Hellzapoppin’.

Frankie has the trench coat and hat on in Hot Chocolate with Duke Ellington.

Frankie is on the left dancing with Ann Johnson in Killer Diller.

Here’s the Big Apple from Keep Punchin’, Frankie’s wearing black pants and has a huge smile. He’s also the fourth couple to spotlight towards the end.

We wouldn’t be where we are as a dance or a community without him. I heard Frankie speak at Lindyfest twice, saw him dance a few times and took his Big Apple class. And even though I never personally spoke to him, those things changed me profoundly. Thanks, Frankie. We miss you, and you’ll always be remembered.

I’ve Got Passion, Who Could Ask For Anything More?

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about in the past 24 hours or so is passion, specifically for Lindy Hop and people taking the dance seriously.

I loved the dance the moment I laid eyes on it and wanted to be the very best that I could, but I never thought it would go anywhere serious. And obviously not everyone falls in love with their first sight of Lindy Hop. I think a lot people become frustrated easily with the dance. Lindy Hop is hard to get a comfortable grasp on, and interest in East Coast swing or Jitterbug can often die out from boredom.

And the truth is that 99% of the swing dancers out there won’t ever aspire to do anything more with the dance other than doing it as a casual hobby. Most people find their calling elsewhere in the world. That’s awesome.

For me, it was really hard to accept that I wanted to be a dance instructor, especially a swing dance instructor. I felt so useless, so unproductive. Why didn’t I want to be a doctor or an elementary school teacher or the director for some non-profit organization that saves the whales? I mean, sure, it was my most favorite thing ever, and yes, I loved it more than anything and perhaps anyone, and okay, maybe I would day dream about swing dancing while at my decent paying writing job instead of writing, but it’s just swing dancing, right? It’s not even a real dance like ballet or modern.

And it seems so many times people think that way. They’re not real dancers; they just swing dance. And when I tell people that I teach swing dancing, most people don’t really know what to say other than something along the lines of, “Ahhh. That’s neato.”

Two things happened Saturday that became a catalyst for these thoughts. The first was the traveling Lindy bomb we scheduled, in which we began at Rhythm and were supposed to dance all through Nob Hill. Brett Dahlenburg and I were the only ones who showed up though, so we stuck in our courtyard in front of the Malt Shop. We were moderately disappointed no one showed up. A bunch of little kids were running around the courtyard, and when we started dancing, they all sat down in a straight line, their heads resting in their hands, watching us intently. And not only that, but they tipped us too! (just a quick aside–I’m sure someone is reading this and thinking, “how could you take money from kids?!” We tried to give it back to the parents and they wouldn’t take it.)

The second was during Rhythm’s grand opening. I had scheduled performances by all of the different instructors renting out Rhythm, and everyone was extremely well received, even the instructor demoing Tai Chi. And not only were they well received, but people were asking about their classes and wanting to sign up for them. They were actually interested.

I finally accepted my dream of being a professional swing dancer after two things. One, I realized that being a dance instructor isn’t useless. You’re giving people tools to understand and celebrate music with their bodies, you’re showing them how to exercise in a fun, easy way, and you’re bringing happiness to people. Swing dancing has helped me through some really hard times, when I wasn’t willing to get out of bed for any other reason than to dance with my friends. Surely someone else out there will have the same experience, and I might be able to help them by finding comfort in the dance.

The second, and the more important, is when I realized that Lindy Hop is a legitimate dance. It’s not some campy, throw-away activity where we wear skirts of wheat and frolic under sunshine and rainbows and everyone’s happy all the time no matter what. It requires skill, technique, athleticism, flexibility. It requires you to understand your body and how to use it. When I realized that, I started branching out in studying more dance forms, and my body movement improved immensely. My appreciation for dance in general became much stronger. And thus my love for Lindy Hop paralleled that. I always thought I was passionate about Lindy Hop. But this was different.

And I’m not just talking about passion in that I was thinking Lindy Hop is more awesome than before or I  would squeal every time I see people doing the Shim Sham, but I  started to put more effort into dancing, performing, organizing and teaching. I wanted to improve the quality of Lindy Hop in all of its forms for myself and for everyone else around me. And I did.

And so as I was sitting at the grand opening, watching the Tai Chi performance and everyone was dead silent, watching with intrigue and interest, it hit me. Maybe this is what inspires people. These amazing non-swing dancers performing, putting themselves on the line and bringing everything they’ve got so that they can make some sort of a living doing what they love and care about, seemed to give people a strong appreciation for the instructors’ talents. Everyone raved about the performances. If you get people to appreciate dance, will their appreciation, love and passion for swing dancing grow too? And not only that, but if you legitimize Lindy Hop as a real dance, will everyone else do the same?

Those little kids watching us dance in the courtyard Saturday probably had no idea what we were doing, but they appreciated it by choosing to sit quietly and to watch us. Kids are magical in that they don’t have the knowledge and skills that adults do, but are smart enough to know what’s awesome and what they want to give their full attention to. Brett and I weren’t doing anything spectacular, but we take our fun seriously, and those kids saw that.

Obviously, not everyone is going to have the passion to teach swing dancing or organize events or even perform. Not everyone is going to want to dance seven days a week, or even four days a week. But to find enough fire in their bellies to learn a swing out, to come to local workshops, to respect the local instructors, that’s the trick.

If you take yourself seriously and take your loves, your hobbies and your passions seriously, then other people will too. I don’t think my thoughts are fully fleshed out yet, but it’s an interesting concept. Passion. How you instill it in others, and how you instill it in yourself.

Oh, and by the way, for those wondering how the grand opening went for Rhythm, here’s a little peek. Performances by Groove Juice Special and Jive O’Five’s new routine. Yeah!

Lindyfest 2011

This was my fifth year to Lindyfest, and despite having gone for so many years now, the event keeps changing for me, keep evolving into something new and different. Lindyfest was my first event ever in 2007, and so I have a soft spot for it, but I really feel like it’s evolved into something really great.

One of the events’ greatest strengths is the amazing amount of organization it has. The event has all of its basis covered all of the time, which is perfect for smooth sailing throughout the weekend. As someone who organizes events regularly, I really appreciate how detail oriented Lindyfest is in its organizing and what an easy event it is to go to. They do all the worrying for the camp goers, so dancers just have to enjoy themselves all weekend.

The other huge thing the event has going for it is the Saturday lunch lecture, which is always about educating dancers in the history of Lindy Hop, important people and jazz history. This year they focused on singer, dancer, performer and bad mamma jamma Dawn Hampton with a documentary made by the Houston Swing Dance Society. It was a terrific documentary and I learned a lot about Dawn, her family and her claim to fame. And by the way, have you ever seen her dance? Most. Adorable. Thing. Ever. She’s this tiny little lady with a huge sense of humor. Here’s a clip of her and Frankie Manning dancing during the instructor jam in 2008 at Lindyfest.

Lindyfest has also taken a step forward in the past couple of years in having live music on Friday and Saturday night, which I think was the clincher in making it a really complete and solid event. Nothing is better than live music. It was the second year that Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five were there, and they just KILLED it! I love love love Jonathan Stout and feel so lucky every time I get to dance to him, especially since there’s such a lack of live music in Albuquerque. There’s a clip of the jam that broke out Saturday night to Jonathan Stout on Facebook, which unfortunately, won’t let me embed into my post, so you’ll have to go find it. It’s posted by Lindyfest. As soon as everyone knew he was playing Dark Eyes, which has a long drawn out intro, people crowded around a couple on the floor for a jam (A jam always breaks out when he plays Dark Eyes). Jonathan even stopped for a moment and said, “You guys don’t have to jam to this song, you know.” My favorite part was when Ben and Sheri go into the jam, and Ben has a front pack with their baby in it, noise deafening headphones as big as its head on, and sleeping. It was the cutest thing ever. And he danced all night with that baby and it was asleep the entire time. Talk about dedication.

I also love this routine by the California Rolls that was performed during the Saturday night show, led by Ben and Sheri. It’s super creative and clean.

There’s also something about Lindyfest in which I make more friends at this event than I do most other events. I don’t know if it’s because of the easy-going nature of the event or the dancers who attend, but it’s something I always look forward to when going to Houston. I got the opportunity to really connect with some cool people this year, which I was super duper excited about.

The classes I took were all amazingly difficult and taught by amazing teachers. I found my brain more than once oozing out of my ears. That’s all I can say about that.

Honestly, my biggest complaint about the event was that I got a fever Saturday and didn’t feel good enough to dance as much as I wanted to. That’s it.

The Rhythm Begins

I’ve hardly had any time to write in the past several weeks between traveling, starting a new job and trying to do everything last-minute to open Rhythm. But I finally got the keys for Rhythm Friday evening, scrambled to scrub the floor and windows and waited quite impatiently as the big strong men in my life put together some tables just in time for our soft opening with the return of our Saturday swing dance. Honestly, I really wasn’t expecting too many people to show up, especially since it was before our grand opening (which is April 2) and I figured most people would be out-of-town because of spring break.

I have to say that for the first 24 hours of owning the keys to the new building I experienced a whole slew of emotions about reopening Rhythm and restarting the swing dance, which made it hard to just relax at the dance itself. They ranged between extreme excitement to anxiety to panic to exhaustion. And the space isn’t completed yet; we still need mirrors, furniture and a sign, which only added more layers to the stew of emotions. But I quickly realized I didn’t have a whole lot to worry about.

We ended up having over 65 people! It was a blowout, and it was a whole ton of fun. There was something really refreshing about the dance last night. There was nothing special or out of the ordinary as far as dances go. It was just your regular, run-in-the-mill weekly dance. I don’t know if it was the new space or the fact that the dance has been on hiatus for almost 6 months now, but the energy was great and it was just all really exciting. Everyone just seemed…elated, and when I realized that, I remembered why Rhythm exists in the first place.

One of the best things about our new location is the Malt Shop next door. They stayed open late just for us (the owners’ son even came to the dance). They’re even changing their hours just to accommodate the dancers who want to go out after the dance. And the dancers only have to walk 9 1/2 steps to get to the Malt Shop (Okay, it’s more like 30, but who’s really counting here?).

The hardest part is over now, and it’s a huge relief to finally get the ball actually rolling and for the scene to start feeling normal again. And our new building has made everything so much easier to run our dance and keep our dancers happy with its ceiling fans, AC, water fountains and multiple bathrooms.

The success of the dance last night made me stoked about all the upcoming events that are happening at Rhythm in the next few weeks: the grand opening, First Friday Blues, Swing Soulstice, The Rhythm ProjectSolomon Douglas playing for us and 505 Stomp. It’s only fun from here on out.