Category Archives: Rhythm

505 Stomp 2012

There are three things I have to say about 505 Stomp 2012: dodgeball, light sabers, and limbo. Yeah, that stuff actually happened. All at the same time. Oh, and by the way, Brett Dahlenburg was dressed up as Darth Vader.

Seriously though. I’m biased, obviously, but 505 Stomp this year was good. Really good. There are a few things that make workshop weekends successful. Having a well organized event, obvious; having friendly, knowledgeable instructors, again, obvious. But the number one thing that makes an event successful is the people, hands down. And it was the vibe that everyone brought to the event this year. It was fun, friendly, and more fun.

Here were some of the highlights from the weekend:

Dani Easley, Eva Robinson, and I performed our first time together as an all girls’ troupe. Name still pending.

I didn’t expect everyone to laugh at my solo, but it was awesome when they did. And it was a good thing we had all those feathers. I felt a little naked and cold without them.

Special thanks to Karen Turman for being the rockstar of the weekend. She made my costume, did my hair and my makeup.

Mikey Pedroza, Nirav Sanghani and Yossef Mendelssohn performing a hat trick shim sham. They were adorable.

The Jedi Jack & Jill competition. We made it go a little faster than at ABQLX, but we’re still honing our skills on running this competition more efficiently. Dodgeball comes in at about 21.:27. Dizzy bats came after that, which was also great. You’ll see what I mean.

There’s no video of this up yet, but the winners of the Jedi Jack & Jill were awarded light sabers, which quickly turned from a planned competition into an unplanned one, as people started a limbo competition during our Saturday late night dance. Limbo turned into jams, which led to an epic end of the dance.

The organizers of 505 Stomp are not professional organizers. We have a very limited budget to work with, and convincing people to visit New Mexico isn’t always easy. But we try our best to make the event run as smooth as possible, to provide the best instruction possible, and to make the event an environment that’s condusive to creating and having a lot of fun.

This was our best year yet, and we hope next year is even better. We hope you had as much fun as we did.

If you want to come participate in the next Jedi Jack & Jill competition, we’re resuming the epic battle October 12-14, 2012 at the 5th Albuquerque Lindy Exchange. Bring your sabers,  bring your shields, and bring your strength. It’s going to be glorious.

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Keeping The Rhythm Querque

In a few weeks (actually the weekend of 505 Stomp) will be the 1 year anniversary of Rhythm. In addition to it being 1 year since Albuquerque lindyhoppers found a permanent home, it will also be 1 year since we decided to  do a complete overhaul of the scene; we started consistent, progressive classes with The Rhythm Project, and within The Rhythm Project we gave our weekly swing dance a face lift. Our dances have more than doubled in size over the past year, our classes are growing, and we’re retaining students. We have more dancers involved in running the dance, teaching the drop-in lesson and DJing. We’ve made a point to either have a snowball or a jam every week, even if the jams aren’t always created in an organic way, and we encourage and cheer on newbies who go into the jam. We spend more time investing in individual newbies, inviting them out for food after the dances or to go to parties with us. For the first time, I feel like I can honestly say that not only is our scene really growing, but it’s progressing and becoming more than just the infant stages of a dance scene. It’s legit.

We don’t have the best dancers, or the biggest scene, or even quazi-decent live music to dance to, but we don’t care about that, because that’s not what makes a dance scene great. It’s the people, the attitude and the personality of the scene. We have each other to learn and grow from. We don’t care about winning competitions or being the best. It’s not about fame or glory or money. It’s about fun, about finding a sanctuary to be ourselves, to give our all to something wonderful. It’s about changing your bad day around, bonding together as a community and having a great time. We do it because we have to it. We’re obsessed. There’s nothing else any of us could even begin to think of doing instead of Lindy Hop. And, in all honesty, why would we?

We dance because we love it. And we love it because of each other. I couldn’t ask to be in a better dance scene than this.


The Lindy Hop Mating Call: The Story Behind The Silly Sound

So, I’ll just go ahead and make my shameless plug now to get it out of the way. If you haven’t signed up 505 Stomp yet, you should. Seriously, it’s going to be really awesome. I’m super excited about it, I know the instructors are really excited about it, and you should be too.

Today I’m telling you the story that led up to this:

It all started about a year ago when I was hanging out with some friends, when Dani Easley and I created this noise randomly to annoy Kevin Clark. It succeeded gloriously. It rapidly began to be used for other situations too, like cheering Brett Dahlenburg up when he was being a grouchy pants, or making each other laugh by seeing how loud we could make the noise.

It wasn’t until we had a lindy bomb in the early spring and made the noise that someone said that it sounds like a mating call for lindyhoppers. And so that’s what we called it. The point of the mating call is to make the noise when you don’t have anyone to dance with, and someone will be attracted to you and immediately run up and start dancing with you. In non-dancing environments, it can also be used as a call of distress or to find others in large crowds. We swore at that moment we’d make a video of it. Someday. Somehow.

Fast forward to July, we’re at The Rhythm Is Jumpin’, and after a few people hear this noise, I promise them I’d do it during the finals of a contest. And thus I did at about 1:09:

I’m pretty sure one of the judges broke his clipboard from pounding it on the ground from laughing so hard.

Fast forward to September. I had no idea about this until yesterday, actually, but Sarah Carney created this in inspiration of TRIJ 2011.

It’s spreading. And before you know you’ll be making the noise too. It’ll start in your home, by yourself as to not embarass yourself. You’ll tell your friends about it, make the noise for them. They’ll make it too. See how fast it spreads? It’ll be a thing. Just wait.

Oh, and don’t forget. 505 Stomp. The whole reason that video was made.


ABQLX: The Destruction And The Aftermath

Albuquerque lays in complete and utter ruins today. The buildings leveled; the streets buckled and unusable. No one is around. There’s no sound except a slight breeze rustling through the rubble and the trash that litters the landscape now. All because the Albuquerque Lindy Exchange was the bomb that destroyed it all.

It. Was. The. Bomb.

Seriously.

Here are some of the highlights:

This year we had a new venue for our main dances: The North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center, a brand new facility that’s soon to cover nearly a mile’s worth of land with parks, swimming pools, tennis courts, and more. The social hall had an entire wall of acordian glass doors that opened out onto a patio, so not only did it stay cool in the dance hall, but we got to be half inside, half outside. Plus, they provided drinks and snacks for everyone (most of which were free), and with comfortable seating inside and outside. We couldn’t have asked for a better venue.

Gordon Webster:

Oh. My. God. Gordon killed it Friday! The band was super energetic and tight and completely blew everyone away. He had a 3 song encore, wherein he played a blues song as his last song. I almost cried.  It was beautiful. Not to mention that everyone in the room was still dancing or gawking in awe at the musicians. Plus, Aurora Nealand, the singer/soprano sax, was one of the most beautiful sounding musicians I’ve ever heard in my life. I seriously forgot I was dancing with someone when I started to hear her play.

Saturday Day:

Our ABQLX tradition for Saturday afternoons is to have a lindy bomb in a hardwood floored gazebo in Old Town, the original settlement in Albuquerque, built circa 1779. The gazebo sits in the middle of the plaza, with restaurants, churches, and shops surrounding it. It’s a hub of culture, tourism, and festivities. Old Town was also having their Harvest Festival that day, so there were extra people out and about getting ready for the evening’s events. The weather was perfect, and the gazebo was packed the entire afternoon. Afterwards, a large group of us went to a restaurant across the way where we sat on the patio and were served free margaritas from a giant pitcher. Thanks to our waiter, Ruben, for being so nice and joining us in celebrating.

Saturday Main Dance:

Here’s a clip of our Jack & Jill finals.

Saturday Late Night:

This was probably my favorite moment of the entire event. We had a Jedi Jack & Jill Competition (Oh, it’s going to become a thing) in which there were two hats: one was to pull the type of music the competitors would dance to, the second was the task that they had to perform.

The Ultimate Task: Dodgeball Lindy Hop. Ping pong balls were flying everywhere, and dancers were, well, trying to dance. It was the most organized chaos I’ve ever seen in my life.

It doesn’t end there. We get down to our last two couples, battling it out to “You And Me And The Bottle Makes Three,” when we declare a winner. Mike Faltesek immediately sat down with his guitar, began strumming the song where it left off, and one by one, just like in Hellzapoppin’, the rest of The Careless Lovers join in to create a fabulous rendition of “You And Me And The Bottle Makes Three”. It was the perfect segue back into the social dancing.

The Careless Lovers:

I love them. They’re fun, careless (zing!) and have a great down-home, casual feel. Plus, Falty and Freddie Dickinson are great guys, and were a huge asset  to have this year.

Sunday Afternoon:

Sunday was perfect. We BBQed with the Route 66 Malt Shop next door to Rhythm, hung out outside on their patio, and there was a little dancing. The day was really all about hanging out together, eating some food, and having a good time.

A few side notes that helped our event so much this year:

Our volunteers this year were rock stars. Not only did they go well beyond their regular duties, but we didn’t even need to ask them to do something for us most of the time. They just did it. Volunteering for an event can often be thankless work. It was really great to see how much our volunteers cared about making the event the best it could possibly be, and I’m really thankful for that. The volunteers are the backbone of events; events couldn’t run without them.

The great thing about smaller events is that you see every single person at the event. No one goes unnoticed. Everyone who came this year brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm with them. People were super friendly and laid back.

ABQLX isn’t the biggest event, nor does it have the most badass dancers in the world or world class competitions, but it’s always a great time. This was our best year yet. Believe me, you’re going to want to come next year.


Lindy Hop’s New Studios

This past Saturday, the Mobtown Ballroom, run by Nina Gilkenson and Michael Seguin, had its grand opening in Baltimore. Even though I personally didn’t get to be there, it looks like it was quite an event from Facebook’s perspective, and I thought about them all night while at the weekly dance that I run on Saturdays in my own venue. I have a lot of respect for Nina and Michael for opening up their own ballroom, which looked like quite a task. They completely renovated a church from the 1870’s that sounded like it had pretty much been condemned because of the condition it was in.

Here’s Baltimore christening the building, classic Baltimore style.

They’re not the only Lindy hoppers around opening their own studio. Joe and Nelle DeMers just opened Overstreet Dance Gallery in April in Littleton, Colorado. They found a great place where they now have West Coast Swing, Salsa, Blues and Lindy Hop all week-long.

It’s a big deal to take that step forward to sign a lease. I signed a 3 year lease and committed myself to paying over $100,000 when I started out with absolutely nothing. Unlike Overstreet and Mobtown, however, I didn’t have to do any build out on my own as my landlord had bigger plans than most landlords, as we’re a part of an entire neighborhood renovation project (You should’ve seen the place before renovation though; crappy tile, missing walls, strange pipes sticking out everywhere, an incomplete ceiling and a very random vintage gas pump). But both studios have poured their hearts, souls and pocketbooks into these studios to, ultimately, create a home for dancers.  It truly shows how much the owners not only care for the dance, but care for the community as well.

I’m actually interested to see if this is a national trend that’s happening, or a small coincidence that 3 Lindy hop studios have opened so far this year (that I know of). Thoughts, anyone?

The great thing about owning your own studio is you get to create a venue that’s exactly what Lindy hoppers want to be dancing in. For Albuquerque, most of the dance venues here are ridiculously small, overpriced, too far away, only have marly on the floor, or have pictures of creepy guys with an eye patch, who I swear follows me wherever I go in there (seriously, it’s scary). And the only vintage ballroom we have in town is a historical building, where carrying insurance for one night of dancing alone is too exorbitant to afford, not to mention dealing with the crazy rules of the city. So when I had the opportunity to open Rhythm, I went for it. A lot of cities, especially those whose historic buildings weren’t constructed of mud, have fabulous vintage ballrooms that they can dance in every week. I don’t know what the dance venue situation is like in Littleton or Baltimore, but if they didn’t have great ballrooms before, they certainly do now.

I just want to give both Nina and Michael and Joe and Nelle a giant high-five for opening up their own businesses, and suggest that they hire someone to clean their studios for them, because even though my studio is much smaller than both of theirs (2000sq ft total for mine as opposed to their 3000sq ft just for the dance floor alone), cleaning is a royal bitch. You’re going to spend the entire rest of your life cleaning. Forever.


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!


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.