Category Archives: Event

New Dance Resolutions

So I’m gonna make some goals. Because that’s what successful people do. I think I’m going to try this whole successful thing this year. YEAR OF PYE! 2013! Ready? GO!

1. Get a job. DONE.

It’s starting off pretty good. I have a job, which is incredible that anyone would ever give me a job. But not only is it just a job, it’s the best job in the entire universe. I get to play with kids all day, and on top of that help them be awesome at life, and on top of that get paid to learn a lot.

2. Drop off unnecessary baggage. DONE.

Got rid of some things I didn’t need anymore. ‘Nuff said.

3. Be more confident.

Almost there, but not quite. Just generally in my life, in my choices, and especially in my dancing. I need a little bit of Irene Thomas up in here.

4. Do things I’m scared of, but secretly love.

Here’s a secret that maybe 5 people in the world know about me. I have a dream of singing in front of people one day. By posting this fairly embarrassing thing about myself I am putting it out there. I am committing to it. This IS the YEAR OF PYE, after all.

5. Save money for things.

Since I have a job now, I can do this. I’m going to travel more and…

6. Teach more.

I was incredibly honored to get asked to teach at Le Hot Sauce this year with Conrad.  I’m so excited and I cannot wait. Also, I’m going to…

7. DJ more.

This is scary for me so it is part of #4 up there. But I’m tired of being stopped by fear. Ooooo. I got deep there for a second. Also, I will…

8. Compete more.

I’m going to ILHC or Bust, as previously stated. And…

9. Dance more.

However, this is the YEAR OF PYE. This calls for something epic. Something drastic. Something insane. Something unimaginably amazing. You know what I’m talking about. The one. The only. Herrang.

BRING IT, UNIVERSE.

10. Care less about what other people think.

And how self centered this entire post sounds.

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Heroes

Heroes can be lots of things. Sometimes they are close to you, sometimes you never meet them, and sometimes you can’t meet them because they exist in your mind. To me, Skye Humphries is all of the above at the same time.

My first swing dance teacher mentioned this crazy guy in DC who was doing amazing things in Lindy Hop. His name was Skye Humphries. This was the first time I had heard his name, not knowing that it would essentially change the course of my entire life. So being a dedicated student (or maybe an aspiring internet stalker) I typed his name into the YouTube search box. This was 2007 and I saw this:

I remember watching this clip for hours on repeat, trying to figure out exactly what was so mesmerizing about it. This started my two year YouTube binge. I couldn’t go out social dancing because I was still in high school, so instead, whenever I had free time I’d prowl YouTube for more videos. For two years my life was YouTube.

He makes the simplest movements look incredible. He is not hiding behind flash and trash. The level of perfection that must be reached in order to make a rock step look as inspiring as an aerial is mind blowing. But everyone already knows that Skye is an incredible dancer.

What really inspired me about Skye, is that he’s not embarrassed to be himself. Ever.

And that’s something that will always stay with me for as long as I’m alive.

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Update!

School is hard. And a Chem major is harder. Trying to transfer and not being a citizen is even harder.

I still love dancing. I do it a lot. Too much. I updated the videos, photos, and awards pages so check those out to see what I’ve been up to if you’re interested. I also added a new page, called future. There you can find out about what events I’m planning on going to and about different projects I’m working on for the blog.

This weekend I was at Le Hot Sauce VI, run by the beautiful Carla. I will write more about my experience next week. It was an absolutely marvelous event.

This weekend watch out for me in Humbolt as I’m going to the Emerald Coast Lindy Exchange. Please ask me to dance if you see me!

Thanks for reading y’all!

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Today Is The Day…

I am getting my shit together. It took me all summer long but it is happening.

As some may know, A month before Camp Hollywood 2010 (the only camp I’ve attended more than once), things kind of fell into place in my dancing life. I came about the most wonderful partner anyone has ever had, James Bianco. Yes, his last name literally means white, but don’t let that fool you. He is the loveliest dancer, most incredible teacher, and a great friend. I am so overjoyed to be working with him and I hope that one day he might fully understand how glad I am that he is part of my life. I don’t know what I did to deserve such a blessing, but I’m running with it. Prepare for great things ahead!

Check out James in the Pro Jack and Jill Finals at Camp Hollywood, he’s the second leader out!

Also, as some others may know, I won the Amateur Jack and Jill at Camp Hollywood this year. It came at quite a surprise since I’ve never even made it into the finals before. When they called my name I cried like child, it was like all the frustrations I had in my life were lifted by that one moment.

If you can spot me, you can see me in this video:

I am so thankful to all the people that helped me get here, so thankful I do not have the right words to thank everyone enough. Yet I will try: every person that I’ve ever danced with or talked with about dancing, and even every person who has at least read one word of this silly blog, I am grateful to you. Without you I would never have continued this extremely odd obsession with a 90 year old dance and would have been just another stupid 19-year-old getting drunk and pregnant at college frat parties. This vibrant and sometimes crazy community holds an incredibly special place in my heart which could not have been filled by anything else. Thank you for everything you’ve given me, and prepare to have it doubled and tripled and given right back!

For the future: I have some plans to travel. But only a bit. First thing coming up is Lindy and Party Weekend. I better see you there! Keep reading my blog, and more will be revealed…

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Tales From The Depth Of Lindy Focus

I had a glorious experience at Lindy Focus but when I returned home I was in pain. My legs were in pain (which is good) but my soul also ached.

There were few contests but the ones that they held were very fun. In the surprisingly small showcase division, Karen Thurman and Andrew Thigpen débuted a marvelous routine which made me heart soar and my bladder squeeze from prolonged laughter. This is what I want from lindy hop: enough fun, sillyness, and energy to make me need adult diapers.

The other two routines that placed were significantly different. They were awesome lindy routines which had cool moves and flashy styling but (at least for me, personally) they failed to give off the same happy energy.

What is the difference? Can’t a routine just be awesome by having a bunch of awesome moves and styling placed musically to the songs also with some aerials randomly sprinkled throughout?

I think what makes a great vs. just a good routine is not how many cool moves you do, or how musical the choreography is, but how much spirit and your put into your performance. That spirit ultimately projects onto the audience and includes them into your performance. Without that spirit your routine is just a string of un-unified movements. With that spirit your performance becomes a story and so much more than a dance, or a routine, or a performance. It will stand the test of time and will continually inspire every single generation of lindy hoppers to come. That is something worth performing for.

My friend Jerry also discussed this routine shortly after seeing it. He gives some insights about what Karen and Andrew think of their routine and remembers the wise beyond all time words of Naomi Uyama.

And also my “sister” (from anther mister) Mary discusses why some performers stand out while others might not.

P.S. I had originally started this blog at Lindy Focus, but I have been too busy to finish it until now! Sorry!

EDIT
Every time I think about what constitutes an incredible routine I think back to this interview with Bethany Powell.  I cannot believe that I did not link it the first time.

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Blues it up good.

Oh no, blues!

Yeah, you should get over yourself.

LA Blues October 23th – 15th, 2009

It was a fantastic event from beginning to end. It was small enough to be intimate and relaxed but intensive enough to make it well, well, well worth your money.

The Dancing

Well, it was pretty good. Personally there were like four people that I wanted to dance with so if you’re looking for a great exchange with lots of fantastic social dancing, this is not it. However, 3 of those people were teachers so if you’d like to dance with some of the best dancers without the pressure of a big event where everyone wants to dance with that one instructor (Skye Home-fries, ever tried asking him to dance at an event?) than this is your event. In fact since the event was so cozy the teachers have a lot of time to hang around and dance without many people attacking them every 3 seconds you can get some valuable one on one time with them. In fact their even willing to help you if you ask them for it!

I really enjoyed how relaxed the atmosphere was. This kind of let the learning sneak up on you, so it seemed like you were not doing much but then all the sudden you’re getting better and doing lots of things you never thought you would get to do, like make it to the finals in the Jack and Jill.

The Competition

Yup. That’s me. (The first one out in the spotlight)

This was the only competition they had this year. Maybe next year they’d have a solo one, those are always more fun than anything else, but scarier to enter. A strictly would have been nice too and would have probably drawn out a few better dancers at least for the one night.

I know that the organizers felt that putting on too many competitions would not only cause a lot of work and stress for them but would also interrupts the social dancing which is so important to blues (and arguably lindy hop but that’s a whole different post). I really like this idea because at a few recent events I’ve really felt cheated out of my dancing due to interruptions for performances and competitions *cough*Frankie 95*cough*. Even when there is a lot of time for dancing, the flow of the night kind of sucks when there is an interruption every 30 minutes.

If you’re curious, here’s Part 2 of the competition:

The Instructors

They were all fantastic. There is really no other word for it. Laura Glaess and Mike Roberts, Nelle Hatley and Joe DeMers, and of course Karissa Lightsmith and Topher Howard. Fantastic instructors and above all fantistic people willing to go the extra mile to see that their students master the material given and excel. Otherwise known as picking up what they’re putting down.

I had a fantastic time and I will FOR SURE be attending next year. I don’t think I’ve ever said that about an event. Plus I have some inside information that the organizers are thinking about asking Mike Faltesek to come teach solo blues in 2010! WOW!

Don’t be a looser and miss it because you think blues sucks because you’re stuck up.

Just in case you’re wondering about future events I’m going to my last one for a while will be Lindy Focus on Dec. 27th to 31st in Asheville, NC. I’ve decided to focus on school for a while so I can finish it extra fast, try to dance at more places locally (Strutter’s and Atomic), then marry a gay man in Seattle to get a green card, move there and start traveling again. This master plan will take approximately one year to reach completion. Stay tuned my lovely Seattle friends.

Just a reminder, If you’re reading this on facebook you’re missing half the fun! Please click on ‘View Original Post’ below!

US Open Photos

If you’re still curious about the US Open and how it was like to be there (they don’t release the videos except for the winning performance) you see all the photos here. This gallery is just the strictly lindy, but you can navigate back to see all of them.

They have a watermark on the large copy which kind of sucks and it costs like $15 a photo, which is ridiculous, but it’s still nice to have pictures.

The pictures of me begin on the 3rd page, if you’re wondering!

Also, I’ll be at Killer Diller in Seattle this weekend so I’ll get back to posting on Monday. Ask me to dance if you see me though!

For the Win!

Competing is terrifying. There’s nothing more you can say. But they are an important part of our dance community for many reasons. Competing pushes you in your dancing which in turn pushes the level of the entire community up. Competing is also a way to share your own ideas about the dance which helps others have more ideas about the dance. That is why I love competitions.

This past weekend I was at the US Open which is a westie event., as you all probably already know, but they do have one division of Lindy which is a strictly. My friend Steve asked me if I’d wanted to compete with him there and I jumped at the chance.

Holy Crap.

The U.S. Open is a HUGE event. Mostly because West Coast Swing is more mainstream,they did make a movie about it, and because they have more money, and therefore most of them (who love it enough) can be a westie full time (while Lindy Hoppers are like superheros and they have a second life/secret identity sitting behind a desk somewhere). Not only is it ENORMOUS it’s very official. They have a backdrop, assigned and raised seating, and professional photography. At the competitors meeting the organizers used a microphone to talk. Yes, really.

I usually don’t get nervous for competitions because I’m just happy to be dancing more, but this was ridiculous. We came down the steps (and the MC said my last name wrong) I couldn’t even see the audience, never mind the judges because the lights were so gosh darn bright. The next thing I remember is blurriness interrupted by Steve’s face every so often and intense nausea. So intense I threw up in my mouth a little as we were leaving the floor after our spotlight. After the contest I couldn’t stop shaking. It was weird. We went back to our hotel room and my legs felt like jelly and I had a little breezy knees action going on every time I took a step.

You might think that this kind of sucks. But I beg to differ. I am so glad and so proud of myself for doing it and you cannot get that amazing feeling of accomplishment any other way.

If you’re thinking about competing I say go for it. First off, there’s no other feeling like it. It’s a chance to showcase your own unique point of view as a dancer and you’ll feel so good and so proud of yourself for actually going through with it.

Second of all, it enriches the entire dance community. The more people there are competing the tougher the competition is and the harder everyone will try to succeed and improve in their dancing, which will push you to improve your dancing to keep up. It’s perfect.

Third of all, it is inspiring. You dance like no one else and no one else dances like you. When you compete you showcase your unique style to the lindy hop world (especially if the video is going on YouTube) and that will inspire others to do new things which may in turn inspire you!

Don’t think of competing as a way to win things or earn recognition. It’s a venue to show what you love to the audience and get better at it at the same time. WIN-WIN. No matter how you place.

There’s a heaven right here on Earth…

"ULHS is dead! Long live ULHS!" – Jerry

ULHS October 8th – 12th, 2009

Damn. I’m pretty much speechless. Except for this long and obnoxious review below.

The Dancing

The dancing was alright. I think there was a bit of an imbalance in the lead : follow ratio so it was very hard to find some one to dance with unless A) they were your friend B) DSC_0066you attacked your victim as soon as the song was over. This was not so much fun for the followers but I’m sure the leaders had the time of their lives. I had some pretty good dances though, so I’m not complaining. I met an amazing tap dancer named Ronnie who just happened to be in NOLA that weekend.  Even though he did not know anything about Lindy Hop, he ended up buying a weekend pass! He’s amazing.

The Venues

The venues were all amazing. By far though, my favorite was the wax museum on the first night because the floor was awesome, the space was nice and intimate without being crowded, and they kept the museum open for us so you could walk around it when you were not dancing. Other venues were the WWII Museum, which was all right, the acoustics were not so great and it didn’t feel as intimate, the House of Blues, the floor was horribly dirty my shoes had like half a centimeter of dirt caked on the bottom, and I didn’t even wear them on the street! Firtzels was the late night venue which is a small jazz club on Bourbon St. It was very crowded even on the 2nd floor, so much that I didn’t really want to dance there at all and I usually look forward to late night because I get room to dance. One of the events took place outside in the french market where they put up an awesome floor where they had half the showdown contest. This was awesome until it started to rain. But I think that will be taken care of next year with some sort of canopy over the floor. Over all I really liked how all the venues were different each night. The organizers really kept the city of New Orleans in mind and even if you didn’t specifically go sight seeing you got to experience the city and the couture and history just by being at the scheduled events. This I’m guessing was a difficult task, and I say to the organizers job well done!

The Competitions

Were alright. Even though there were tons of people there, not a lot of "rockstars" showed up which to me was surprising. All I needed was some more of that Frida and Mikey sauce from ILHC. Yes please. But I have to say I’m extremely pleased with the results. I’m so glad the people that won, won. My favorites were the showdown final battle where Joanna and Chance won over Annie and Dax, Ramona winning the solo jazz, and of course Dax taking it all the way and showing people how dancing is supposed to be done in the solo blues.

Dang.

The Music

Holly crap, I cannot say enough about the music. It was mind-blowing, and amazing, and awesome, and fantastic, and glorious, and wonderful. It is amazing how these musicians can play anything, catch things in mid-sentence, and play with anybody and with any instruments. It blows my mind how talented and flexible they are. I can write a whole other post about it, and I might just have to do that.

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The City

Which was a major part of the event. And I have to say that if it   was held in any other city this event would have been terrible. But because the organizers really thought about how to show people the city just by going to the places they were supposed to be it really paid off big time. The DSC_0013city has so much culture and history you can feel it pulsing through you. You can’t help yourself but connect with the history of the music we love so much and our dance, which sprang of of this music. And don’t even get me started on the food…

BTW. If you want to see some more pictures click here and here (these are significantly better).

Future Plans

October 8th-11th, 2009 – ULHS
October 23rd-25th, 2009 – LA Blues (This weekend!)
October 30th-November 1st, 2009 – EBC 
November 5th-8th, 2009 – Pheonix Lindy Exchange (Perhaps if I volunteer…)
November 26th-29th, 2009 – US Open 
December 4th-6th, 2009 – Killer Diller Weekend
December 27th-23rd, 2009 – Lindy Focus (need to buy plane tickets!)
January 10th-17th, 2010 – Sea Swing Sensation Cruise! (With my mom!) I really wish I could go here though…

Just a reminder, If you’re reading this on facebook you’re missing half the fun! Click on ‘View Original Post’ below!

Musicality is not Monotony.

Musicality to me is simply: Music + Brain = Movement. You hear music, your brain process it, and you move to the music. So deceivingly simple. But when you have two people dancing together this complicates it quite a bit. No one hears a sound exactly the same way, just like no one sees exactly the same colors. And even if we all did here exactly the same sound who’s to say were going to move to it exactly the same way. Now imagine 2 people dancing together trying to process the same piece of music with hundreds of sounds which each hears differently and move to it while still trying to be connected. Ladies and gentlemen, you have Lindy Hop!

Musicality is not something one person can hear and the other doesn’t, it’s not magic. Musicality is different from person to person, one person may be listening to the higher notes in the music and the other the low notes. Like wise, the follower could be listening to the drums/base (lower sounds) while the leader to the horns (higher sounds) as in this clip (pay attention around 0:11).

Nina Gilkenson and Mike Faltesek demo to Ochi Chornya by Wingy Manone in Quebec for the no-longer-existing QSRV.

The leader hears something completely different in the music than the follower and wants to accent the horns while the follower thinks it would be much more interesting to accent the drum thud at the end of the intro. Even though they here different things, they do different things they still are dancing together and to the same song. MAGIC!

You cannot “lead” musicality. Yeah, you can lead a certain move that will accent a certain count which the break hits but the follow could always choose to do some insane footwork that accentuates something else in the song. Maybe the leader will lead a plain, good, old, yummy swing out, well the follower can change the whole rhythm of it to fit the song as she hears it as demonstrated beautifully here at around 0:17. Or a plain old sugar push; 0:53. Or just a pass through; 1:09 . Or transition into or out of tandem Charleston (s-turn?) 1:29 and 1:37.

Frida Segerdahl and Mikey Pedroza compete at ILHC in the Invitational J&J to Darktown Strutters Ball.

Notice how even though the leader leads a certain pattern the follower can still add her own musicality to it very easily. Notice how the follow ads a little somthin’ somthin’ at :39 , 1:01, 1:22, and starts a little breezy knees action at 1:12 which the leader catches on to. (I like my knees breezy, please and thank you!)

That little “visual lead” is an integral part of Lindy Hop, at least in my crazy little head. It’s what makes Lindy Hop, Lindy Hop and not ballroom. That is what is meant when you hear people talking about lead and follow as a conversation. One person does something cool, a footwork variation, a styling, a jazz step, and the other catches on. It’s like an exchange of steps or styling, or like a mini competition, where you are trying to out do each other, or game of Simon Says, or just a fun conversation. Frankie describes it the best. You create some thing together, not the leader tells you what to do, but you truly create something together, something you could have never created on your own without a partner because of that conversation with them and the music. Those are the best dances you’ll ever have and you’ll remember them forever. Try to find the visual leads in this here clip all by your lonesome self.

Nina Gilkenson and Mike Faltesek demo at Lindy Focus

Here are my favorites: Apple Jacks at 0:26 and Boogie Forwards at 0:48.  Also, something you might have noticed, starting at 0:19 you can also see how Mike is listening to the horns while Nina listens to the piano. Very cool.

The most important thing is to remember that just because the leader is called the leader and the follower is called the follower doesn’t mean the leader can’t play off and visually follow a cool step the follow did. Leaders, try it next time you go dancing! Lead a bunch of swing outs and see what kind of variation the follow comes up with on the 7 and 8, 1 and 2. Then on the next 8 count try to copy what she did. Don’t worry if you didn’t get it exactly right, it’s called social dancing for a reason. Who knows, maybe you’ll come up with your own variation. Believe me followers love swing outs, they could do them all night on repeat, so don’t worry about trying to shove in other “moves”. Next try to do your own variation and see if she catches on to it on the next 8 count. Caution: this may cause you to experience the best dance of your life.

In conclusion, the leader doesn’t always have to be dictating every single movement to the follower and the follower can have her own thoughts and impact on the dance you both are creating, and not just blindly following the leader. You can do completely different footwork or styling and still be dancing together. It’s not a dictatorship it’s kind of an anarchy. Rules in Lindy Hop? Pffft.

Now go and dance!