Nalla Kim on Judging and Competing

Nalla Kim has traveled the world as an instructor, competitor, and judge and is a mainstay in the booming swing dance scene of Seoul, South Korea. In 2008, Nalla met his partner and wife, Jessica Yoon and have been teaching together ever since. Nalla & Jessica have taken home several International and National Championship titles including ILHC, Boston Tea Party, Korea Swing Championships, Busan Summer Swing Festival, Korea Balboa Classic, Asia Balboa Classic and Korea Open. He runs the swing teams Sweet Heart & Lindy Blossom and brings international instructors and musicians to the thousands of Lindy Hoppers in Seoul through events like Authentic Jazz Weekend, Lindy Blossom Weekend, and SEOUL Lindyfest. Nalla made his first appearance at ILHC in 2011 with team Sweet Heart and now he’s become a regular on ILHC judging panels. He’s known around the world for his enthusiasm and passion for Lindy Hop. 
 
 

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

Name: Nalla Kim
Home base: Seoul, Korea
Year you started judging: 2012 
Year you started competing: 2007, at a local competition. My first international competition was in 2008 at Rhythmic Arts Festival J&J.
Approx how many competitions have you judged: 100 (local and ILHC)
Approx how many competitions have you competed in: 50
 
 **Nalla wanted me to remind the readers that English is not his native language. **

JUDGING

* Why do you judge?
When I go and teach at an event, I’ll go and judge the competition. I like watching the dance and getting to judge gives me the best view of the competition. I try to push myself beyond passively watching the show. Also, it’s an honor to be a judge, particularly at ILHC.  
 
* What do you enjoy about judging?
I can enjoy the best view of the competition. I get to see people’s art, which is really fun!
 
* What do you dislike about judging?
Sometimes I feel an internal conflict about judging, which makes it harder to truly be fair. Sometimes it’s because my friends are competing, or because how hard the competitors worked to prepare for the competition. Sometimes political things come into play. I try to disregard the personal issues, but  there is always an internal struggle when I judge. This can be really hard. Also, sometimes it’s really difficult to decide who not to put through. There have been times at ILHC where all of my favorite Followers were in a heat, and I wanted to put all of them to finals. It’s also hard to say who is the best artist because everyone’s art is so different — it’s so personal. 
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Routine?

This is the art piece. I want to see more unique style. I want to see the reason why you do this. If it’s the similar to the others, like someone else has done it, I am not as interested. The value is what is unique about their personal voice.

* As a judge, what are you looking for, or value, in a Strictly?
Whether its improvised or planned, I want to see something natural and energetic. I don’t want to know it’s a routine. There needs to be a clarity within the partnership and a connection to the music. 
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a J&J?
I focus on the partnership dynamics: what and how do they communicate? How do they connect? How do they make something together? I’m not just interested in musicality. I don’t want to see an imbalanced partnership. I don’t like it when the Leader over-leads or the Follower just follows — maybe the Leader initiates movements and the Follower completes them. I like to see Leaders react to their Followers so we can enjoy their connection.
 
* What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about Routines/Strictly’s/J&Js?
When the competitors focus only on the audience, they miss the mark. Connect to your Partner first, then the music, and THEN the audience. Prioritize. Maybe they are too nervous or too focused on the judges, but that really should be an afterthought.
 
For me, improvisation is preferred! I really feel that the dancers should care about the music, so if they are going to do choreography, then I think it should be flexible. 
 
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
1)  Don’t worry about your placement. It’s not a big deal — It’s just an opinion of one moment. When I watch routines again, I sometimes change my mind.
 2) Be professional on stage, but not *too* professional. During a J&J or Strictly, please focus on the social dancing and less on the flash or being overly expressive.
 3) Trust yourself when you practice. That’s better than the result.  The most important thing is the process. 
 

COMPETING

* Why do you think competition is valuable/important?
I think competition is valuable because it allows you to set a target and reach something. In order to do that, you must have clear goals, clear motivation, and you must create something new. Without that motivation, it’s much harder to push yourself.
 
* What’s your personal philosophy on J&J?
I try not to think about just me, but us as a couple. I try to my best to be the same dancer I am while on the social dance floor. I don’t focus on the fact that there are judges there, but envision that this is another “normal” social night. This puts me at east, and I hope that my lead communicates that. I definitely want to to put my follow at ease.
 
* Do you still get nervous before a competition?
For sure — I still do. I’m not good at showmanship and I still get nervous. That’s why I like J&Js, but when I get spotlights or routines, I get very nervous.
 
* How do you deal with nerves before a competition?
I don’t want the audience to be uncomfortable so I try my best to hide my nerves. A few years ago we took a private with Nathan Bugh, and he helped us deal with nerves.  His advice was to use one’s imagination: imagine being in a comfortable place, imagine that everyone in the audience is a close friend. I try not thinking about it as though I’m competing against anyone else, but that I’m sharing the stage with these people, as though it’s a jam circle.  It’s better that way. It reminds me that this one competition is not my last chance to showcase my skills. 
 
* What competition have you done that meant the most to you? Why?
For personal reasons, my ILHC 2012 Showcase with Jessica. We did a Dean & Jewel Tribute performance to honor Jean Veloz.  When I did the showcase, I didn’t think of it as a competition. I didn’t think about placement. But Jean Veloz was apparently impressed enough by the performance that she asked me to dance afterwards. We danced a song backstage and it felt great.  Many people recognized what we did that night. At that time many dancers were doing Whitey Style, except the SoCAL dancers, so we were a rarity. 
 
* What is/was your favorite competition to watch?
ILHC 2011. I was there as a competitor for the Classic Division and at that time many international dancers were in the there – Skye & Frida, Kevin & Jo, etc.–  and I just wanted to get through my routine so I could get to watch the rest of the show. I was 3rd or 4th and after that I got to watch all the other routines. It was an honor to compete in the same division as my teachers. 
 
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
1) Many competitors come to me and ask me for advice after their performance. I talk to them, but I am not the master. I am just another dancer, not a champ. So my advice is: just trust yourself. 
2) So many dancers make it as high as the All-Star division and then they disappear. I understand that for many of them this is just their hobby, or that they leave the scene because they start a family….but I feel sorry every time one of them disappears. So please, dancers/friends, keep dancing and come back to the stage. I miss you! Come back and keep dancing.
3) I don’t like the scoring system since it sometimes works against the dancers. Maybe we need to think more about how we are scoring the dancers. So don’t take it personally.
 
 
 
Final thoughts?
We need balance in the scene. If not enough people compete, its hard to keep pushing the dance.  We need to keep the high quality. Competition helps keep us going and it’s really good for the community. It is good advertising and helps spread the joy of Lindy Hop to others, which in turn helps motivate them. Nowadays, people say they are too tired to compete, or that it is not important, but I hope people will continue to compete. Maybe we’ll find a way to take some of the stress out of the competition. 
 
If you’re interested in hearing more from Nalla, check him out on The Track Podcast, by Ryan Swift
 
 

Anthony Chen on Competing

Beginning with his more traditional roots, Anthony started dancing at age 8 when his parents convinced him to learn and perform Chinese Lion Dances. At age 15 he was introduced to breakdancing at a speech and debate tournament, and shortly thereafter he found his home in the local swing community in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he quickly fell in love with Lindy Hop. Throughout his dancing career he has trained in several other types of styles from hip-hop to Argentine Tango to West Coast, but most of all he enjoys drawing upon them to expand upon his technique and creativity in Lindy Hop. On the social dance floor, he is known to be playful, musical, creative, and clear; sometimes people call him a “magical unicorn.” He holds first place titles from events such as Lindyfest and Lone Star Championships, Montreal Swing Riot, Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, and International Lindy Hop Championships. His teaching style focuses on energy, technique and connection theory, and his love of both leading and following has been instrumental to making the classes that he teaches both clear and intuitive.

Website: www.saltlakeswing.com

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

Name: Anthony Chen
Home base: Salt Lake City
Year you started judging: 2008
Year you started competing: 2006
Approximately how many competitions have you judged: Probably 30-40
Approximately how many competitions have you competed in: I don’t know how many I’ve competed in, but I’ve placed in about 70 competitions. 

Competing

* Why do you compete? What does it do for you?
Gosh, I think I just do it because it’s fun. I’m not someone who likes to be in the center of attention, but it’s a great feeling when you can get the crowd cheering.

* Why do you think competition is valuable?
A common answer I think would be that it drives the level up. I’m totally on board with that–it can be inspiring to yourself and to other dancers to work on the craft and for everyone to become better dancers. However, another reason that I find to be just as important, is that it teaches you to be present, to be expressive, and to step out of your comfort zone. A dancer can get by just fine by only social dancing, and they can grow to become an amazing social dancer. On the other hand, through competing, you can build upon your skills as a dancer and as person: you learn to project your energy, draw people in, and gain confidence in yourself.

* What’s your personal philosophy on Jack and Jills? 
I try to dance like how I would socially, which I know is easier said than done, when everyone is watching you. I would feel like I’m lying if I said they’re the exact same thing; my Jack and Jill dancing is not the same as my social dancing; if I’m not careful, there’s a lot more unbridled energy that can go into a competition-social dance from the adrenaline rush. At one point, I found it helpful to imagine that everyone is watching when I’m just social dancing, just to help get rid of those nerves later. In both social dancing and in Jack and Jills, my focus is always on my partner–I really just want them to have a good time. That helps me relax, and can often help them relax too. Oh, and dance to the music.

* How do you prepare for a Strictly? How far in advance do you start your preparation?
It’s actually been more than 10 years since I’ve lived in the same city as a competition partner, and for most of the time since then I actually haven’t had a regular partner. Thus, the vast majority of strictly competitions that I do are essentially Jack and Jills, with minimal preparation prior to the competition, usually at the event itself. By minimal, I mean something like figuring out the entrances and exits, so we don’t always start with a swing out (which honestly isn’t the worst thing) and don’t always end on a Minnie-dip (not a bad ending either).

* How often do you train your dancing? And what does that mean to you?
When I was on a performance team, we would train about twice a week (ramping up to 3-4 times a week about a month out from the event), several hours a day. This would entail working on choreography, peer-critiques, and repetition. But that was a while back…without a partner in my scene, I cross train a lot (I love the outdoors!) and I spend a lot of time in my head. A good friend of mine would often ask me what I’m thinking about when I get that far-off look…and it’s almost invariably dance moves. I come up with things in my head, and then try them off the dance floor with a partner or a dance friend. When I get the lead/follow down, then I might bring it onto the social dance floor. If I feel comfortable leading and following it socially for a while, you might see it in a Jack and Jill.

* What do you tell yourself when you get frustrated?
Hmm. I just don’t often get frustrated, haha. But this to me dives into a completely different topic. One thing I’m always working on is self-awareness. I try to change things that I know are in my locus of control, and focus less on things that are outside of that. This minimizes a lot of that frustration for me.

* Do you still get nervous before a competition?
Sure I do. I think the more material I’ve prepared for a competition, the more nervous I may be. So I rarely feel nervous for Jack and Jills; I just go out and enjoy the dance. Strictlys or routines can have a lot more on the line, but the more you practice choreography, the easier it is to learn and retain, and the less nervous you get.

* How do you deal with nerves before a competition?
Getting more performances and competitions under your belt is the sure-fire way to help with nerves. But right before a competition, per se, I might stretch, bounce around a bit, sip some water, and put on chapstick.

* What is/was your favorite competition to watch? Inspiration?
I don’t have a specific competition that’s my favorite, but I do like watching Jack and Jills–it’s most inspiring to see how people connect and what they come up with on the spot. Strictlys and Showcases can definitely be incredible and skillful, but Jack and Jills create those magical moments that are just so much fun to witness!

* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
1) Make sure you do it for the right reasons. Do you compete for fame or recognition? That’s fine if you do. But I would wager that people find themselves in the dance scene because it’s a fun activity, and it’s a welcoming community. If your attitude about competing makes you lose sight of the reasons why you dance, then it may be helpful to re-evaluate. Judges can also see right through this. Don’t try too hard.
2) Think you’re getting the hang of things, and your Lindy hop is feeling good? Great. Keep taking classes. Take beginner classes. Pay attention to how the instructors teach. Be humble. When you start thinking that you’re really good is when you stop improving. And no one likes an ass.
3) Smile.

** Anything else?
Yeah. One thing I tell a lot of advanced students is to not stop dancing with beginner dancers. If you just dance with peers who are the same or a higher level than you, they’ll often adapt and cover for your mistakes. Dance with lower level dancers so you learn how to adapt and cover for theirs. One of the main reasons why I continue to love dancing is because I feel that I have the capability to make a dance enjoyable for my partner; seeing her or his smile makes all the difference for me. Because of this, I’ve never stopped enjoying dancing with beginners: they smile all the time!

Annie Trudeau on Competing and Judging

Annie Trudeau’s passion for dance was first well demonstrated when she chose her career as a dance teacher and performer over her engineering physics degree’s possibilities. She also trained as a competing artistic gymnast when she was a teenager. She is a co-founder and co-owner of Studio 88-SWING in Montreal (Canada) where she teaches swing since 2001. As the artistic director, she also manages and dances in the Montreal Swinging Air Force dance performance troupe, which has been International Lindy Hop Champions in 2010-11 and 2014 and Canadian Champion 2013-14-15. She is passionate and enthusiastic as a swing dancer, teacher and competitor.  She has numerous titles in competition including 6 first place at International Lindy Hop Championships (2008 to 2013 included) in Washington in the Showcase Category and also first place at the European Championships in London in October 2013. She also danced at the Montreal Jazz Fest with the electro-swing band Caravan Palace, was hired as a choreographer for the Cirque du Soleil and lately coached artists for the TV Show ”Les Dieux de la Danse” in Canada. Annie has dedicated the last 10 years of her life full time to her dance business and to her art, and she loves to share her experience and knowledge to students of all levels and ambitions.
 

INTERVIEW

 
Name: Annie Trudeau
Home base:  Montréal, Québec, Canada
Year you started competing: 2001
approximately how many competitions have you competed in: 60 in swing, much more if you take into account gymnastic and figure skating.


Competing

* Why do you compete? 
To push the boundaries of my artistry and to contribute to the evolution of swing dancing.
 
* Why do you think competition is valuable?
I think competition gives a goal to any individual, couple or team who want to create a piece and perform it. Having a goal that has a specific time restriction helps gather the ressources in order to accomplish a certain amount of smaller goals, or to achieve a new skill, or to get to a certain level that one (or a group) can decide prior to the project. If it’s improv category, it provides a platform and a goal to work up to as well because improv skills can be worked on in the studio or on the social dance floor before going to a comp. I think the more competition is something you do as a way to improve, the most healthy and positive it is. The more one consider competition as a way to compare to other people, the more it *can* have more of a negative or depressing impact on the participants.
 
* What’s your personal philosophy on Jack and Jills? 
I try to create the best dancing moment possible. How I go about this is first of all on a personal level. With my partner, I try to create a connection that makes it so we feel we can trust each other in being ourselves, and it’s ok to make ”mistakes”. When that atmosphere is established, then both partners can be at their best precision wise, musicality wise and risk-taking wise. I think JnJ should be about finding a way to make your partner give the best performance of its life, and pretend like the music is your favorite one even if you don’t especially appreciate it.
 
* Do you still get nervous before a competition?
The more I spend time preparing a piece, the more I am. It’s not about the importance of the competition, of the amount of people in the crowd, it’s about how much work I’ve put to get to that point and how a mistake can have an impact on my potential disappointment.
I always have to remind myself that being zen and simply happy to be healthy and able to inspire people is a gift not everyone can say they have been given, and any amount of unnecessary stress will hinder my performance so I push away the clouds of doubt before I go on stage as much as I can.
 
* How do you deal with nerves before a competition?
See above answer. Plus making mental runs of what would be for me a perfect show. 
 
* What competition have you done that meant the most to you? Why? 
Disclaimer: I will mention Max Pitruzzella in those lines, because I have been his partner for many years and it is part of my past. I will repeat again how it is saddening for me to know now that he selfishly chose a path in life that hurt deeply so many people. I will not share videos of us for a while ; it is a bit sad for me to erase such an important part of my past, but it is not as important than to be part of a movement where there is zero-tolerance for people who are so careless about the other people’s well-being that they will take advantage of their position of power to exploit, manipulate, assault sexually etc. Zero-tolerance. With hope of a brighter future, I will now go on in sharing a bit of my past.
 
ALHC 2001 
The first time my team Swinging Air Force dared going to the USA to do a competition. We were the first Canadians to do that! Got 3rd place with a routine where we were nurses and soldiers. 🙂 We were super nervous because we admired so much American dancers. Watching the tape cassettes at home and all that. 😉 We even had to go to NESDC a month before to ‘simply perform’ our routine to get feedback by the judges to let us know if we were going to be ridicule or not participating in a ‘real’ competition. Haha. So I get it when beginners are afraid. It is a scary world of star dancers out there. But in the end – 16 years later – I can assure you that we are all human and nothing replaces a good work ethic and countless hours on the dance floor to get better and perfect your art!
 
ULHS 2007
The first time I got a 1st place at an international event. Fast division. Woah!
 
Frankie 95 in 2009
We worked so much to prepare for that event! Every day, many hours a day, preparing to perform Hellzapoppin as well in the show. I learned that Frankie passed away while being in Montpellier at an event. We were so extremely sad, I remember a jam we did right away on Hellzapoppin music giving our everything in honour of Frankie. I mourned, I went to his funeral in NYC, drove early in the morning from Montreal… A lot of emotions around that event! So when Max and I participated in the really big Strictly and got the old timers recognition by winning, we were extremely proud. 
 
ILHC 2012 (video above)
The first time after many years that I showcased a routine with a different partner other than Max. I did it with Thomas Blacharz. We spent every evening for a week in Herrang (after my full teaching day) to create the piece and I met him in Denver for 3 days later that summer. It was exciting and I was very proud of what we did together. We won the Showcase category. It proved to me that I was not a good dancer only because of Max, although I knew he contributed a lot in my development, just like I contributed to his.  I was working on my individuality as a dancer, and this made a big difference in my journey.
 
* What is/was your favorite competition to watch?
Juniors at ILHC! Those kids are the biggest inspiration when it comes to giving your everything. <3
 
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
     1) Figure out why you want to compete so you are aware of your ambitions and select carefully where you assign your (probably) limited time in terms of dancing.
     2) Give your absolute best because that’s how the experience is worth it
     3) Find courage to express yourself while being inspired by others instead of trying to move like someone else (bonus: discover who you are it in the process).  Be patient if you are looking for results. Persevere as it will eventually be rewarded internally and externally. Spread your joy, always!
 

Judging

* What do you enjoy about judging?
Getting to witness talent and ideas on a privileged seat.
 
* What do you dislike about judging?
Having to rank people when the values I hold dear don’t guide me to a clear ranking.
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Routine?

I won’t be looking for the same things in a showcase, a classic or a team routine so here are the differences in my opinion:

    In all routines, I will favour a lot new ideas and risk-taking and personality over pure technique. I am a fervent of the evolution of the dance, while keeping solid roots.  If I see a couple that feel like a breath of fresh air, that dare go out there with there new ideas giving their heart out, I will take this into strong consideration over a renowned more experienced couple doing a more conservative routine even though overall technique might be better. Obviously, precision, rich movement, intricate rhythms and musicality all matter a lot, just as organic, elastic and efficient connection, even in a choreography context.
 
    That being said, in a showcase division, a piece has to be especially extrovert and entertaining in its style and in the choice of content and execution. There is value to a routine which would entertain a general public crowd (public of non-Lindy Hoppers, neophytes). Often times, showcases will involve air steps. Although in order to add value to a routine, those air steps have to feel like any other movement ; the couple should execute them with the same precision, the same ease as other on-the-ground movement of their routine. I make small exceptions when I see a very daring and unusual air step being performed, because I want to encourage new ideas and risk-taking although if I feel like any of the partners are unsafe performing it, I will try to mention it to them and I will penalize them for trying something they were not ready for and putting their physical integrity at risk.
 
    In a classic, I think we can trade pure entertainment to a more refined, deeply-felt, more intricate interpretation of a swing piece.  Usually, a more experienced eye will appreciate more the value of a good classic routine.  The social dancing feeling should be top priority, quality of movement and connection are also super important. Movement interpretation of music as to aim to be as good as the music itself.
 
In a team division, group execution (including individual dancing) and synchronisation, precision of group effects and formations and overall choreography are my main guidelines.
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Strictly?
A strictly competition in my opinion should highlight the exceptional abilities of a specific leader dancing with a specific follower.  A perfect balance should be aimed between improvising and using already rehearsed material such as combos and sequences.  I think different events might have different traditions or preferences in what they are trying to promote and participants should try to get what that feel is in order to best prepare.
 
* How about in a Jack & Jill?
As I mentioned before, a JnJ should be a blissful moment where two dancers make the best of a given dancing situation. Take the best qualities of a follower, and the best qualities of a leader and try to make them operate at the same time! I want to be invited in sharing this moment with the competing couples, and I want to see respect and support in each others attempt at risk-taking, crazy musicality or variations. In all this magic, do not forget to showcase your best technique though, because I might be charmed by your instant connection, but it won’t make me close my technique eye! 😉
 
* What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about Routines/Strictly’s/Jack & Jills?

”I am not ready to compete.”

Well, if you read my 2001 first competition story up here, you know that I feel you sister/brother!
That being said, 16 years and a career later, my opinion has changed so I will share it in hope to encourage you to come out of your shell if you are ready for it (but you don’t know it yet).
If you are not ready to compete because you don’t enjoy competing or the concept of competing, then do not compete. You don’t have to.
 
If you don’t compete because you think you are not good enough… but you think you would enjoy competing…then that’s where trying to find courage is only what you need to make it happen! So here is what I think. Choose an event where you have seen newcomers and beginners being warmly welcomed (insert here almost all Lindy Hop events on the planet, this community is very warm to newcomers on average). Try to go with friends and find a mentor who will encourage you to do so as well. That’s what I did with my peers, remember, we went to ‘perform’ our routine just to get an approval first… hey we were insecure, so we went to our own pace! Try to do the same. Be gentle with yourself, but don’t stop trying until you get your goal! Baby steps 🙂
Use your passion as main drive and never compromise your well-being and your happiness for dancing. Dancing should be at the service of your well-being. Not the opposite. Write me if you need a little pep talk, I’ll answer as best of my capabilities : Annietrudeau@gmail.com. 😉
 
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
     1) Dance for dance sake
     2) Study hard but create as hard. Be part of history as an innovator.
     3) Be an artist growing through the practice of dance. Try to find and create beauty as much as you can!
 
———
 
If you want to see more of Annie, check her out at the Canadian Swing Championships this year and ILHC (yup, she’s coming back)!!!
 
 

Sylvia Sykes on Judging and Competing

Sylvia Sykes began dancing in 1966, competing in 1970, and teaching in 1979. She has studied with many of the dance greats, including Frankie Manning, Dean Collins, Maxie Dorf, and Willie Desatoff. Her extensive studies and travels have made her an expert on regional dance styles and she is known for her expertise in, and the preservation of the older forms of Swing dance. In addition, she is credited with helping to preserve the Balboa by introducing the dance World Wide. 

In 1985 Sylvia and Jonathan Bixby co-founded the Santa Barbara Swing Dance Club, a twice-monthly live-music dance club that they continue to run. She is still teaching her weekly classes that she started teaching in 1979, plus she teaches out of town over forty weekends per year. She is the most sought-after head judge in the modern Lindy Hop & Balboa dance scenes and is now part owner and head judge of the International Lindy Hop Championships.  
 
Her dance troupe ran for fifteen years, performed with some of the great Swing bands, and nurtured other International teachers. She has been a member of the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance since its inception, has taught at the University of California, and has appeared in many TV shows and in several documentaries on Swing dancing over the years.
Sylvia is actively judging and teaching various forms of Shag, Balboa, and Lindy Hop throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia, and Asia.
 

 
 
INTERVIEW
 
Name: Sylvia Sykes
Homebase: Santa Barbara, CA, USA
Year you started judging: not sure, but approx. 1984
Approximately how many competitions have you judged: way too many
What other dance forms do you work in? Just pantheon of swing

What is your background or connection to the Lindy Hop Community?
Been doing it since 1965, though very poorly.

Team USA — with Mario Robau, Valerie LaFemina, Lance Shermoen, Lynn Vogen, Jonathan Bixby, Sylvia Sykes, Jackie McGee and Charlie Womble.

* Why do you judge?
Now because I sort of have to…originally to have a voice for where the dance was going – whoever wins will drive the dance – so I wanted to put my two cents worth in to keep the dance connected to the roots.
 
* What do you enjoy about judging?
Not much these days other than a bit of influence to keep the dance current and connected to roots.
 
* What are some of the challenges about judging?
Weighing innovation and great ideas, but not stellar execution against perfect execution but same old same old, as well as differentiating between several couples all performing about the same and having to include and exclude them from the “money.”
 
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Routine?
Musicality – seeing the music more clearly, connection, still lead & follow not just close by execution, humor (or pathos), some sort of emotion, a story, and hopefully something danced well, with some soul.
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Strictly?
Great partnership, action-reaction, both listening and reacting to the music as well as their partner, modifying a movement midway in reaction to music or partner.
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Jack & Jill?
Great social partnering! Dancing to the level of the partner, listening, and modifying to find a common ground.
 
* What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about routines/Strictly’s/Jack & Jills?
Hmm…not sure… but a pet peeve is choreographed jam in a Strictly.
 
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
     1) You have no control over whether you win or not, just how you dance. Your legacy will be the dance, not the placement.
     2) Use the process to better your skills.
     3) Have a reason to compete beyond “I want to win and be famous.”
 

Photo by David Holmes

* Why do you think competition is valuable?
It forces you to work on your dance skills and it brings people into the dance.
 
* Why did you compete?
I don’t.
 
(Note: I think what she meant to say was that she doesn’t currently, because we know she did. Just click here to check her out in 1995 at the US Open!!)
 
* What competition have you done that meant the most to you? Why?
Probably the National Shag Dance Championships because it really was out of my comfort zone.
 
* What is/was your favorite competition to watch?
Anything with good dancing!
 
* Any recommendations on how to deal with getting nervous before a competition?
Pee and poop, beforehand.
 
* What would you like to see more of in competition?
Good dancing, not merely flashy moves
 
* What would you like to see less of in competition?
Soulless execution.
 
 If you want to hear more from Sylvia, check out interview on Ryan Swift’s podcast, The Track.

Inspiration Weekend 2012

Some favorite moments from this truly inspiring weekend.

Performances

Kevin and I kicked off our weekend with a little bit of “Shake that Thang!”

The Atomic Cherry Bombs were sexy as hell! I think it’s a great video of the performance, which means it must have been that much more incredible in person.

Hat Trick Initiation

James Bianco & Irina Amzashvilli were initiated into the Hat Trick Club this weekend. They are now members of the League of Extraordinary Hat-trickers.

This is one of the best versions of this routine I’ve seen them do. Sure, there were a few little flubs, but honestly, they freaking hit it. The crowd was awesome and Tips & Tops were men of legend. Well done men!!!

Saturday Competitions

1st Place – Augie Freeman & Irina Amzashvilli
2nd Place – Conrad Friesen & Sarah Stembridge
3rd Place – Andrew Jose & Alice Pye

Yeah!!! Lindy Hop has a future!! I was so impressed by how good everyone was in Orange County. Good heavens, those cats swing! The quality of their movement and swing outs assures me that lindy hop will continue to grow and thrive. Thank you to all the competitors; all of you won over my heart.

1st Place – Peter Kertzner & Irina Amzashvilli
2nd Place – Stephen Sayer & Chandrae Roettig
3rd Place – Jack Chen & Brittany Calavatti

I freaking LOVE the concept of 30-Second Showcase! And seriously, check out what people came up with. Love it.

Sunday Pro-Am

1st Place – Conrad Friesen
2nd Place – Matt Richey
3rd Place – Sam Chan

Hahah, this one looks a little bit like a Jo Hoffberg show reel, but really, I just got lucky that the top three leads in the competition picked me as their follower. Fabulous job everyone!!

3rd ANNUAL “BLACK COUTURE BALL” on THE FILLMORE

 

Celebrating 100 years of fashion and nightlife

This event takes place on Fillmore St., between Geary & Eddy Streets. A three block area area on the Fillmore entertainment corridor is transformed into a classy and hip trip back in time.

An event like no other… Bars, restaurants, dining, drinking, dancing, art, music and more. We encourage you to wear your finest “black” vintage attire of the past ten decades. If you don’t have vintage clothing, then current style is just fine. Pick out your classiest, sexist black outfit.

DETAILS

Old Timey
Black Couture Ball

FILLMORE CENTER PLAZA
7pm-7:30pm: Dance Lesson with Hep Jen & Kevin Munroe
7:30pm-8:15pm: live music Rich & the Rhythm Roustabouts
8:15pm: Dance Performance The Hot Bloods & Chicago Steppin’
8:30pm: Dance Contest Round 1
8:45pm: Dance Performance Double or Nothing & Dj Hep Jen
9pm: Dance Contest Final Round
9:15pm-9:45pm: live music Rich & the Rhythm Roustabouts

YOSHIS LOUNGE
9pm: Dj Jumpin Jeff Kroll
10pm-10:45pm: live music Stompy Jones
10:45pm: Burlesque Shows Mynx D’ Meanor & Vienna La Rouge
11pm: Swing Dance Performance Michael & Claire from Motion Explosion & Double or Nothing
11:15pm-12am: live music Stompy Jones
12am: Dj Jumpin Jeff Kroll & Best dressed man/woman contest
12:15am: Burlesque Shows Mynx D’ Meanor & Vienna La Rouge
12:30am-1am: live music Stompy Jones

RASSELAS JAZZ CLUB
9:30pm-12:30am: front room, live music Slim Jenkins
10pm – 1am: back room, live music Robert Stewart Experience

1300 SUPPER CLUB
9pm-12am: live music JP & the Rhythm Chasers

SHEBAS LOUNGE
9:45pm-1am: live music South Bay Blues Band

Schedule subject to change!

SWING DANCE CONTEST  – 830pm at the Fillmore Center Plaza

All forms of swing dancing are welcome: Lindy Hop, Balboa, Shag, Charleston, etc. Competitors will be judged as a couple. It is not necessary to register in advance, just show up at the beginning of the contest. Competitors will dance in a preliminary round, to 2 DJed songs, of 1-1/2 minutes each. During the preliminary round, judges will tap out competitors. The 3 remaining couples will be in the final round. The final round will be danced to a full song, and the winners will be determined by audience applause.

Prizes include:
2 one month passes for Tuesday Night Jump at Verdi Club
2 tickets to Petunia & the Vipers, The B-Stars, West Coast Ramblers Friday Sept. 30th @ Verdi Club, San Francisco
2 tickets to 3rd Annual SF Zombie Prom (The House of Voodoo) @ Verdi Club, San Francisco

Highlights from ILHC

1) Watching the Junior Division!! They were amazing. Videos coming soon!!

2) Showcase Division:


I am kicking myself for not seeing this live (I missed it by 25 seconds). This must have been unreal!! Sitting in the kitchen watching this was still an emotional experience, so I can only imagine what it must have been like being in the ballroom during this momentous occasion. While watching the video, I was screaming and hooting and hollering for them!! I actually shed some tears in honor of their awesomeness. Fuck, this totally touches my heart.

SOOOOO many people have talked about doing something like this, yet they actually put it together and threw down! Uh, the blue balls experience of them doing Balboa instead of swinging out left me wanting more. Thank goodness they finally provided the much needed release by teaming up and swinging out!!

3) Cabaret:

Dargoff showing us the importance of good hygiene. And lemme tell ya, sex sells!

Tips & Tops and their newest routine:

Nothing quite like Man-on-Man + hat-on-hat dancing if you ask me! Well done Gentlemen, you were wonderful.

Everyone!

The ending is my favorite part. I LOVE Footloose!

4) Classic Division:

In my eyes, Tommy & Alice won this competition. Their choreography is stunning, easy to understand yet still complex, exceptionally well danced, beautifully performed, and they both make the other person shine. To me, this is one an example of one of the best partnerships out there today. You two are such an inspiration!

For more on the Classic Division, click here!

5) Nathan Bugh in the Solo Charleston spotlights. Genius I tell ya!!!

6) Champion J&J:

This one knocked it out of the park for me! I’m always super impressed with how Peter is able to dance with the ladies of any size and still retain the integrity of his movement. Uh! Check out his kick ups at 0:37, his spin at 1:09, and how they play off each other at 1:25! And Alice is just amazing! Favorite moments by her: swing out variation at 0:22, her swivels forward at 0:57, and her shapes on her Rocks at 1:43!

Otherwise, the dance between Andy Reid and Mia Goldsmith just flowed. It was magical. Honestly, I couldn’t remember anything they did after the dance was over other than being swept away by how well they connected to each other and the song. Oh yeah, and the dance with Todd and Frida was ok (I’m being sarcastic)…….it was fabulously hilarious!!!

7) Pro-Am

This cat has been dancing lindy hop for a year and a half (or something close to that). How ridiculous is he?!!! Uh yeah……wow is right!

Isn’t she fabulous?! Sasha Gross was in the Junior’s Program and she killed it!

8) On a personal level:

Getting 2nd place in the fiercest Classic Division I’ve seen in the Lindy Hop world. I was told the difference in score between Kevin & me and Skye & Frida was only one judge which means there was someone who thought that was a first place routine! Looking forward to seeing the score sheets!

Taking 2nd place in the Solo Charleston contest! Normally I try to prepare by creating routinelettes so I have something to fall back on in case I go blank in a contest, but this year I just didn’t have time to get any together. I spent some time working on my lines using the Big Apple choreography, but otherwise, that was just me dancing (*chin up…..very proud of myself). Would love to see the scores on this one as well!

Having a blast in the Champion Strictly!! We had to battle our way out of prelims and since Kevin and I haven’t gotten to train the way we’d like (he’s been injured), we decided to fall back on the ol’ personality thing. Thank goodness we had Baltimore’s support!! I don’t remember much about the prelims other than doing swing outs across the entire crowd (crowd pumping anyone?) AND having our seamless room take-over thwarted by the ever-so-gorgeous Pontus and Isa. Luckily we didn’t completely run into them…..our awesomeness was just slowed down.

Fortunately, Kevin and I made it to finals which gave us the opportunity to crowd surf the Baltimore contingency!!!! The second half our our second solo starts with The Move of the Weekend, The Chase, and ended with us hurling ourselves on top of the crowd!!! Glory in it’s finest red & blue outfit if I do say so myself!!

9) MOVE OF THE WEEKEND: The Chase

You know the old adage “pink is the new black”? Well, “the chase is the new swing out” according to this weekend. SERIOUSLY, it was a college kids drinking game dream!! I need to watch through 2 more divisions, but I’m confident in saying that there was at least one chase break in EVERY division. I’m even guilty of it myself. I’ll compile a list of people who are guilty of such things and hopefully someone will put a video together of all the Chases from the weekend. *wink wink, nudge nudge lindy scene

10) Last but not least, just being there was a highlight. Getting to see so many friends, having someone buy me cupcakes (thanks Michelle), having some incredible dances, teaching with two of my favorite people, being asked to work with the future of our Lindy Hop community and having a blast doing so, competing against the best lindy hoppers in the world, being cheered on by the community I love, dancing to extraordinary live music, and seeing the fruits of everyone’s labor were a few of the many reasons this weekend was sensational.

Thank you to Tena, Nina, and Sylvia for running this event AND to all of their staff; without you the event wouldn’t happen. I’d also like to give a shout out to all the competitors that came to compete this weekend; you are helping lindy hop continually grow and your contribution is duly noted. A huge thank you to all of the people that filmed the event and put video online for the world to see! Finally, an enormous thank you to everyone in the audience; thank you for coming to support and cheering for everyone as they put their heart and soul on the floor. Baltimore especially, I love you. xxoo

ILHC 2011 Results

Pro-Am
1. Jamin Jackson & Annie Trudeau
2. Emilie Lesage and Davis Thurber
3. Mallory Briggs and Davis Thurber

Juniors
1. Kevin Tucker and Hannah Abel
2. Anjelo Bowen-Pomales and Alexis Davita
3. Cyle Dixon and Alexis Cuevas

Open Jack & Jill
1. Gustav Jakobeson and Calico Goodrich
2. David Lee and Hyun Jung Choi
3. Augie Freeman and Mimi Terris

Advance Jack & Jill
1. Jonathan Tigert and Marie Ndiaye (Sweden)
2. Mindaugas Bikauskas (LIT) and Gabby Cook (USA)
3. Kieran Yee (AUS) and Noni Clarke (AUS)

Balboa Jack & Jill
1. Adam Speen (USA) and Natasha Devyatkina(FRA)
2. Patrick Szmidt (CAN) and Moe Sakan (ENG)
3. Davis Lee and Kelly Aresnault (USA)

ALL-Star Lindy Hop Jack & Jill
1. Nicolas Deniau (FRA) and Natasha Ouimet (CAN)
2  Nalla Kim (KOR) and Teni Lopez-Cardenas (USA)
3. Andreas Olsson (SWE) and Heather Ballew (USA)

Strictly Balboa
1. Adam Speen (USA) and Nelle Cherry
2. Zack Richards (CAN) and Maryse Lebeau (CAN)
3. Andrea Olsson (SWE) and Teni Lopez-Cardenas (USA)

Strictly Lindy Open
1. John Helveston and Annabel Truesdell
2. Johan Kolberg and Eleonor Kolberg (SWE)
3. Augie Freeman (USA) and Alice Pye (USA)

Advance Strictly Lindy
1. Alaine Wong (CAN) and Lunou Aamson-Poirot (CAN)
2. Jonathan Tigert (USA) and Heather Ballew (USA)
3. Andreas Olsson (SWE) and Marie Ndiaye(SWE)

Cabaret
1. The Crazyers (FRA)
2. Tips & Tops (USA)
3. Sharon Davis

Solo Charleston
1. Olivier Chort
2. Jo Hoffberg
3. Sharon Davis

Lindy Hop Classic
1. Skye Humphries and Frida Segerdahl (SWE)
2. Kevin St Laurent and Jo Hoffberg (USA)
3. Thomas Blacharz and Alice Mei (FRA)

Showcase
1. MaxPitruzzella and Annie Trudeau (CAN)
2. Patrick Szmidt and Natasha Ouimet (CAN)
3. Dan Newsom and Gabby Cook (USA)

Champions Strictly Lindy
1. Skye Humphries and FridaSegerdahl (SWE)
2. Max Pitruzzella and Annie Trudeau (CAN)
3. Pontus Persson and Isabella Gregorio (SWE)

Invitational J&J
1. Todd Yannacone (USA) and FridaSegerdahl (SWE)
2. Andy Reid and Mia Goldsmith (USA)
3. Kevin St. Laurent (USA) and Mikaela (SWE)

Team
1. Swingin’ Airforce (CAN)
2. Swing Connection (CAN)
3. NInjammerz (CAN)

ILHC 2011 – Solo Charleston

I felt very unprepared this year for charleston, but I figured I’d try and focus on the music and be as ridiculous as possible. Luckily, my poorly formulated plan worked a treat and I made it to finals. Here are the videos from prelims and finals!

Heat 1, Song 1 Heat 1, Song 2 Heat 2, Song 1 Heat 2, Song 2

Competitors:

1) Ann Mony
2) Oliv Wan
3) Nalla Kim
4) Nathan Bugh
5) Sharon Davis
6) Soochan Lee
7) Jo Hoffberg

Warm up:

Delilah, thanks for doing the Chase Break with me in the contest. It would have been a shame to not add to the amount of Chasing done at ILHC 2011.

Finals:

Gaaahhh!! Nathan is soooooooo ridiculously good!!! Check out his first solo at 2:28…….stoooopid good! Nathan, you are a gem. That was one of the most beautiful phrases I’ve seen. You’re genius is undeniable.
Ann Mony’s musicality is so freaking solid. OMG, what a treat it was to watch her and the musicians converse!

So, what do you think?!!

ESDC 2011 – Cabaret

Yes, ESDC happened long enough ago that this might seem like odd timing for this post, but I don’t care. *smile Here are my favorites from Cabaret Division at the European Swing Dance Championships back in June 2011.

Pure, and utter ridiculousness. I so badly want to be in this routine. Oh, the energy!

Seriously, I think I’d be the tallest one in this routine. I don’t think I can say that I’ve ever been the tallest in anything I’ve done before.

The boys doing their Jazz thing:

I think I prefer the three boy version to the duo. Firstly, there are more boys to adore, but mainly I like the balance of the movement and shapes. Uh….all of them are so classy *grin

Kevin doing an awesome job with his hat trick routine:

Dax & Sarah being fabulous as always:


Dang it, they’re snazzy!

What were your favorites?