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)!!!
 
 

Disco!

Disco party this weekend at Swinglandia!!!

Here are the sources of my inspiration for this weekend:

And let’s not forget one of the hallmark dance scenes from the 1970s!

Now, let’s boogie!

 

Day 2 – Front Swirl

I chose this video for two reasons:

  1. her hair is redder than mine
  2. her front swirl is larger than I’ve ever had mine

I think it’s safe to say I’m red with envy!

Yes, it’s a long video and I’d say you could safely fast forward through it about 30 seconds at a time until you found what you were looking for. You also can stop watching at the 9 minute mark, and/or jump back in around 12:40 to watch her put an enormous bow in her hair.

Quick run down: section hair off by making a square on the top of your head (for your enormous swirl), put hair in pony tail, and then curl everything. Jump to 3:15.

In general, her motto is: curl it, hairspray it, tease it, hairspray it, pin it, and hair spray it again!

It’s sooooo beeg! (yes, I purposely spelled it that way)

German Vogue’s 2011 Swarovski Zodiac Calendar

Oh my my, I quite fancy June, July, November, and December! What catches your eye?

 

January – Capricorn

Mini dress by Sonia Rykiel and overknees by Kaviar Gauche.

Swarovski: Fashion Bracelets & Mushroom Ring

February: Aquarius

Short Couture dress by Blessed & Cursed,
jewelry by Philippe Ferrandis made with SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS

March: Pisces

Bikini-Top by Jolidon, jewelry on head by Rodrigo Otazu,

necklace by Philippe Ferrandis and hairband on neck by Kilian Kerner made with SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS

April: Aries

Jewelry by Dyrberg/Kern and evening dress by Talbot Runhof made with SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS

May: Taurus

High Heels and “Dragon Overall” by Michael Michalsky made with SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS
Rainbow True Ring” by SWAROVSKI CRYSTALLIZED™


June: Gemini

“Robot Dress” by Kaviar Gauche w/ SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS,
Necklace: Miko Jewelry “Metal Casquette 1920ies” by Helmut Newton (Swarovski Corporate Archive)


July: Cancer

Crown by Alberto Rodriguez and silk dress by Charlotte Sparre w/ SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS

Swarovski: Silver Screen Oval Bangle & Rainbow True Ring

August: Leo

Dress by Blumarine and pumps by Luis Onofre w/ SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS.
Bracelet by Rodrigo Otazu and necklaces by Dryberg/Kern w/ SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS


September: Virgo

“Armour Dress” & panties by Kilian Kerner, bangle by Rodrigo Otazu w/ SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS

Swarovski: ORQUIDEA Opulent Bracelet & MUSHROOM Ring

October: Libra

October: Dress by Blumarine and high heels by Michael Michalsky made w/ SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS
Necklace by Rodrigo Otazu for SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS & Jewelry by SWAROVSKI CRYSTALLIZED™


November: Scorpio

Dress by Givenchy for “22 Ways to Say Black” bracelet by Rodrigo Otazu w/ SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS
Swarovski Elements: Klimt Ring & Rainbow True Ring

December: Sagittarius

Head Piece by Erickson Beamon for SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS
“Pixie Dress” by Kilian Kerner made with SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS

German Vogue’s 2012 Swarovski Zodiac Calendar

Ridiculously inspiring and amazing! If there are any benefactors out there, I think I could rock March, May, July, and September. Hahaha, well….I’ll certainly try 😀

Stretch bracelets available at http://www.swarovski-crystallized.com/

January – Capricorn

February: Aquarius

All jewelry available at http://www.swarovski-crystallized.com/

March: Pisces

Ring by Philippe Ferrandis, available at http://www.swarovski-crystallized.com/

April: Aries

May: Taurus

June: Gemini

July: Cancer

Necklace, bracelet (left and right) and star-shaped ring by Rodrigo Otazu, available at http://www.swarovski-crystallized.com/

August: Leo

September: Virgo

October: Libra

Ring – Crystal Evolution by R. Bella, available at http://www.swarovski-crystallized.com/

November: Scorpio

Ring – Crystal Evolution by R. Bella, available at http://www.swarovski-crystallized.com/

images via Swarovski and StyleAmor

December – Sagittarius

The Bernie

I just learned about The Bernie last night and it has changed how I look at the world of dance. Kevin and I referenced The Bernie in class tonight and in case any of you from class read this, here is the video that makes me throw my head back and wiggle my body with wild disregard! I’ve also found a great break down on how to do the move…..keep scrolling down!!

 

According to Mahalo, here is the everything-you-want-to-know about this new dance craze!

“This dance was inspired by the “Weekend at Bernie’s” movie series. In the films, the dead character miraculously came alive whenever music played.

Part 1: Forward Walk

Start with a two step, demonstrated in the
Find the Beat lesson. Another option is stepping out to your right with the right foot, then doing very small alternating steps forward, leading with the hip each time. This option works better with the Bernie.

Part 2: Lean

Lean back. When you do this, you should feel the stretch in your lower back and abdomen. Move your shoulders backward and forward, one at a time, alternating sides. During this, your arms should be loose at your sides.

Now, do parts one and two at the same time. Do a right, left, right, left.

Part 3: Head

Lean your head back as though you have a nosebleed.

After you’ve practiced these three parts, do them all simultaneously for the Bernie.

Variation and Combination

For a variation on the Bernie, try leaning forward instead of back, face down, bending at the waist.

After practicing this, try this combination of the basic and the variation: right, left, right, left, variation right,
variation left, variation right, variation left.”

What a stellar teaching video!

So how ’bout it Lindy Hoppers…where can you add this into your social dancing?

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

Herrang Wk5 – Costumes

Friday, 5th August 2011

A Moon Odyssey

How high the moon? Come and feel the weightlessness of universe and see how Mother Earth is looking at you from a far distance. Astronauts and aliens, galaxies and stars. Mysterious creatures from planets you never knew of. One spaceship is landing and another one is taking off. Get your oxygen mask and get ready for space. And if you listen carefully you might already now hear the barking from a lonely dog named Lajka.

This one was a lot harder for me to find photos that were inspiring, but here’s my best shot. What are your ideas?

I’m afraid I might throw in the towel on this one, but I’ll try to pull something together. Maybe something with tin foil…. any suggestions?

Umbrella Inspiration

Here are some videos that I’m taking inspiration from for this week. What do you think we are up to out here in Herrang for Week 4?


No need to watch this one with sound, but the girls are awfully cute!

A few of us are putting together choreography for a jellyfish/umbrella number. Can’t wait to see how the choreography turns out!