Delilah Williams on Competing

 (featured image by Steve Kim)

Delilah can be found truckin’ at dance events all over! She was classically trained in ballet since birth and bumped into swing dancing at 15. It was then in 2005 that she got the bug, the lindy bug! Delilah learned how to swing dance at the mercury cafe and started traveling to workshops. Over the years, she has performed and competed individually and with numerous teams including the CU jitterbuffs, Atomic Rhythm, Baltown Grapplers, Woodside Jumpers, and 23skidoo! She is part of Denver’s premiere girl troupe, The Diamond Dolls. The two awards that she is most proud of are the Golden Budgie and the Underground Jitterbug Championships at Camp Hollywood 2015. Her cheerful smile, playful presentation, and creative movements will put a smile on your face.

 

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

Name: Delilah Williams
Home base: “Welcome to Denver, CO, the mile high city!” (They say that on the train in the airport and I always speak along with it and people look at me like I’m a total nut.)
Year you started competing: My first studio competition was in 2003, and my first swing was in 2006.
Approximately how many competitions have you competed in: I tried counting, but I couldn’t remember them all. I believe over 100.
 
* What’s your dance background?
My grandma, mom, grandfather, and father had to lug me to ballet starting at 3 years old. A few years later they tried to get me into other activities (soccer, piano, etc.) but instead I started tap and jazz! I grew up in a small town where there was just one studio. My dance teacher is the only reason I am still dancing. She was always supportive of everyone, and even allowed the kids sometimes to help with pieces of choreography. Then, in high school my best friend, Kendall Roderick, and her family offered to take me to the Mercury Café to try swing dancing in 2005. I thought it sounded super lame, but I went and I was completely hooked. Their family drove us for two years down from our hometown of Evergreen, to Denver until we were able to drive ourselves down the hill. I participated in the studio until 2007, when I decided to only focus on Lindy Hop! I still enjoy doing modern dances, currently I am learning K-pop with a few friends!
 

* Why do you compete?
For me, I love the energy of competitions and performances, it allows me to lose myself and give everything to the crowd, music, and my partner. Social dancing is amazingly fun, but it is missing a component that drives people to push boundaries and try for things they normally wouldn’t on the social floor. The crowd and music drives the dancers, the dancers drive the crowd and the music. The energy can either feed into your insecurities, or feed into your badass cookie jar. I compete to lose myself in the moment, to not think and just do with my partner and the music. It is such a rush when the crowd cheers so loud that it drowns out the music, but you keep going not sure if you’re even on time.

* Why do you think competition is valuable?
Competition allows you to push boundaries of what you thought was possible in your dance, doesn’t matter the style. Because of this, I believe that competitions can help to hook new dancers in, keep veteran dancers interested, and create a platform for growth within the dance. When you see people striving to be better and better on the competition or performance floor, as a newer or veteran dancer what you’re seeing can inspire you. Whether it inspires you to try a new trick, or learn a new dance, it doesn’t matter. It peaks your interest, you look at more videos, take more classes, and grow yourself as a dancer. This intense drive to learn, change or be the best allows the scene to continue to grow. It’s awesome to see different styles showcased together, whether it be social dancing vs choreography, or smooth vs chunky, or bal vs shag, whatever!

* What’s your personal philosophy on Jack and Jills?
Jack and Jills are tough. It is easy to overthink stylizations, moves, the music, everything. I go into J&J’s trying to only focus on my partner and the music. If you can find a way to turn off your mental brain that’s telling you a billion things at once and let yourself be in the moment with your partner, you will look back at your video and be like “DAMN I didn’t even know we hit that”. One thing that helps me be in the moment is scatting and spotting my partners chest while I’m dancing.

* Do you still get nervous before a competition?
I not only get nervous, but I get extremely anxious because I absolutely love being in front of people doing my thing and I cannot wait to get out there. But at the same time, I do worry that I will fail. I cannot stop bopping around before competitions, and I can be so high strung and psyched that I hate it when people touch me before I go out!

from Wandering & Pondering

* How do you deal with nerves before a competition?
The mind is a powerful thing. If I am doing aerials I always wear my hair in the same style, a one piece jumpsuit usually made by my amazing mother and grandmother (so my costume can’t distract me), and have my chapstick on hand. I always practice in costume prior to comps, as in days or weeks. Before the competition I have a warm up routine that I was taught by Gabriel Cashman in 2012 before a competition at Midwest Lindy Fest, which calms me down. For me, ritual is key. I also try to put as much positive energy out into the space as possible. If I think I will fall on a trick, I will. If I know I will nail it, then I will. Once I am out there and the music starts, I straight up check out until the end and try to be in the moment.

* What competition have you done that meant the most to you? Why?
Easily it is the Underground Jitterbug Championship in 2015 with my partner, Kenny Nelson. The UJC is a magical gathering at some Camp Hollywood’s, where anyone who wants to compete goes in the circle and throws everything they got until the end. It usually ends up being about 4-5 songs long by the end. Growing up swing dancing in Denver, it was always about fast music and tight air. I had watched the UJC when I was younger and always wished I could have the confidence to throw in such a tight competition. I was worried we would get tapped out early, or not make the finals, but, we did! That was the first night that I felt confident and free while doing called aerials in front of a crowd. I have never done very well with crowd judged contests until recently, and it felt awesome to have the crowd pick you. That being said, what took the cake for me was winning the Golden Budgie (rock the house award) for our performances over the weekend. Being recognized for what you love is an amazing feeling.

You can either watch the last 3 minutes of this epic competition, or you can check out the whole thing (below).

* What is/was your favorite competition to watch?
In general, my favorite competitions to watch are the amateur divisions. Specifically, I loved this last amateur lindy comp at Camp Hollywood this year. Amateurs in general can have less preconceived notions about what they should and shouldn’t do, and also they have less pressure on their shoulders to maintain a certain level of performance that they’re already demonstrated. They go out there, ready to rock what they have, and usually it is crazy fun and different!

* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
1) Do what you need to be comfortable. If you are not comfortable physically, or mentally, you will not look comfortable to the crowd. Do you hate dresses? Then don’t wear dresses! Not sure if you hair is going to stay? Fix it into a stable style, because otherwise your energy will be put into thinking about it falling. People always give me a hard time about how crazy my face is when I compete and dance in general, but for me what makes me feel comfortable and hit what I want to hit is scatting with the music. So, I may look insane but I still look like I LOVE what I’m doing, which means the crowd will be more likely to get on my side than if I looked unsure if my steps. Which brings me to my next point…

2) Love every single thing you do, even if it sucks. While you’re in front of a crowd, the biggest thing that matters is confidence in what you do. It’s not like YouTube, Vimeo, or Facebook. They don’t get to rewind, so if you mess up keep going and turn that into something legit, they won’t be any the wiser. Sometimes it works out even better! One way to improve confidence would practicing, especially with a group so you are used to people around and watching you. I fell twice at Montreal Swing Riot, hard, but I did not mope, cry, or freak out until the competition was finished. The audience doesn’t care if you screw up, as long as you keep going. Which brings me to my final point…

3) So you screwed up? Well that sucks, but trust me every single person has not so great videos of their dancing floating around on YouTube. Watch it, cry a little bit, and move on. Watch all of your videos and other videos of competitions that you enjoy over and over, until you know when the crowd screams, when the trumpet player reaches the climax of his solo, or how you or your favorite couple nails that trick. Even if it’s one of your sucky videos, watch it until you like something about it. There is always a positive to a competition, and finding that can help your brain focus on something positive, instead of your screw up. Visualization of what you want to be and do is a huge part of competing. If you can’t think it or believe, you will not do it. I watch the videos that I like and do not like until I like something about it and can visualize how I would have approached the pieces I didn’t like in a constructive manner. Plus, it allows you to draw from other couples and see what they did that you liked!

 
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I have admired Delilah for years. To me, she’s always been around, just killin’ it. She wears fun/funky clothes, has a sweet set of swivels, a member of rad girl gang (ehhemm….the Denver Diamond Dolls), had a solid work ethic, a vibrant personality, and her Face-ography is unparalleled in the Lindy Hop Community. Not only that, but she has great hair!! As a fellow colored-hair person, I have to give a little shout out to her fabulous ‘do! #slay #ladycrush

 
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Glenn Crytzer – It Don’t Mean a Thing IF….

I ran into Glenn a few months ago while hanging out in Seattle and he’s a super interesting guy. He knows his music backwards, forwards, and upside down and he speaks passionately and eloquently about it.
When I first started dancing, I could dance long enough or hard enough. I would dance to anything just so I could keep moving and practice this new “thing” I found and needed. It was like I was starving constantly and it didn’t matter what nourished me. Now years later, I have been well feed and have developed a better palate for music. I’ve become more of a music snob and will no longer dance lindy hop to just anything. In fact, I really only want to lindy hop to swing music, not rock & roll, boogie woogie, soul, r&b, bluegrass, hip hop, etc. I will dance other forms of movement to them, but I won’t lindy hop to them.
Thank you Glenn for writing about why music swings! Click here to read it on his blog
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Hi Jazz Fans,

When I wanted to progress past being an intermediate level dancer, I realized that the next step in dancing was to understand the music, and through this process I started to discover why it was that the really good dancers didn’t dance to certain songs or go out to hear certain bands. There’s a certain feeling in swing music that doesn’t exist in bop or jump blues or 50’s Basie or groovy jazz. It’s really hard to describe in a sentence, but when you discover it, you’ve got it forever and it’s one of the most exciting revelations that life has to offer (IMHO anyway).

Whenever I dance to or listen to a live band, I judge it with a critical ear – I pick apart what I’m hearing and judge what each player’s style is doing to add to or take away from the swing of the band. Over the next several days, I’m going to write about some of the things that I listen for in dance music. If you’re just learning to dance or are looking to step up to the next level, I hope this will help you in your quest as you search for the holy grail of “swing;” if you’re reading this and you’ve already discovered swing, I hope this will help you understand more about what you’re hearing so that when you do or don’t like a band, you’ll have a better idea of why.

#1 Rhythm of the Train

It’s really hard to find good rhythm players and I’ve been blessed to play with guys who really get the style. The goal of the rhythm section should be to form a really tight unit that, in a way, emulates the rhythm of a train. Here are a couple great examples. The first is Duke Ellington’s Orchestra from 1930 playing Old Man Blues:

Now THAT sounds like a train! Here’s a another example, this time from Count Basie’s Orchestra in 1938. Listen to how the Rhythm Section creates the drive and energy of a locomotive, even though they are less expressly trying to copy the exact sound of a train in this one.

Now let’s listen to Count Basie from 1959 to hear how the music changed away from being dance music.

The drums in this tune focus on the back beats like one TWO three FOUR, instead of that nice even chug-chug-chug-chug from the 1930’s, and the extended drum solo at the end just doesn’t swing at all, and there are many other places where the whole band syncopates together, breaking the steady 4 rhythm. The focuses of this tune are the crazy ensemble riffs and Lockjaw Davis’s solo. The ensemble riffs now float overtop of the rhythm instead of being a PART of the rhythm like in the last Basie tune.

Now let’s try some more Ellington and we’ll hear that even the infamous “Take the A-Train” didn’t sound much like a train anymore by the 1960’s.

You can hear that the 1930’s music has that chugga chugga sound like a train, while the later music is more about the horns. This is, in my opinion, due to the fact that American culture changed from a railroad driven culture in the 1930’s to an automobile driven culture after WW2.

Let’s listen to a couple modern examples.

First, something that doesn’t swing!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling it bad music – I think Diana Krall and her musicians are fantastic players. I am however calling it indisputably NOT swing music.

Let’s close out with something that DOES swing. Here’s my buddy Jonathan Stout’s big band from LA. Note how Jon on guitar and Josh on drums create that locomotive rhythm. (check out Jonathan’s blog here: HERE)

I hope this gets you started thinking about what makes music swing!!

Next time: The Drum Set

Cheers,

Glenn

www.bluerhythmband.net

band.to/syncopators

Guys and Girls Gone Wild 2011

This was my first all-jazz weekend. Ten Hours of Classes and nothing but jazz. Oh my goodness, it was a freaking FUN weekend. Here was the schedule and some highlights:

Friday, March 18th

What: Dance and Vintage Bathing Suit Badminton Contest
When: 9pm-late
Where: Baltimore Strut

The location of this venue is completely on the wrong side of the tracks, but it’s a cool venue. I believe it’s a modern dance studio when it’s not inundated by whom Michael Seguin dubbed his “Baltimore’s At-Risk Youths”. Buwahahah!

Vintage Bathing Suit Badminton Contest

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Kevin and I performing before the badminton contest

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Photos from the weekend:

Saturday, March 19th

Time Guys Girls
12pm-1:15pm Slow Strut ( VFW ) Girls’ Choreography( VVA )
1:30pm-2:45pm ** Big Apple part 1, guys and girls together ** ( VVA )
3:00pm-4:15pm Jazz Details ( VVA ) Jazz Details ( VFW )
4:30pm-5:45pm Guys’ Choreography ( VVA ) Blues ( VFW )
9pm-midnight Blue Vipers of Brooklyn and Solo Jazz Dance Contest ( VVA )

I taught Can-Can in my Girls Choreo class and had a blast! Getting all those girls to kick up their legs and “woo” together was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. In Jazz Details, we covered Boogie Forward, Squat Charleston, and one other move. Does anyone remember?

I taught a modified version of my fan dance choreography in the blues class so the girls could learn some moves and we could work on movement. Again, I focused in on the details of committing weight to one foot or the other, using the hips, and looking with intention.

Later that night there was a solo dance contest. I haven’t found video of it just yet, but I’ll share it once it’s up. The finalists danced live to The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn, who were outstanding. There were a few late night parties after the dance, but Kevin and I needed to go home so we could get some sleep. We wanted to be in tip-top shape to abuse the students the following day 😀

Sunday, March 20th

Time Guys Girls
12pm-1:15pm Jazz Details ( VFW ) Jazz Details ( VVA )
1:30pm-2:45pm Hat Tricks ( VFW ) Secrets of the Killer Dillers ( VVA )
3:00pm-4:15pm ** Big Apple part 2, guys and girls together ** ( VVA )
4:30pm-5:45pm Secrets of the Killer Dillers ( VVA ) Burlesque ( VFW )
After Afterparty at VVA lounge

Another day of successful classes! I started Sunday off by breaking down the details of the Shim Sham. I completely mismanaged our time and took 1hr 40 to do so. I had such a great time though…..all those little detail. Ladies, you were amazing. 😀 I then explained who the Killer Dillers were and then talked about how to compete in Charleston, phrasing music, and gave some quick tips about what to do when you go blank. This class probably would have been more useful to a few people the day before, but c’est la vie.

The Big Apple pt 2 is always a tricky class; the attrition rate is higher than I’d like. I think it’s because it was day 2 of nothing buy jazz, the 2nd half have very little repeating choreo, people max out, and the choreo is a bit fiddly. Hehe (embarrassed), it could have also been that Kev and I had a few flubs in the choreo that we eventually fixed :p But we had a few troopers that made it to the end. Congratulations to you badasses!!

A new favorite of mine was the burlesque class. I had the girls bring heels and we spent time walking. We reviewed what we did in the blues class the day before, but this time wearing heels. We sat, we stood, we took off our jackets, and we walked away. 😀 I thought it was a super fun class! Girls, let me know if the stuff works (or not)!!

Lindy 500

Hey Gang,

Here is a link to the video break down of the cupcake (I know it’s not on the DVD that we had for sale).

Ok, what else?

Here’s a link to a quick write-up about the weekend.

BIG, HUGE thanks to Sommer & Dorry and their crew. They take such amazing care of Kevin and me and they are a pleasure to work for. Nina & Michael, thanks for being our “local instructors”. And to the DC Crowd: Thanks for coming out to Baltimore to dance to The Cangelosi Cards and hang out!

Oh, ahahah, let’s see if I can remember some of the skits Kevin and I referenced while teaching. If you haven’t seen these clips, please watch them now. Very quotable.

MAD tv – Bon Qui Qui at King Burger “…but don’t get crazy.”  “I will cut you!!”
Blades of Glory

Spaceballs

Eep, it’s been so long that I don’t remember what other movies Kevin and I pulled quotes from. If you remember one, please let me know and I’ll update the post!

xo