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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The Ax’s

Dax and Max are a freaking handful, especially when they are together. Check out these two ridiculously talented dancers killin’ it!

Girls, seriously, we have to pick up our game!! I wonder who is going to kick ass at Camp Hollywood’s Underground Championships this year?

Bravo Gentlemen. Bravo!

Heartland Swing Festival 2011

I’ll be honest, I never thought I’d end up in Des Moines, IA (pronounced duh-Moyne), but this past weekend I got to visit a new state. As per usual, I didn’t see much of the city, but I did have a great time at the event. Here’s the run down.

Housing

We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel and had a pimp room. Not only did we have our own bed (yes, that is something to brag about) but we each had our own bathrooms!! That has never happened before. I’m guessing it was because we were at the very back corner of the hotel with the stunning view of two parking lots. 😀

The hotel restaurant and bar were also pretty good. In the mornings, Kev and I went down for breakfast and grabbed food from the buffet. Yeah for fresh fruit!! I only ate dinner at the restaurant one night but mmmm-mmmm it was really, really good. On Sunday night, a bunch of us got together and grabbed drinks at the bar before saying goodbye and again, they had some nice drinks.

Bonus: the hotel was a 5 minute drive away from the dance.

Double bonus: one of the classrooms was on the second floor of the hotel so Kev and I got to roll up to our room and hang out during lunch. Again, that was another first for us.

Noteworthy:  Fastest elevator I’ve ever been in. Hahha, I clearly just got back from Europe where the elevators are small and slow. The Renaissance also had a free airport shuttle. I’m pretty sure Michael was pretty pleased come 7am on Monday morning. :p

Fellow Instructors

We kicked it with Peter & Naomi and Tiff & Kenny this past weekend. I’m starting to see Peter and Naomi more regularly and I have to say, it’s really nice to see familiar faces while on the road. It’s like I get to see my friends at work!! Ah, the small luxuries in life.

Other fab people who were there teaching: Jon Tigert and Mandy Spencer (2010 CJC Champion), Mikey Brafford and Eve Johnson, Jenna Stworzyjanek, Oscar Hampton, Dee Daniels-Locke, and Kenna Sarge & Voice of Culture.

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Temple For Performing Arts – Grand Hall

Uh, yeah. GLORRRRRRRRIOUS.

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Performance

Kenna Sarge & Voice of Culture (Minneapolis, MN) performance on Friday night blew me out of the water. It was incredible. Their drumming and dancing was super hot and their rhythms were incredible. I hope someone posts a video of it!!

I’d also like to note that Kevin and I didn’t perform this weekend. It’s a rare occasion that we don’t perform and I will admit, I enjoyed getting to watch performances all weekend long. That being said, I’m a little sad I didn’t get to perform because I enjoy it so much, but the kids in class got to see me do my thing just a little bit during demos. *smile

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Classes

The upper-level class was impressively good. I wasn’t expecting such a high level. 🙂 Kevin and I got to talk about the difference between rock steps and syncopated rock steps, walking and triple stepping, and bouncing & pulsing. Even more impressive was the fact that people stayed in class even though we had African Drumming going on in the room next door. That was above and beyond the noisiest class I’ve ever been in. Hahah, and I have to apologize, again, to the class for my tourette-like outburst in class. I did think it was funny though.

In our 2-part aerial class, wee covered the Fundamentals of Basing and Flying, a Flying Baby Doll, and finally The Cupcake. We wanted to teach the cupcake unless we had a few students who already learned it. We did have a couple in there that already knew how to do it, so we gave them specific pointer while everyone else learned the pieces. We also showed drags at the end of the flying baby doll and the cupcake, but didn’t have time to go over them. Here’s a rundown on how to do drags/lunges.

For the ladies who asked me a number of questions about turns, here are some more tutorials on the details of turning. The guys worked on spinning on one foot and more info about that can be found here.

A little secret for you: I LOVE teaching in the US. Why? Because people speak American (yes, I said it!) and, more importantly, they know the same cultural references that I do!! I’m hilarious (if I do say so myself) in class, but often times only a few pop-culture junkies fully understand me when I’m abroad. Iowa, thank you for understanding my humor and laughing WITH me. I really, really appreciated it.

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Staff

A big THANK YOU to all the DJs, Bands, and volunteers. Without you guys, an event just wouldn’t run!! Thank you for grabbing us hot chocolate, chai lattes, lunch and bottles of wine. Ooh, and thank you for the rides!

Contest Results

Any Swing Goes – Christian Frommelt & Jenny Shirar
Same Gender – Anthony Chen & Jeremy Russell Nelson Fischer
Team – Swing Dings
Vintage Jazz – Morgan Kestner
Jack & Jill – Anthony Chen & Cassie Stoa
Slow Lindy – Anthony Chen & Chelsea Dvorchak
And congratulations to Rae Mullica for winning Miss Heartland Vintage Pin-up Contest!! To see all the contestants, click here to be redirected to facebook.

Video coming soon!!!

A Flickr photostream from the event!

Photos on Facebook from the event.

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