I had SUCH a great time at ILHC this year because I was so freaking busy doing like I do: two Pro/Ams, Slow Division with Mikey Pedroza, Showcase with Kevin St. Laurent, and commentary on Swing Nation’s live streaming of the Invitational Strictly.
First things first: The Pro/Am! Tim worked his balls off to get this choreography together with me. I’m so proud of him and how well he did on Game Day!
Felipe and I worked on this choreography while at Herrang this year. He dedicated so many hours to this choreography and it shows. Yeah yeah!!
And did I mention he is Brazilian
What can I say other than dancing with Mikey is a blast. Just look at how silly we are together!
A quick review of how EPIC 2013 was for me. In chronological order, I present to you:
1. Attending my first Viennese Ball at the Philharmonic in Vienna, Austria.
I wore a vintage 1930s gown, my Remix shoes, and a feather fascinator from Etsy. What a gorgeous facility! Kevin and I waltzed a few times and stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning. De.lightful!!
2. The best birthday party EVER!!
The theme: Thrift Store. Instead of getting presents, I asked everyone to bring $29, come down to the thrift store with me and the gang, and buy clothes for someone else. After that, it was fashion show time. And beer.
3. My younger brother got married
4. Dancing on the Great Wall of China
5. Outrageously good time at The Mooche in Cork, Ireland. Thanks Daragh!!
Kevin and I stayed in a fabulous B&B, ate a proper “British Breakfast”, hung out with some fabulous misfits, taught some super fun classes, and hung out with One Horse Pony – some fabulous local musicians.
Rising Star – The Rising Star is a Champion that has been around from ten to twenty years. It strives to make its place in the Swing Dance Heavens through its ongoing participation within the Milky Way of Competition.
Couples – Couples stands out with special brilliance among other swing partnerships.
10. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – samba, Copacabana, Ipanema, and amazing people
11. Dancing my ass off at Lindy Shock in Budapest, Hungary.
Countless nights I was up until 5am dancing. Mostly I’d go home because I had work in the morning and my feet were on fire. Some of my most memorable dances from the weekend were with Dax Hock. Thanks man!
12. Performing the Jungle Book number with my new team at Lindy Focus: ‘Monkey’ Mikey, ‘Lioness’ Gaby, and ‘White Tiger’ Kevin.
Gaaaaah, I love this routine. It’s beautiful, simple, and classy. Mikey, thank you for choreographing something so lovely. Laura, it was a pleasure performing along side of you. SF Girl Jam organizers, thank you for creating an event where two gals can dance with their gams out!!
Here are my personal highlights from Lindy Focus X (and yes, I know these are suuuuuuuuuuper late):
9) The people!!!
First I need to thank the volunteer staff for being so incredibly awesome. They did a fantastic job making sure that everything was running in the background so that everyone could have a great time. THANK YOU to the cooks, transportation liaison, coordinator, music and sound technicians, hotel staff for making sure we had water, the DJs, photographers, videographers, the lighting coordinators, and everyone else who helped out Michael and Jaya in the background.
Secondly, I want to thank all of the people that attended, especially the students. You and your and enthusiasm are what make doing my job such a treat. You guys made the event as fierce as it was. I get to do what I do because of you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
8) The Nutcrackers.
7) Andrew Thigpen as the MC.
6) Nina Gilkenson impersonating Andrew Thigpen:
5) The Balitquerque party.
The Baltimore and Albequerque scene teamed up some time ago and have been throwing legendary parties at various dance events. At the end of these various events, Dorry (one of the head honchos in Baltimore) would rave about the party and ask us why Kevin and I weren’t there. Unfortunately, we never got an invitation. This happened at two events. No bueno (*shakes head). So this year, Dorry made an extra effort to make sure we felt included.
Kevin and I received our invitations during our Swing Out Intensive.
Andrew Munoz dressed up in his tux and cordially informed us that we were invited to (*use your best British accent here) “enjoy an evening of tomfoolery” and that we should swing by room 166 around 7 o’clock. How delightful!
Here are some pictures that barely do the night justice.
This video is too dark to see the madness, but it’s a good start
4) Winning the Invitational Jack & Jill with Todd Yannacone. That competition was really hard to judge so I’m very surprised that we took 1st. I am positive the scores are all over the board, so I have to give a shout out to the Relative Placement system!
3) Nath Bugh and Dorry Segev Dueling Piano number from the show on New Years Eve. The video speaks for itself.
2) Performing five new numbers this year, most of which I learned in the two weeks prior to the event.
The most challenging act I did was my solo jazz piece called My Discarded Men. I probably spent around 35 hours putting this routine together and trying to teach myself how to make the particular shapes I did. It wasn’t perfect, but I am really proud of myself.
1) All of the ridiculously awesome social dances I had on the last night!! Ok, so I was a little buzzed off of all the champagne I had, but man, my following was pretty freaking awesome (*toot toot). I had a number of really-freaking good dances that night, but in particular, I felt that I really connected with Todd and Mikey. Not only that, but Jonathan Stout and His Campus Five were playing. Gaaaaaaaaaah, the music was soooooooooooo freaking gooooood!!!
Unfortunately, I was in rehearsal during this amazing feat of Hat Tricking, but it was sooooooooo freaking awesome I had to post it. About a year ago, Tips and Tops had a dream were planning on performing the Hat Trick Shim Sham while at Lindy Focus this year, but when they realized that all their buddies were there, they knew it was time to take the performance to the next level. Here the eight of them are in all their hat tricking glory!!
From left to right the performers: Tin Tin, Taps, Tips, Toodles, Tops, Toes, Targoff, and Tubs.
How awesome was that?!!! This tip-top team tricked their way into the hearts of many this past weekend. What I enjoyed most about this performance was seeing the individuality of each performer and how well they all worked together. On top of that, I really liked how the choreography was modified to best use the number of performers. Neato Gang!!
In case you want to learn how to hat trick shim sham, you are in luck!! Here are the first two (of twelve) videos to get you started:
Word on the street is if you want to be initiated into the group and get your own terrific nickname, you need to learn the routine and perform it at an event (make sure to have video to prove it). I can’t confirm this, but that’s what a little birdy told me!!
My gregarious friend Mikey Pedroza was the only one, I know of, who took up the challenge of creating a recap of the ever-so-popular Chase done at ILHC this past year. Enjoy Mikey in all his vivacious glory as well as his video of the now-infamous Chase.
Man, I’ve been meaning to post this for quite some time!! Sorry I was so tardy!
Followlogie has a special place in my heart. It was the first weekend I taught solo classes out of the country and was my opportunity to prove to myself that I could teach without Kevin. Nobody has said that I couldn’t, but it was something I had to prove to myself and Dominique gave me that chance. I must have done well since I’ve been invited back 3 times.
This year I got to stay with Maryse Lebeau and we had lots of girl time. I got to stay in her daughter’s room and I kinda felt like a little princess. Needless to say I felt very welcomed and very well taken care of. She also made some really great muffins that I basically devoured. Yum yum yum! I taught my group classes with Mikey Pedroza and Zack Richards. Zack did Spins and Turns with me (pictured) and I spent most of the time trying to make him laugh. Relatively I’d say I was successful. He was super easy to teach with and filled in the gaps where needed. What an awesome leader he was!
It was such a pleasure to teach with Mikey again. I think the last time we taught together was at LotR 2009. It’s been a while. In the classes we did together, I did about 30 minutes of jazz and then did 30 minutes of partner worked. Mikey did a great job listening to me make decisions on the fly and executing them flawlessly.
Can She Do the Can Can?
Here are some photos of my latest creation. I thought it’d be super fun to perform a Can Can while in a French speaking area and with none other than the exuberant Evita Arce. I figured if there would be anyone I could talk into high kicking and wearing ruffles with me, it’d be her!
It took me hours to get this routine together. I didn’t want to use the standard music, but I was running short on time so I figured I’d take the easy road. Then I had to find a good recording of it online. Relatively easy until you realize that you can find almost anything online as long as you can figure out how to search for it! I then scoured youtube for videos of Can Can dancing and needless to say there are more than a few videos to watch. I spent hours weeding through videos and watching good ones and a lot of bad ones to find inspiration and some solid direction. Most of the videos I liked had a large ensemble of girls where as I only had Evita and myself. As you’ll see below, there was plenty to do with just two girls (see video below).
So I found videos that inspired me, cut them up into bite size pieces, learned the movement, and then went to work on my own choreography. I mapped out the song, noted where the signature chorus’ were, and then decided where I wanted some of the flashy stuff to go. All I had to do next was fill in the dancing in betweent he flash moments and I was good to go.
Oh yeah, but wait, I needed costuming for this routine. A Can Can Routine doesn’t look right in jeans and a t-shirt; only skirts with ruffle will do. I went down to the local thrift store and bought 2 wedding skirt for cheap, sent them to my costume maker (thanks Mom!!) along with video, color scheme, and ideas, and then crossed my fingers there’d be enough time to get everything done. Thank goodness I was smart enough to work on costumes first before the choreography!!
Back to the dancing! So costumes were in the works, the song was mapped out, and I still had to choreograph. I hacked out some choreo in a few hours time and then tried it in a long skirt (see pictures below). That completely changed the game. Even rehearsing in pants doesn’t give you the feel or timing for the movement you’ll actually be using. I practiced the choreo a few times and then filmed it. I needed to send Evita something so she could learn the choreo. Thank goodness I still had 3 days before the event! Yup, that’s right. Idea – 4 weeks in the making. Costumes – 2 weeks in making. Choreography – 3 days in the making.
So what does this all really mean? Evita is utterly amazing! I sent her a video on Monday, changed some of the choreography on Tuesday, she worked on it Wednesday, found material to make the head pieces out of on Thursday and we met up on Friday. Ridiculous!! We would have met up earlier but my Thursday flight to Quebec was canceled due to weather. Eesh!
Saturday afternoon I got to teach part of the choreography to the students. I think they had fun running around with me It was a very energetic class and it was fabulous to get to see the choreography performed by a bevy of ladies. I wish I had a troupe to do a can-can number with!!! That night was the performance. Nina, bless her heart, made our head pieces for us while Evita and I blocked our number a few times on the fabulous stage. Seriously, I’ve never performed on a more amazing stage than this one. The photos are gorgeous, but I don’t really think they do the place justice. Uh, and the energy in there!!! Oh, it was truly a spectacular experience.
After performing that, the stress level went way down. I missed a small piece of my own choreo, but Evita was a champ about it and kept on kicking! We then needed to get ready for Nina’s number so Evita completely changed her clothes and I just took off my skirt. Classy broad!
It was a great night I must say. Hahah, after the show was done, so was I. Most of the performers grabbed a drink at the bar and headed up to the balcony to catch up and see how each other were doing. From a professional and personal stand point, the night was a smash for me! I had such a good time and I really, really needed a night just like that. It’s funny how little moments can revitalize you and remind you about how fortunate you are. That night was one of those nights.
And the story continues!!
Oh, how fun are late nights!! I made it a priority to try and have “cultural experiences” when I travel and apparently, this is supposed to be THE place to get bagels. Here’s how it all went down. Alain Wong took Mikey Pedroza and I to get wood-oven bagels after the show on Saturday night. We go into the tiny store and there is a guy making the dough, another guy loading the doughy spheres onto a wooden plank and sliding them into the fire, and another guy behind the counter. Since it was our first time there, the man behind the counter gave each Mikey and I a free bagel. We bought some creme cheese and scarfed them down. I needed a napkin so I went back to the counter to find one. I asked if there were napkins, got laughed at, remembered they are called “serviettes” outside of the States, and corrected myself. The cashier asked where I was from and what was I doing here. I told him I was from America and was here to dance.
C: “What kind of dance?”
Jo: “Lindy hop.”
C: “What’s that?”
Jo: “Lemme show you! Hey Mikey, come ‘ere!”
Somewhere during this dialogue, Alain gets out his phone and records this:
Yup, we got half a dozen bagels for free because of that amazing showing! Hahha, and even though we were stuffed, Mikey and I still met up with a bunch of our friends and had poutine at some place that was mega packed at 1am. Double cultural experience!!
You might notice that I dressed differently than I typically do. Lisa Casper (New Orleans) outfitted me from head to toe. That is her yellow bandanna, yellow top, and skirt. The fun thing about that skirt is that she made that herself! I think this might be the making of a new clothing designer in our scene!! (And and and, in a very short while I’ll be selling hair accessories handmade by her!!)
1) Nick Williams and Laura Keat
2) Peter Strom and Naomi Uyama
3) Todd Yannacone and Jo Hoffberg
Jack and Jill!!!!!!
What set this competition apart from all the others was the music. We danced to a lindy hop song and then something that fell into the karaoke/soul category. Nick Williams and I were brave enough to choose Karaoke Grab Bag, and to be honest, I think it was a great choice.
1) Sucking on the lindy hop portion and then finding total redemption with a Star Lift. To top that off, Nick’s “fork in the garbage disposal” moment. And I have to give Chia-Wen Lin a shout out for being such an awesome team player as well as Carla for continuing to play along.
2) Andrew Thigpen and Carla Heiney dancing to “Summer Nights” from Greece (14:41). She made such a great Sandra Dee and they both acted the crap out the song!! Hahha, and getting to be backup singers….man… I’ll never forget that.
3) Peter Strom and Mia Goldsmith’s dance was……so many things (21:39)!! One way to describe it is “not work appropriate”. Another: daaaaaaaaannng! Just watch everyone’s reaction in the background. Funny stuff.
4) Nikki Marvin swivel moment (28:30) shortly followed up by Jeremy Otth’s circle slide (28:35) and finger point (just to make sure you saw it dancing to Footloose (28:56). When he undid his suspenders….we all nearly lost it! He made such a great Kevin Bacon….it was ridiculous!
Naomi Uyama also did a fantastic job picking out the music!! People we so well suited to the music they chose. Love it!
1) Chance Bushman and Karen Turman (6:00)
2) Nick Williams and Jo Hoffberg (9:47)
3) Peter Strom and Mia Goldsmith (19:56)