I can’t quite tell if Inspiration Weekend was a great weekend due to personal reasons, or because it was a great weekend, so I shall attribute it to both.
On a personal note, seeing Crystal, Nikki & Shesha (and their new baby), Mikey, and Claire was truly satisfying. As much as I felt like I never quite fit in during my time in Orange County, I managed to make some incredibly wonderful friends which made OC feel as much like home as the Bay Area and Seattle (see HOME blog).
But on to the weekend. I taught with Thomas Blacharz (Montpellier, France) and it was awesome as always. Tommy and I go back to 2005; he invited me out to teach with him in Grenoble, France back before I was known internationally, so that among many reasons, he has a special place in my heart. I was thrilled when Shesha asked me to teach at IW, and even more so when he wanted to bring Tommy over. In life, as in the dance world, what goes around, comes around, and it was nice to get the chance to return the favor to Tommy for bringing me out.
Over the years, not only has Tommy’s English improved, but so has his abilities to explain what he was doing with his body visually and internally. He had recently finished a tour of Korea and Japan and had spent the month thinking and explaining the details of his technique, and his theories rocked my world. (NOTE: Currently my focus in my personal dancing is technique. I feel like I danced for such a long time not truly know what I was doing with my body, why I was doing it, or how to get better, and with the “formal” introduction (haha, or recognition/awareness/whatever ) of technique from Kevin, I finally saw myself change as a lindy hopper (Dax also played a roll in that). I went from being a dancer to a follow (or that was the goal….it’s still a work in progress if you ask me). I wish 5 years ago I had learned, or even heard, the stuff I am teaching now. Summary: technique makes all the difference. If you can’t get to the next level, focus on your technique!
The classes Tommy and I taught were very interesting to me as an instructor and as a follow. Now, a month later, looking back on the classes we taught, I might have taught some of them differently, but the content would have been the same. Tommy was really inspired by rhythms and stretch, and by the end of the weekend I was as well.
All of the classes we taught I enjoyed for different reasons. Our first class we knocked out of the park, if I do say so myself (toot toot). We did a fast dancing class and taught the beginning lindy section to the Ninjammerz Routine and people were loving it. Not everyone stayed for the whole class, but it was still packed by the end. I don’t recall anyone truly getting it, but the heart and spirit of each student were shinning bright. They did an awesome job. Our beginning classes were great; I think by giving the students technique from the beginning was a tad overwhelming, but oh-so-very necessary. By the end of our class, they were asking really great question about technique and leading and follow. The only unfortunate thing about that is that even with the answers we could give them, they weren’t really going to make that much sense until they had more actual time on the dance floor. (Starting to stand up on my chair) But that didn’t matter to them, (arm in the air) they were thirsty for the knowledge of lead and follow technique (now waving and shaking)!!! God the beginners were awesome (getting down from the chair now).
For the Inspiration Class, Tommy and I taught the Slip Slop Shim Sham. We didn’t get through the whole thing, but the class did an awesome job sliding around the floor. I think we got Shesha in trouble with the owner of the place because we used baby powder and should not have. Sorry Shesha!! But the class was awesome; seeing that many students sliding around on the floor was quite the sight.
And last, but not least, Tommy taught a class on rhythm (and I just say Tommy because they were all his ideas) and it was on of the highlights of teaching that weekend. We started with something that looked like a tap exercise: walks, hops, jumps, triples, four-ples (quadruples….you had to be there), and quintuplets. After having the class learn to move throughout five different rhythms, they had to the lead and follow them. Near the end of the class, Tommy whipped out 8 cards number 1-8 and then used his shoes to represent the beats in between beat, and then he had to lead me through the beats he set up. Haha, honestly it was a little stressful because I didn’t know if I was going to get them, but when I remembered that he had to lead me through them, I let it go and just followed what I was told to do. It was truly a show of how amazing Tommy is as a leader and his use of rhythm.
Not only did I have the privilege of teaching with Tommy, but I also got to teach two classes with Mikey Pedroza. For his Inspiration Class, he used a clip of Gene Kelly to show his movement, body control, and grace. To the song “September in the Rain”, Mikey choreographed a really lovely pieces that was rather romantic. We also taught a beginners class and helped them with their body movement and swingout.
The night dances were a blast. The music was awesome, the floor was slick, but not too slick, and there was plenty of water. The contest were fun to watch and difficult to judge. One in particular was the 30 second showcase because almost every couple had music troubles. The volume on the music needed to be all the way up for the start of the music, and instead it faded in, and most people missed their start. Once we (the judges) finally caught on to what was happening, we had a few of the couples go again.
Now to a personal favorite, performances! All the teachers performed in a group number or doing solo numbers. I unfortunately missed Stefan & Bethany and Mike & Casey’s performance (so if you have it, please send me a link), but from what I heard from some of the students, it rocked. Tommy and I performed a piece that he and Alice had choreographed, Dax & Alice made a guest appearance and performed their ILHC Classic Routine, Max and Annie did their winning ILHC Showcase piece, and the Ninjammerz performed.
Shout out time:
* Shesha did an awesome job as a host for the weekend. We stayed in a great hotel not too far away from the event, had a BEVY of people who were ready to give the instructors rides to and from their hotel. We were also well fed and watered. Shesha had stocked a bunch of waters for us at our hotel and snack bars and chocolates so that we never went hungry – so thoughtful. He also took us all out to eat at an awesome Thai restaurant and had some awesome fucking food. (On a personal note, he and Nikki took very good care of me after the weekend was over. Yeah for friends).
* Nick Williams did an awesome job of skipping me like a rock against the floor. That man is strong, so watch out!
* The line-up of instructors was just as the weekend promised: Inspiring.
* Max and Annie were there, and they dance with more of themselves than any other couple I know. During their performance, Annie knocked Max over with one of their signature moves, and without missing a beat Max popped up off the floor and continued through the choreo as if nothing had happened. It was awesome because I’ve never seen that happen before, and even though it came to a surprise to both of the them, the continued to dance as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. True professional; true performers.
* Mike and Casey were darling as always even though they are a relatively new partnership, they are a classic couple for me. I think they balance each other very nicely and both bring a wide variety of information to the classroom and dance floor. They incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the dance, and Casey has the cutest little hands that are so expressive when she dances!!
* Mikey Pedroza is my supero hero.
* Stefan and Bethany have some of the best movement I’ve ever seen. They have been favorites of mine for quite some time and bring something to the floor that no other couple can. For me they are kind of an underground couple; they don’t have a website, but they do have a following and the people in the know, KNOW (shaking my head YES). I picture that when people write books about the Lindy Hop revival of year 2000 (and beyond!) that S&B with be dancers that are often referenced, but there is limited media of them. I picture them being super respect among the respected. Oh yeah, and their body control and choreography genius make me go “Wooohooooo!”
So the long of the short of it is that as an Instructor I was inspired; as a follow I was inspired; as a performer I was inspired; and as a dancer I was inspired. Shesha delivered exactly as he promised and I had an awesome time.