Southwest Lindyfest 2011

Photos from David Holmes

I’m so grateful that I wasn’t sick this year! Man, the social dancing at this event was easily some of the best dancing I’ve had this year. To the Leaders in Texas: I love you. All of you. You’re amazing. Thank you for my weight changes!

Some personal highlights from the weekend:

  1. Teaching 3 aerial classes on the best gym floor. While little gymnast girls run by, my class was throwing aerials. We worked our way up to the Idlewild. Awesome.
  2. Performing “Communication” in heels. That’s a first!! (if the video gets posted, I’ll post it here).
  3. Biscuits at the buffet.
  4. Teacher’s room with food, especially the peanut butter pretzels.
  5. Social dancing on Sunday night with all the A-mazing leads
  6. Social dancing on Sunday night with Naomi Uyama for about an hour and a half. It was ridiculous. Buwahahha! The mental energy I had to put forward in order to think about what came next and how to execute it, all while trying to stay on beat AND give Naomi her footwork. OMGOODNESS it was overwhelming!
  7. Having Max Pitruzzella help me with my leading.
  8. Teaming up with Hot Club Stomp and forming Hot Killer Stomp! Video below.
  9. Having so many fantastic dancers in mine and Kevin’s master class.
  10. Making the students in the advance class feel SUPER awkward. Hahah, it was funny for Kevin and me!

Videos from the weekend:

Catalina Jazz Camp – Details

Back in the day, Catalina Jazz Camp was the event to go to. International instructors such as Eddie & Eva, Lennart & “W”, Daniel & Asa, Steven Mitchell, Rob & Dianne, Ryan & Jenny, and a slue of other top instructors. Not only was it top level instruction, but the Casino Ballroom and the island itself was and is gorgeous.

I remember finishing my 9th grade year in high school and immediately flying down to LA with some friends, catching the ferry across to the island, and setting up shop for a week. I had a great time running around in the sun, losing my voice, racing golf carts, and watching the Hot Shots perform. Here’s a picture of me in front of the slab with some friends many years ago:

Some Historical Information:

The Catalina Jazz Dance Festival endeavors to recreate the historic swing dance routines of the 30’s and 40’s, paying homage to the big bands from the Swing Era who played regularly at the Casino Ballroom.

Enthusiasts will remember the PBDA Swing Camp which ran for 10 years from 1994–2004. The event centers around the famous Catalina Casino Ballroom which still echoes music from a bygone era, and the richness of Catalina culture.

Here’s a layout of where we’ll be running around:

1) Casino Ballroom (click here to check out the virtual tour!)

2) Tremont Hall
3) Sunday Workshops (High School Gym)
4) Foutain
5) Antonios Cabaret Pizza
6) Boat Landing
7) The Slab

The Killer Dillers will be performing 10 numbers in the ballroom. On Friday, the audience will get to see “Putting on the Ritz,  a cakewalk number, Sharon’s fan dance, “Fascinating Rhythm”, and a group charleston number. On Saturday, we’ll perform a Hat Trick Tranky Doo, a Fred Astaire inspired number, “Jelly Roll”, “Bellboy”, and “Communication”. Finally, on Sunday we’ll perform “Serenade to a Savage” for our finale.

Can’t wait to see you there!!

Camp Jitterbug 2010

Camp Jitterbug Flyer

Doesn’t Sharon look amazing?! I am so thrilled that The Killer Diller’s very own Sharon Davis on this year’s Camp Jitterbug flyer and on the website header:

The photo on the flyer was taken during her tribute act to Josephine Baker in last year’s Jump Session show. Josephine, being one of her all-time greatest inspirations, has inspired numerous costumes that take up a great amount of space in Sharon’s luggage.

Josephine Baker Banana Skirt Josephine Baker

The 2010 Camp Jitterbug details are:

Camp Jitterbug & the Jump Session Show 2010

Memorial Day weekend

May 28-31st 2010

Seattle, USA

And this year the Jump Session show will feature all six Killer Dillers! Myself and Kevin, Juan Villafane & Sharon Davis, and Evita Arce & Nathan Bugh will all be attending Camp Jitterbug, performing in the Jump Session Show, competing, and teaching some classes! Without a doubt, Camp Jitterbug is one of the greatest events of the year. Don’t miss out!

Here is the trailer from last year’s Jump Session show. If this doesn’t make you want to be there, I don’t know what would:

Dressing Up

Why you should dress up every day
Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4

A few weeks ago at Lindy on the Rocks a fellow dancer made me think about the things we wear every day and why we wear them. So I was asked “why are YOU so dressed up?” and felt two things: a little embarrassed that it was pointed out and freaking proud as hell that I stepped up my game enough that someone noticed! I have not been known in the lindy scene for how I dressed, but after meeting a lady by the name of Sharon Davis, I finally was motivated to pick up my game. One can only spend so much time in the company of someone who dresses really well before you notice how unstylish you yourself are. 😀 And for the record, wearing something cute should never feel like a “strange” thing to do!

The long of the short of it, that comment got me thinking about dressing up and what that means. I like dressing up, but I don’t like the time it takes me. But just like anything, the more often you do it, the easier it gets. 🙂 Q: And really, why should “dressing up” be reserved for special occasions only? How about just because you’re done with work, or because it’s Tuesday, or because you needed something to wear with a fab pair of shoes? Ooh, or how about because you spend your life in sweaty rehearsal clothes and you’re over it! 😀

I was immediately inspired to create this list. More and more I am starting to believe in “dressing up” regularly (for no occasion at all) and I think you should too!

So why dress up? Here are 25 good reasons.

* Because life’s too short.

* Because we’re only young once. You’re more lovely than you know & have a rockin’ body and one day you’ll look back at yourself and wish you had! Don’t miss your chance!

* Fashion is a way to express yourself. What does your gear say about you? That you were rehearsing? That you’re into vintage?

* You might run into a totally hottie. You don’t want to look like a scrub, do you?

* Other people notice that you’ve got your “game clothes” on. Maybe they dig what you’re doing, maybe they don’t, but your effort is recognized.

* You might end up on a website (Swingfashionista anyone?)

* You deserve to look good!

* Perfect practice makes perfect, so if you want to look good, you have to practice putting outfits together until it’s a piece of cake. No need to throw the towel in.

* Gorgeous clothes and unique accessories are an awesome conversation starter.

* Saturday nights at a dance event aren’t the only time to celebrate.

* Because that fabulous party dress in your closet cost too much to only be worn once. Check out this blog about cost per wear. Quick synopsis: expensive jeans worn 3x a week for a year are a better deal than a $25 dress on worn once.

* It’s fun!!!

* Even if you live in a place like Pittsburgh and you live in a sketchy neighborhood to boot (cough, cough), cities don’t become stylish without someone taking the first step. Someone had to start wearing clothes from the 80’s again to make the chic!

* Dressing up helps you make fashion mistakes and get past them. Perhaps others can learn from your mistake. From me to you: check to see if your underwear stays in place by moving around a bunch. You’d hate to find out they gave you a massive wedgie at the US Open.

* It can build your confidence. Dressing unconventionally forces you to develop the self-assurance necessary to stand out from everyone else.

* Fashion is art. Don’t believe me? Check out this dress.

* If you’ve got it (vintage style, confidence, killer legs), flaunt it.

* If/when you have a 8-5 corporate job, you probably won’t have the freedom to wear whatever. If you’re not required to be in uniform, get crazy with it!

* Awesome clothes aren’t reserved for the rich and famous. That’s why there are knock-off and affordable stores!

* According to the Mayans the world will end on 12/21/2012 – that’s only 3 years and 102 days from now! Y2K was quite the let down, surely this will be too, but why not be on the safe side? Spend the next 3 years looking good!!

* Carrie Bradshaw and Derrick Zoolander would not approve of your cheap jeans and UGG boots. You can do better than that. And deep down, you know I’m right.

* Doing your hair (ponytails and basic braids don’t count) can give you a pass on the rest of your look.

* Nothing beats self confidence. When you look good, you feel good. It’s hard to feel crappy when you look at yourself and you LOVE what you see.

* It’s fun to have people ask you where you where you got your stuff.

* You want to. That’s the only reason that matters.

Training Week

It slowly feels like the Killer Dillers might really come together. Nathan Bugh from NY came out to train with the boys and it was really amazing to have him around.

Since the end of January 2009, videos of cane work and tap steps have been emailed across continents to make sure everyone was learning “Fascinating Rhythm.” At the time Kevin and I were in Australia and we didn’t really have a rehearsal studio we had access to, so Kevin would go outside and practice at the bus stations when necessary. All three of them put their heart & soul and hands & feet into getting this number together and this weekend was the first weekend they’d finally all be together.

Kevin and Juan had an advantage over Nathan in that they’ve spent the last year or so training together. They know each others’ timing, lines, and rhythm, whereas Nathan had his own unique rhythm and way that he did what he did. However, after a few days working together the boys synced up rather nicely. Friday night is the bi-monthly lindy hop dance in Pittsburgh and they revealed their number for the first time for our local crowd. Sharon and I performed “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in our new red costumes, wig, fascinator, and gloves and found out rather quickly that gloves make cartwheels a bit harder to manage :-). The boys weren’t terribly pleased with their run through, however it was exactly what they needed in order to continue their motivation to push.

Luckily they got another opportunity to perform before we would head to The Big Apple. On Sunday night they performed at Lisa’s birthday bash and did an excellent job. Their hard work was visible and the changes they made to their routine really helped their flow.

Needless to say, they trained their asses off and are as ready as they’ve ever been. It sounds like they’ll perform on Wednesday night at Dance Manhattan, so head on out to see them if you’re in NY.

Swing, Brother Swing 2009

I love Italy and every time I go there I can’t remember why I haven’t already picked up and moved!

Kevin and I left Wednesday for Italy for the 2nd year of Swing, Brother Swing in Bologna, Italy. When we arrived in Italy, we were greeted by a driver who spoke little English, but enough to get us to his gorgeous Mercedes-Benz. It was a very luxurious car considering it was picking up scrubby swing dancers (oh the irony)!!

The event was held at the same place as the year before so we knew the lay of the land. We asked for a room on the first floor somewhere above the reception desk. Why would we specify that? Because that is where the internet was and that’s exactly where we wanted to be…..where we could get excellent reception. We headed up to the room to unpack and shower. After that I headed to the spa to get my legs waxed (if you’re a boy you probably sneered at that) and Kevin did whatever boys do when they are alone….nap!

Side note: Getting stuff waxed in other countries has always been quite an experience. Most often this is because I don’t speak the local language, but also because the type of wax and the application is unique to each country (or has been in my experience).

Teaching classes was fun, as it always is when half the camp doesn’t speak English. We had translators for some of our classes but one of them wasn’t a dancer, so I am sure some of the things we said didn’t translate well, word-for-word. We did, however, had amazing microphones. I think these were the best microphones we’ve ever worked with. They were thin, nude colored, had no ball on the end, and had a teeny tiny chord connected to a small box. It was the smallest one I’ve ever used and was the clearest. I was thinking about trying to find some to buy so I had my own personal mic when I travel, but that sounds a tad silly.

A few months before while I was thinking up names for the classes, I got a little crazy. In the States, the sillier the name, the better the attendance (er…sometimes), but in Europe, the humor doesn’t translate and it doesn’t sound like we are teaching anything useful. After getting to camp I remembered that Italy has a very new scene all things considered and that basic classes would have been extremely helpful. I’ll remember that for next year. 😀

The aerial classes Kevin and I taught were noteworthy. We had large numbers, but most of them didn’t dance any lindy hop. We started with an A-frame on the first day and when we showed how to dance in and out of the move, most people asked what that thing was we did. The aerials and tricks weren’t supremely difficult, but most of the questions we got were about the dancing before and after the move. Yet, that being said, I didn’t see most of those faces in the other lindy classed. Now thinking back on it, the memory makes me giggle.

On Friday night we did the teacher demo and it was solid. Kevin & I, Joseph & Trisha, Joel & Jessica, and Ron & Rusty performed The Big Apple live to the Nine Pennies. It was pretty awesome. The next night were the teacher demos. I did a fan dance, Chaz and Rusty did a tap number, and Kevin and I did a social demo. I think that is “top five” favorite demos I’ve done. 😀

On Sunday there was the Showcase competition and this year there was lindy hop! Well, there was lindy hop last year, but it wasn’t hte primary dance. As I recall there were 8 couples/groups and lots of good stuff. The first group that performed was a group of kids that looked fresh off the Swing boat. Steven Mitchell had just left so he didn’t get to see this, but the kids did the Jitterbug Stroll, and instead of starting on 8, they starting on 1. Not only that, but they did the song through in its entirety. Fun stuff and also rewarding to see a new group of lindy hoppers coming up the line. There were some other fun/great numbers, but the first one really stood out to me.

All in all, my time in Italy was amazing. But no surprise since it’s Italy!!!

Silvia, thanks for such a wonderful event. I can’t wait until next year!!!

Followlogie, Part Deux

My flight to Quebec was uneventful, but passing through customs was a different story. The night before I left, I checked the details on a few of the websites and from what I understood, I only needed a copy of my contract and I’d be fine. That wasn’t the case, apparently.

I had the contract, but because it wasn’t on letterhead, it didn’t look official. The custom’s lady didn’t want to let me through and was very annoyed by me. She didn’t know what lindy hop was and couldn’t understand why I was in Quebec; obviously I was trying to take work from Canadians! After some bickering and the declaration of “I don’t think we are going to let you in”, she had to double check with her superior on whether or not I could pass. He, a sweet old man, asked me a few question (which took all of 120 seconds) and then said “Oh, she’s fine. She’s not taking away jobs from Canadians. She is basically giving a seminar. No one else can do what she is being paid to do.” OMG, what a star! That man totally made my day. In my head I was thinking “IN YOUR FACE!!!” to the lady, but said nothing. I gloated to myself once I completely cleared customs.

Fast Forward.

I finally get where I need to go, am picked up, I swing by the house, change, grab some food, and get ready to teach. My first class was a charleston class (see previous entry) and it went super well. I was so pleased with myself. What was most amusing for me was that I was trying to speak in French, but mostly Spanish was coming out, and occasionally German. I’ll be totally honest, I have NO idea how people keep multiple languages separate in their heads; what a skill! (There are photos of the class that look awesome floating around somewhere, and if I find them, I’ll provide a link.)

After class, the dance started and I had some awesome dances. I danced most of the night and was the only instructor from the weekend out on the floor (small victory moment for me!). I was super sweaty and gross by the end, but man, did I have a good time!!!

Saturday was a great day as well. I taught my class on details, did a private, had an awesome lunch, and then Mickey and I walked around the city. It was rather gray outside, but it didn’t stop us from window shopping!  We wandered into the Crock’s Shop, Aldo (which was having a sale), a pastry store (but didn’t get anything), and then a Ren-Fair store. It had clothing from the middle ages, swords, quills, trinkets, fairies, potions, and more. It was quite the experience. We then hustled back to the classes to eat dinner and then prepared to go home.

Tonight was the big dress-up night, so I got all dolled up in a vintage dress I bought about 10 years ago. Here I am in the dress with Nina. There were some great performances that night and some fun social dancing. For late night, I changed out of my gown and got into some clothes I could dance in. I had some more great dances that night and probably got in bed around 3am.

Sunday was my big day, but I got to sleep in because I didn’t have the first class. Yeah! I started my day teaching a technique class which was packed. I couldn’t believe how many people were there! Lots of great questions were asked and lots of good swivels were done. I had a cute guy named Martin teaching with me (he was my Demo Boy) and he did an awesome job of following me. He could pull in on one, on two and on three every time I asked. Shout out time: He ROCKED! The leads also asked a lot of great questions too. I feel like I got them to think about the options they have, or could have. Any class that gets students thinking about what and why they are doing what they are is a success for me.

The choreography class ended up being a lecture. I walked the students through, step by step, how Kevin and I choreograph, from picking a song, to putting on the final touches of a piece. I thought it was a good class. I haven’t taught it before so I didn’t have a flawless flow, but I still think it went along nicely.

The last class of the day was a class on power moves. I had a bunch of ideas, but only got through 2 of them. The biggest challenge was teaching people to do kick-steps down a line while keeping their rhythm. We added arms on top of that, but mostly it was the legs that proved to be a problem. But everybody looked great in the end. 🙂

That night there was no dance, but there was a dinner for the instructors who stayed around. It was really cool to get to hang out afterward, chat about the weekend, drink a beer, and eat some awesome food. They have a really great thing going in Quebec, and Dominique and Vero did an awesome job getting the weekend together. The students asked great questions and were soaking up the information. Yeah!!!

My flight home took ALL day. I got up around 830am, and didn’t get home until about 8pm that night. That sucks, but that’s what I get for not looking at my ticket more closely.

The exciting thing a bout my flight was that I had a bag-check issue. I almost never check my luggage. I don’t have time for it to get lost or miss a connection, and frankly I just don’t need that much stuff (laundry can be done, after all). Well, the plane from Quebec to Toronto was rather small, and my suitcase wasn’t going to fit in the over head, so I gate checked it, assuming it’d be there at the gate when I arrived. I was wrong. I got off the plane, checked with the stewardess, and she said it’d be there at baggage claim. So I headed towards baggage claim, but for where my connection was going to be. Mistake. My bag went to normal baggage claim, but because I had walked through the special glass doors leading to “American territory”, I couldn’t leave to get my bag. After waiting for my bag at the wrong conveyor belt, and some chatting with the guy at the help desk, he went downstairs to get my luggage. How sweet. Those Canadian – they sure are swell!

All in all, the weekend was awesome on a personal and professional level.

If you have pictures, please link them here, or send them to me. Cheers!!