Pamela Gaizutyte on Competing and Judging

Pamela has been dancing since she was 5 years old. She did traditional Lithuanian folk dancing for years, until she found her passion in Lindy Hop at the age of sixteen. In 2009, she began working at Hoppers’ Dance Studio in her hometown of Vilnius, Lithuania, where she surrounds herself with rhythm on a daily basis as she practices, performs, and teaches Lindy Hop and vernacular jazz.

Pamela Gaizutyte is one of the most exciting followers to burst onto the international swing scene in recent years. Her creativity, personal style and sense of musicality are an inspiration. Pamela enjoys spreading the joy of dance and sharing her knowledge, and is excited to travel to new and faraway places to do so.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

 
Name: Pamela Gaizutyte
Home base: Vilnius, Lithuania
Facebook: here
Year you started competing: 2009 (started dancing 2008)
Approx how many competitions have you competed in: 30-50
 
 

Competing

* Why do you compete?
Sometimes I compete just to make myself practice as it pushes me to challenge myself and work on something (anything). Other times it’s so that I have an opportunity to create something with another person. I find that in the Lindy Hop World, the average dancer doesn’t have a lot of performance opportunities in order to make a name for themselves or get recognized with a partner, so that’s where competition comes in.
 
* Why do you think competition is valuable?
Competing is valuable because it makes you work through a stressful situation. This is a great way to see how your body moves naturally or under pressure. You get to see your true skills, strengths, and flaws. It’s also a great place to get experience. Hmmm….what else? You could win some things like an event ticket! I used to do that: I would borrow money from my family and friends so that I could compete in the hopes that I might win a ticket to another event, and then I would only need to get myself there and find a place to stay! 
 
* What’s your personal philosophy on J&Js?
I’ll be there for my partner, for sure. It’s not only “social dancing,” so it’s not time to challenge my partner and surprised them. For example, let’s say my partner and I are dancing for the first time in a competition. I’ll try to calm down if they don’t have a lot of experience and really be there for them. But if I know what to expect because I’ve already danced with that Leader before, I don’t change my dancing – I still will style and takespace when I can.
 
Partner first, music second, self third, and audience fourth.
 
* Do you still get nervous before a competition?
Oh my goodness, I used to getnervous; I couldn’t control my limbs! So yeah, I used to, and it would make me feel ill. I finally said to myself, “If I am going to be nervous like that again, then I will not perform or compete.” I want to have a fun time, not make myself sick!
 
Hahah, I have even thrown up after a performance before! That’s how nervous I’ve been before.
 
In the past, I have done a bad job performing and that made me really upset. I had to ask myself why was I put myself in a position if it wasn’t pleasurable. And then I stopped being nervous. Now I appreciate performing and competing much more.
 
* How do you deal with nerves before a competition?
I talk to myself before I head out to the competition dance floor by reminding myself the reasons why am I dancing. Mainly, I tell myself that I am sharing my experience, and that helps ground me.
 
* What competition have you done that meant the most to you? Why?
ESDC Solo Jazz (2015) was the most meaningful. It was me, Tatiana Udry, and the boys. At that moment I felt like I wanted to show whatever I was feeling in that moment with my dancing. I knew that it might not be very aesthetic to watch, but that was not the most important thing to me. Dancing “me” was the most important, and I did that. I was really proud of myself.
 
On a side note, I would like to see equal or more gals compete in solo jazz competitions AND be recognized for their work! Sometimes it feels like some of the gals are not willing to push themselves when they compete and I really want them to push harder and go beyond their comfort zone.
 
* What is/was your favorite competition to watch?
Probably J&J because that’s where the most magic can happen!
 
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
     1) Be ok with the level you’re at. Enjoy where you are.
     2) Question everything as that’s the best way to learn.
     3) Dance with confidence in yourself, and then you will leave no space to be judged.
 

Judging

* What do you enjoy about judging?
Focusing on the dancers, paying more attention to what’s happening with their bodies, connection, and rhythms.
 
* What do you dislike about judging?
Sometimes it’s tough to choose placements or criterias that guides you through what you wanna see in the dance.
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Routine?
Attitude, personality, musical choices/interpretations.
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Strictly?
Equality, conversation between partners, and solid connection (in the meaning that as they are partners they understand each others’ dancing).
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a J&J?
Generosity, attention to each other, move/rhythm suggestions, like a call and response.
 
* What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about routines/strictly’s/J&J?
That placement kinda guides you or reveals what kind of dancer you are. 
 
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
     1) Just dance like you are social dancing or they way you do in rehearsal and try to remember that feeling.
     2) Find something you’d like to emphasize something when you perform or compete –  like slides or dancing more on rhythm section – getting inspired by your partners footwork. If that doesn’t speak to you, then maybe choose an emotion before you go out onto the stage and “be” that.
     3) Listen to the music – it has many many answers and suggestions.
 
_______
 
To me, Pamela embodies pure joy when she dances. She has that rare ability to let go of the world around her and exist in the flow of the music and the power of her movement. I don’t have a clear memory of the first time I saw her, but I always remember knowing that she had “it” and that she was going to be a force in the Lindy World, if she wanted to be. It’s been a pleasure to see how she’s matured in her career; training and teaching with multiple partners, becoming a road warrior, finding her voice, and most recently creating a shoe company.
#soproud

 

Lindy Focus X Highlights

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.

The least physically demanding, and most fun was performing my drunken striptease. Hahhaa, it’s so nice to get to be ridiculous sometimes! Otherwise, it was a real pleasure to get to work with Gabby, Kelly, Melanie, Casey, and Natasha on the girls charleston piece in the New Years Eve show, as well as The Killer Dillers on our most recent group number. Finally, Sharon created a gorgeous choreography that had the ladies of the KD mostly naked on the floor.

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!!!

Camp Swing It 2012 – looking into the lights

Last weekend Kevin and I were in Seoul, South Korea and had one of those weekends that I’ll never forget. As per usual we were treated exceptionally well, over fed, translated, inspired, and supplied with Soju. What put this weekend on the top of my list were the performances. I was on a “performance high” during the weekend, and now having watched the videos, I’m getting to relive it.

The teachers performed both Friday and Saturday night. Due to the large number of choreography competition on Saturday, the teachers felt it was best to show their lindy hop numbers on Friday and cabaret numbers on Saturday.

Friday Line Up:

Juan & Sharon, Tommy & Alice, Kevin & Jo, William & Maeva, and the Fantastic Four (that’s not really the name, but I don’t have a better one. Suggestions?)

Friday Night

HAhahha!! Did you make it to the end and see BB bounce around while cheering?! Perhaps that is my favorite part!

So why was this performance so special? The audience! Good heavens, when Kevin and I were introduced, it sounded like the crowd went bananas. It was …… touching, and surprising, and heartwarming. Even now, trying to put words to the swells of happiness that rushed over me….. nothing I can write will do it justice. It was ineffable. (Regardless, I will continue. *smile) As we hit our “ready position”, I couldn’t see anything because of the spotlights.

As I looked into the blinding darkness, the crowd continued to cheer. It was an awesome experience not being able to see anything, but hear everything. After hushing them so we could start, Kevin and I danced, and we danced well. As we finished the routine, the crowd erupted again! Gaaaah!!! THIS is what a performer lives for – the roar of the crowd, the cheers, the applause, the noise, and the joy of doing what you love! If I hadn’t felt like I had “made it” before, the experience of performing for the crowd at CSI 2012 put me over the moon.

I watched the video of the performance and it doesn’t do it justice. The crowd was so much more than what was captured on film. Even though we were performing in an enormous space, the audience still managed to fill the room with their energy and appreciation. I am not sure if the other performers felt the same way I did, but I certainly hope so. So CSI 2012…..thank you for being apart of a performance I will always remember.

Saturday Night Line Up:

Tap, Jo & Alice, Three Boys, Sharon, and the Ninjammerz.

GAAAAHHHH!!!! I’m thrilled! Alice worked her booty off to learn this routine and I think she was freaking amazing! We. Were. Fabulous.

Originally, Alice started learning this routine off of the video of me performing this solo at Lindy Focus. I then sent her a video breakdown of the first half of the routine, and then again with more detail a week before the event. I don’t know how much time she was able to put in to learning it prior to seeing me – I know it was fewer hours than I put into it originally – but when we first checked in with each other, she solidly had the outline of the routine. We rehearsed for 3 hours on Thursday at a dance studio, an hour on Friday to check the floor, and on Saturday we got an additional hour to rehearse with mirrors. Holy cow, our lines were really together!! I was thrilled.

Costuming: Alice had gone shopping on Thursday and bought a LBD for the performance. On Friday, I went to the same shop and bought the same dress. Not only that, but Alice had black gloves on her, and as fate would have it, Maeva had a matching pair on her. Luckily I remember to bring garters, stocking, and fascinators for us (this might seem like a given, however, I somehow managed to forget a quarter of the things I should have brought with me). Goodness! Everything fell into place…more than I could have hoped for.

Back to the performance. As I described above, the crowd was marvelous. While performing, I rarely hear the crowd because I am so focused on the music, so I didn’t hear them until the end; however, as I watched the video, I was delighted with how the crowd “oooh-ed” and “aaaah-ed”. Oh Korea, how I love thee.

So there you have it. Enjoy!!

Umbrella Inspiration

Here are some videos that I’m taking inspiration from for this week. What do you think we are up to out here in Herrang for Week 4?


No need to watch this one with sound, but the girls are awfully cute!

A few of us are putting together choreography for a jellyfish/umbrella number. Can’t wait to see how the choreography turns out!

Follow-Up on Followlogie

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.

Can-Can with Evita:

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!

Here are some more photos from the evening:

Dancing with Nina and the gals:

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!!

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!!

Cherry Bombs

Dear ladies,

You did a wonderful job at rehearsal tonight. Thank you so much for taking the time and putting in the effort to learn Honolulu. And Nikki, thank you so-very-much for learning this routine via video (that was poorly recorded off of my mac), emailing back and forth with me, and doing all the additional work on the side. You did an outstanding job with all my emails and video clips, and you’ve done an outstanding job with the girls. Thank you for working so diligently to turn my “hawaiian dream” into a reality. I hope you are proud of your girls and what you’ve accomplished.

Girls, I am so excited for you! Regardless if this is your first performance or your 100th, performing in the Benaroya Hall is an incredible opportunity, one that you’ll always remember. Be proud of yourself!

View Photos

Click on a photo below to enlarge.

Benaroya Hall

S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall

Here is the song we are using: Honolulu routine Camp Jitterbug Cut Please download this and LISTEN TO THE BEGINNING over and over again. It might be hard to count, but it’s easy to hear (once you know what to look for).

Here is a reminder of what you’re doing:

Good luck girls!!

xo

Jo

LAST NOTES:

– Make a check list of what costume pieces you need. LITERALLY write down the costume pieces you need and check them off after you put them in a bag. Do the same for each routine you have.
– Double check that you have all the pieces. Don’t forget your shoes, stockings, bows, hair pieces, and appropriate underwear (super important).
– Space backstage will most likely be small and hard to come by. Bring a brightly colored bag or something to keep your belongings in. Get into the habit of putting your things back into your bag in between numbers so you don’t lose your stuff.
– Black anything (i.e. bras, underwear, tights, bags, etc.) will disappear into the abyss of backstage. Just an FYI.
– Bring a hand mirror. You don’t want to fight for mirror space any more than necessary.
– Eat before you get there. Have a snack bar on you as well. Don’t forget water or a water bottle.
– Set your hair the night before or the morning of.
– Have your base makeup on.
– Ask yourself “What else do I need so I can be self-sufficient? What else do I need to be awesome?” and then figure out the answer. 😀
– Remember, you’re part of a group and you need to do you part. Be watchful of your partners and remember to smile.
– When you’re performing, don’t fuck up. Haha, in spite of my warning, just keep dancing regardless of what happens. No one will know you missed something unless your face tells the audience otherwise. Smile and be confident in your movement!
– Listen to the music if you get lost. You can find your spot again….don’t give up!
– Don’t worry if you have a crappy run-through right before the performance. If you hit it perfectly before the show, you’ve probably already used up your good one. Save your best for last.
– Remember to have fun while you’re performing The audience wants you to succeed and they want to cheer for you. Everyone is there to support you. Enjoy your moment on stage and don’t stress too much.

And a final shout out again to Nikki. None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for you. Thank you for putting so much time in effort into getting this done. xoxo

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