Annie Trudeau’s passion for dance was first well demonstrated when she chose her career as a dance teacher and performer over her engineering physics degree’s possibilities. She also trained as a competing artistic gymnast when she was a teenager. She is a co-founder and co-owner of Studio 88-SWING in Montreal (Canada) where she teaches swing since 2001. As the artistic director, she also manages and dances in the Montreal Swinging Air Force dance performance troupe, which has been International Lindy Hop Champions in 2010-11 and 2014 and Canadian Champion 2013-14-15. She is passionate and enthusiastic as a swing dancer, teacher and competitor. She has numerous titles in competition including 6 first place at International Lindy Hop Championships (2008 to 2013 included) in Washington in the Showcase Category and also first place at the European Championships in London in October 2013. She also danced at the Montreal Jazz Fest with the electro-swing band Caravan Palace, was hired as a choreographer for the Cirque du Soleil and lately coached artists for the TV Show ”Les Dieux de la Danse” in Canada. Annie has dedicated the last 10 years of her life full time to her dance business and to her art, and she loves to share her experience and knowledge to students of all levels and ambitions.
Name: Annie Trudeau
Home base: Montréal, Québec, Canada
Year you started competing: 2001
approximately how many competitions have you competed in: 60 in swing, much more if you take into account gymnastic and figure skating.
* Why do you compete?
To push the boundaries of my artistry and to contribute to the evolution of swing dancing.
* Why do you think competition is valuable?
I think competition gives a goal to any individual, couple or team who want to create a piece and perform it. Having a goal that has a specific time restriction helps gather the ressources in order to accomplish a certain amount of smaller goals, or to achieve a new skill, or to get to a certain level that one (or a group) can decide prior to the project. If it’s improv category, it provides a platform and a goal to work up to as well because improv skills can be worked on in the studio or on the social dance floor before going to a comp. I think the more competition is something you do as a way to improve, the most healthy and positive it is. The more one consider competition as a way to compare to other people, the more it *can* have more of a negative or depressing impact on the participants.
* What’s your personal philosophy on Jack and Jills?
I try to create the best dancing moment possible. How I go about this is first of all on a personal level. With my partner, I try to create a connection that makes it so we feel we can trust each other in being ourselves, and it’s ok to make ”mistakes”. When that atmosphere is established, then both partners can be at their best precision wise, musicality wise and risk-taking wise. I think JnJ should be about finding a way to make your partner give the best performance of its life, and pretend like the music is your favorite one even if you don’t especially appreciate it.
* Do you still get nervous before a competition?
The more I spend time preparing a piece, the more I am. It’s not about the importance of the competition, of the amount of people in the crowd, it’s about how much work I’ve put to get to that point and how a mistake can have an impact on my potential disappointment.
I always have to remind myself that being zen and simply happy to be healthy and able to inspire people is a gift not everyone can say they have been given, and any amount of unnecessary stress will hinder my performance so I push away the clouds of doubt before I go on stage as much as I can.
* How do you deal with nerves before a competition?
See above answer. Plus making mental runs of what would be for me a perfect show.
* What competition have you done that meant the most to you? Why?
Disclaimer: I will mention Max Pitruzzella in those lines, because I have been his partner for many years and it is part of my past. I will repeat again how it is saddening for me to know now that he selfishly chose a path in life that hurt deeply so many people. I will not share videos of us for a while ; it is a bit sad for me to erase such an important part of my past, but it is not as important than to be part of a movement where there is zero-tolerance for people who are so careless about the other people’s well-being that they will take advantage of their position of power to exploit, manipulate, assault sexually etc. Zero-tolerance. With hope of a brighter future, I will now go on in sharing a bit of my past.
The first time my team Swinging Air Force dared going to the USA to do a competition. We were the first Canadians to do that! Got 3rd place with a routine where we were nurses and soldiers. 🙂 We were super nervous because we admired so much American dancers. Watching the tape cassettes at home and all that. 😉 We even had to go to NESDC a month before to ‘simply perform’ our routine to get feedback by the judges to let us know if we were going to be ridicule or not participating in a ‘real’ competition. Haha. So I get it when beginners are afraid. It is a scary world of star dancers out there. But in the end – 16 years later – I can assure you that we are all human and nothing replaces a good work ethic and countless hours on the dance floor to get better and perfect your art!
The first time I got a 1st place at an international event. Fast division. Woah!
Frankie 95 in 2009
We worked so much to prepare for that event! Every day, many hours a day, preparing to perform Hellzapoppin as well in the show. I learned that Frankie passed away while being in Montpellier at an event. We were so extremely sad, I remember a jam we did right away on Hellzapoppin music giving our everything in honour of Frankie. I mourned, I went to his funeral in NYC, drove early in the morning from Montreal… A lot of emotions around that event! So when Max and I participated in the really big Strictly and got the old timers recognition by winning, we were extremely proud.
ILHC 2012 (video above)
The first time after many years that I showcased a routine with a different partner other than Max. I did it with Thomas Blacharz. We spent every evening for a week in Herrang (after my full teaching day) to create the piece and I met him in Denver for 3 days later that summer. It was exciting and I was very proud of what we did together. We won the Showcase category. It proved to me that I was not a good dancer only because of Max, although I knew he contributed a lot in my development, just like I contributed to his. I was working on my individuality as a dancer, and this made a big difference in my journey.
* What is/was your favorite competition to watch?
Juniors at ILHC! Those kids are the biggest inspiration when it comes to giving your everything. <3
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
1) Figure out why you want to compete so you are aware of your ambitions and select carefully where you assign your (probably) limited time in terms of dancing.
2) Give your absolute best because that’s how the experience is worth it
3) Find courage to express yourself while being inspired by others instead of trying to move like someone else (bonus: discover who you are it in the process). Be patient if you are looking for results. Persevere as it will eventually be rewarded internally and externally. Spread your joy, always!
* What do you enjoy about judging?
Getting to witness talent and ideas on a privileged seat.
* What do you dislike about judging?
Having to rank people when the values I hold dear don’t guide me to a clear ranking.
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Routine?
I won’t be looking for the same things in a showcase, a classic or a team routine so here are the differences in my opinion:
In all routines, I will favour a lot new ideas and risk-taking and personality over pure technique. I am a fervent of the evolution of the dance, while keeping solid roots. If I see a couple that feel like a breath of fresh air, that dare go out there with there new ideas giving their heart out, I will take this into strong consideration over a renowned more experienced couple doing a more conservative routine even though overall technique might be better. Obviously, precision, rich movement, intricate rhythms and musicality all matter a lot, just as organic, elastic and efficient connection, even in a choreography context.
That being said, in a showcase division, a piece has to be especially extrovert and entertaining in its style and in the choice of content and execution. There is value to a routine which would entertain a general public crowd (public of non-Lindy Hoppers, neophytes). Often times, showcases will involve air steps. Although in order to add value to a routine, those air steps have to feel like any other movement ; the couple should execute them with the same precision, the same ease as other on-the-ground movement of their routine. I make small exceptions when I see a very daring and unusual air step being performed, because I want to encourage new ideas and risk-taking although if I feel like any of the partners are unsafe performing it, I will try to mention it to them and I will penalize them for trying something they were not ready for and putting their physical integrity at risk.
In a classic, I think we can trade pure entertainment to a more refined, deeply-felt, more intricate interpretation of a swing piece. Usually, a more experienced eye will appreciate more the value of a good classic routine. The social dancing feeling should be top priority, quality of movement and connection are also super important. Movement interpretation of music as to aim to be as good as the music itself.
In a team division, group execution (including individual dancing) and synchronisation, precision of group effects and formations and overall choreography are my main guidelines.
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Strictly?
A strictly competition in my opinion should highlight the exceptional abilities of a specific leader dancing with a specific follower. A perfect balance should be aimed between improvising and using already rehearsed material such as combos and sequences. I think different events might have different traditions or preferences in what they are trying to promote and participants should try to get what that feel is in order to best prepare.
* How about in a Jack & Jill?
As I mentioned before, a JnJ should be a blissful moment where two dancers make the best of a given dancing situation. Take the best qualities of a follower, and the best qualities of a leader and try to make them operate at the same time! I want to be invited in sharing this moment with the competing couples, and I want to see respect and support in each others attempt at risk-taking, crazy musicality or variations. In all this magic, do not forget to showcase your best technique though, because I might be charmed by your instant connection, but it won’t make me close my technique eye! 😉
* What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about Routines/Strictly’s/Jack & Jills?
”I am not ready to compete.”
Well, if you read my 2001 first competition story up here, you know that I feel you sister/brother!
That being said, 16 years and a career later, my opinion has changed so I will share it in hope to encourage you to come out of your shell if you are ready for it (but you don’t know it yet).
If you are not ready to compete because you don’t enjoy competing or the concept of competing, then do not compete. You don’t have to.
If you don’t compete because you think you are not good enough… but you think you would enjoy competing…then that’s where trying to find courage is only what you need to make it happen! So here is what I think. Choose an event where you have seen newcomers and beginners being warmly welcomed (insert here almost all Lindy Hop events on the planet, this community is very warm to newcomers on average). Try to go with friends and find a mentor who will encourage you to do so as well. That’s what I did with my peers, remember, we went to ‘perform’ our routine just to get an approval first… hey we were insecure, so we went to our own pace! Try to do the same. Be gentle with yourself, but don’t stop trying until you get your goal! Baby steps 🙂
Use your passion as main drive and never compromise your well-being and your happiness for dancing. Dancing should be at the service of your well-being. Not the opposite. Write me if you need a little pep talk, I’ll answer as best of my capabilities : Annietrudeau@gmail.com. 😉
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
1) Dance for dance sake
2) Study hard but create as hard. Be part of history as an innovator.
3) Be an artist growing through the practice of dance. Try to find and create beauty as much as you can!
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!
Some favorite moments from this truly inspiring weekend.
Kevin and I kicked off our weekend with a little bit of “Shake that Thang!”
The Atomic Cherry Bombs were sexy as hell! I think it’s a great video of the performance, which means it must have been that much more incredible in person.
Hat Trick Initiation
James Bianco & Irina Amzashvilli were initiated into the Hat Trick Club this weekend. They are now members of the League of Extraordinary Hat-trickers.
This is one of the best versions of this routine I’ve seen them do. Sure, there were a few little flubs, but honestly, they freaking hit it. The crowd was awesome and Tips & Tops were men of legend. Well done men!!!
1st Place – Augie Freeman & Irina Amzashvilli
2nd Place – Conrad Friesen & Sarah Stembridge
3rd Place – Andrew Jose & Alice Pye
Yeah!!! Lindy Hop has a future!! I was so impressed by how good everyone was in Orange County. Good heavens, those cats swing! The quality of their movement and swing outs assures me that lindy hop will continue to grow and thrive. Thank you to all the competitors; all of you won over my heart.
1st Place – Peter Kertzner & Irina Amzashvilli
2nd Place – Stephen Sayer & Chandrae Roettig
3rd Place – Jack Chen & Brittany Calavatti
I freaking LOVE the concept of 30-Second Showcase! And seriously, check out what people came up with. Love it.
1st Place – Conrad Friesen
2nd Place – Matt Richey
3rd Place – Sam Chan
Hahah, this one looks a little bit like a Jo Hoffberg show reel, but really, I just got lucky that the top three leads in the competition picked me as their follower. Fabulous job everyone!!
1) Watching the Junior Division!! They were amazing. Videos coming soon!!
2) Showcase Division:
I am kicking myself for not seeing this live (I missed it by 25 seconds). This must have been unreal!! Sitting in the kitchen watching this was still an emotional experience, so I can only imagine what it must have been like being in the ballroom during this momentous occasion. While watching the video, I was screaming and hooting and hollering for them!! I actually shed some tears in honor of their awesomeness. Fuck, this totally touches my heart.
SOOOOO many people have talked about doing something like this, yet they actually put it together and threw down! Uh, the blue balls experience of them doing Balboa instead of swinging out left me wanting more. Thank goodness they finally provided the much needed release by teaming up and swinging out!!
Dargoff showing us the importance of good hygiene. And lemme tell ya, sex sells!
Tips & Tops and their newest routine:
Nothing quite like Man-on-Man + hat-on-hat dancing if you ask me! Well done Gentlemen, you were wonderful.
The ending is my favorite part. I LOVE Footloose!
4) Classic Division:
In my eyes, Tommy & Alice won this competition. Their choreography is stunning, easy to understand yet still complex, exceptionally well danced, beautifully performed, and they both make the other person shine. To me, this is one an example of one of the best partnerships out there today. You two are such an inspiration!
This one knocked it out of the park for me! I’m always super impressed with how Peter is able to dance with the ladies of any size and still retain the integrity of his movement. Uh! Check out his kick ups at 0:37, his spin at 1:09, and how they play off each other at 1:25! And Alice is just amazing! Favorite moments by her: swing out variation at 0:22, her swivels forward at 0:57, and her shapes on her Rocks at 1:43!
This cat has been dancing lindy hop for a year and a half (or something close to that). How ridiculous is he?!!! Uh yeah……wow is right!
Isn’t she fabulous?! Sasha Gross was in the Junior’s Program and she killed it!
8) On a personal level:
Getting 2nd place in the fiercest Classic Division I’ve seen in the Lindy Hop world. I was told the difference in score between Kevin & me and Skye & Frida was only one judge which means there was someone who thought that was a first place routine! Looking forward to seeing the score sheets!
Taking 2nd place in the Solo Charleston contest! Normally I try to prepare by creating routinelettes so I have something to fall back on in case I go blank in a contest, but this year I just didn’t have time to get any together. I spent some time working on my lines using the Big Apple choreography, but otherwise, that was just me dancing (*chin up…..very proud of myself). Would love to see the scores on this one as well!
Having a blast in the Champion Strictly!! We had to battle our way out of prelims and since Kevin and I haven’t gotten to train the way we’d like (he’s been injured), we decided to fall back on the ol’ personality thing. Thank goodness we had Baltimore’s support!! I don’t remember much about the prelims other than doing swing outs across the entire crowd (crowd pumping anyone?) AND having our seamless room take-over thwarted by the ever-so-gorgeous Pontus and Isa. Luckily we didn’t completely run into them…..our awesomeness was just slowed down.
Fortunately, Kevin and I made it to finals which gave us the opportunity to crowd surf the Baltimore contingency!!!! The second half our our second solo starts with The Move of the Weekend, The Chase, and ended with us hurling ourselves on top of the crowd!!! Glory in it’s finest red & blue outfit if I do say so myself!!
9) MOVE OF THE WEEKEND: The Chase
You know the old adage “pink is the new black”? Well, “the chase is the new swing out” according to this weekend. SERIOUSLY, it was a college kids drinking game dream!! I need to watch through 2 more divisions, but I’m confident in saying that there was at least one chase break in EVERY division. I’m even guilty of it myself. I’ll compile a list of people who are guilty of such things and hopefully someone will put a video together of all the Chases from the weekend. *wink wink, nudge nudge lindy scene
10) Last but not least, just being there was a highlight. Getting to see so many friends, having someone buy me cupcakes (thanks Michelle), having some incredible dances, teaching with two of my favorite people, being asked to work with the future of our Lindy Hop community and having a blast doing so, competing against the best lindy hoppers in the world, being cheered on by the community I love, dancing to extraordinary live music, and seeing the fruits of everyone’s labor were a few of the many reasons this weekend was sensational.
Thank you to Tena, Nina, and Sylvia for running this event AND to all of their staff; without you the event wouldn’t happen. I’d also like to give a shout out to all the competitors that came to compete this weekend; you are helping lindy hop continually grow and your contribution is duly noted. A huge thank you to all of the people that filmed the event and put video online for the world to see! Finally, an enormous thank you to everyone in the audience; thank you for coming to support and cheering for everyone as they put their heart and soul on the floor. Baltimore especially, I love you. xxoo
The Camp Swing It team put on another amazing event and threw the first Korean Lindy Hop Championships! I have to say, the attendees of CSI threw down this weekend and I’m so proud of everyone who competed!!
Here are videos from the weekend from the Couples Division, which include Showcase and Classic pieces. There were lots of cute routines, great musicality, fun costumes, and a bouquet of flowers. Yeahh!!!!
3st Couples Contest – Sunbum Moon & Chloe Hong
1st Couples Contest – Soochan Lee & Hyun Jung Choi
2st Couples Contest – JeongWoo Hong & Crystal Lee
During the last few classes Kevin and I taught, we requested that everyone post videos of the competitions so that the world could see how great the weekend was AND to label them with names of the contestants. I can’t wait to see more videos!!
Congratulations to all the contestants!! You did a fantastic job and it was a pleasure to watch you dance. XOXO
Last year I was in France around the end of February and I was incredibly sick. I had just picked up bronchitis and walking pneumonia and I was dying. OMgoodness, it was awful. This year, however, I had the luxury of being alive and had a fabulous time dancing with the French. In case you don’t travel internationally and/or haven’t made your way out to France yet, there are some incredibly great dancers there. It’s impressive. Sharon and I judged the leaders in the J&J that weekend and I think everyone of them were great dancers. There were….26 of them. Rad. Needless to say I had an incredible time social dancing!
Kevin and taught 6 partnered class (2 for each level) and then 2 solo classes. We did leading and following rock steps, triple steps, and weight changes in open position and close position for the beginners. With the intermediates, we did our “Touch Me” class which is a progression of 7 moves. In the top level we showed the difference between walking, triple steps, syncopated rock steps, and bouncing and then built on that by adding in turns. Kevin also taught solo jazz and a hat trick class and I taught solo jazz and a burlesque class. More on that later.
Not that these videos will actually do the event justice, but here are some snippets from the weekend. And a big Thank You to Anne-Helen and Bernard. Thanks for taking such great care of us and congratulations on finishing the studio 20 minutes before the event started! 😀
The winning team routine:
Nicolas Deniau & Mikaela Hellsten winning showcase:
The Charleston final at CRC 2011 with Mikaela Hellsten, Oliv Wan, Fabien Vrillon, Tatiana and Julien Stoehr
Blues Finals with Julien Stoehr, Gigi, and Pauline:
It was audience judged and they couldn’t decide who was the winner so they needed one more song.
Gigi won. Well done missy!
A fun Hat Trick performance by Bernard and Charly, his son.
Another showing of Communication:
I really like performing Communication in that dress. I recently put those tights in my regular rotation and I like them. They aren’t super flashy, but they are subtle and have a little bit of flare.
Something that made performing in that space kinda fun was that the lights were behind us. While performing, I could see the faces in the audience really, really well. However, when I was judging, I could clearly see the outline of the dancers, but not really their facial expressions. If we are invited back to perform next year, I’m hoping to choreograph something that would utilize the lighting better. The smoke machine and lighting set a very magical, almost mystical atmosphere. Love it!
Otherwise, I can’t find the J&J footage or the strictly. Does anyone have that?
If you didn’t make it to ILHC 2010, I am very sorry, because it was one of the greatest competition weekends I feel the scene has had in a few years. Not everyone was able to make it this year – Frida, Zacke, Sharon Davis, Juan, Dax, and Sarah to name a few – but there was still an amazing showing of people. There were so many inspiring moments that I’d have a hard time thinking that anyone could walk away without the feeling of “WOW.”
People brought their A-Game and that’s all there is too it. In many ways, I didn’t feel like the placement matter….everybody rocked.
Here are some favorite moments:
Solo Charleston Contest
My dance partner kicked ass and won! Not only that, but he had someone do a front flip over his head, and he still won. That’s gotta say something!
Invitational Jack and Jill Lindy – Todd Yannacone & Annie Trudeau
There are many reasons to include this – like the fact they won – but the reason I do is because of what Todd said before he went out. During Skye’s and Laura’s dance, Skye brought Laura and himself over to the Baltimore Section of the floor. Todd smiled and said that was a cheap shot. Then, when it was Todd’s turn, he not only took the SAME “cheap shot”, but then blew that shot out of the water! He went to the Baltimore corner, showed Annie off to the judges, then to the far corner, and then ran by all the the instructors sitting on stage. Hahaha….very, very amusing.
Invitational Jack and Jill Lindy – Stefan Durham & Jo Hoffberg
The dances I have with Stefan are like none other. He is super creative and I dig his lines. Fun Fact: he drew me in the J&J at ILHC in 2008 as well!
ILHC 2010 – Showcase – Max Pitruzzella & Annie Trudeau
There are sooooooo many things that can be said about this gorgeous routine. The energy, their creativity, their musicality, their aerials, their….. everything. Congratulations to both Max & Annie on their win.
ILHC 2010 – Showcase – Andrew Thigpen & Karen Turman
They killed it!!!!!!!!! Andrew and Karen ARE the spirit of Lindy Hop, according to me. They bring so much energy, heart, and love to the dance, it’s inspiring. I am so honored to have made it into Lindy Hop History this way. For me, this dance will be one to stand the test of time. If only two clips of lindy hop were to survive an apocalypse, I hope it’d be Hellzapoppin’ and this one.
ILHC 2010 – Classic Lindy – Thomas Blacharz & Alice Mei
After they came off the floor, I told them I thought they were the couple to beat. What an amazing job they did!!! The choreography is musical and intricate, they performance is stunning, and frankly, the just danced the shit out of that routine!
ILHC 2010 – Classic Lindy – Kevin St. Laurent & Jo Hoffberg
I am adding myself to the list because I am super proud of what Kevin and I did. This is our first Classic piece and the reviews we’ve been given were pretty spectacular. What was most noteworthy to me about this performance was that I felt like we had SO MUCH TIME while performing. Normally I have to think about the choreography and focus on the details while performing, but here, I had time to look at the audience, the judges, and Kevin. I just felt like…..it was effortless. That was a first for me. 🙂
ILHC 2010 – Pro Champions Strictly Lindy – Finals
I thought this was a great showing for the pros AND it was a return to the old school. Kevin & Carla reunited to kick some ass (they took 3rd), Skye and Naomi danced together, and Todd and I competed (we were partners many years ago). It was an old school battle.
And Finally, the Yes Dance!
Yeah, this isn’t the one that was done, but I can’t find a link to it. If you find it, please let me know!!!
It’s 4:17am on Sunday morning (but it still feels like Saturday) and I am in the lobby of the LAX Marriott using the free wifi (WTF, why isn’t it in the rooms?) to post mine and Kev’s latest performance. Sorry I have been SUCH a slacker on posting things, I’ve just been really, really, busy.