“Nevermore Jazz Ball,” quoth any swing dancer worth their salt, or shall I say, shoes. In 2013, this St. Louis event welcomed swing dancers to the third annual jazz festival downtown on Cherokee Street. Of course, you know I had to make the trip down south. A few words on the lovely weekend back in November? But of course, my pleasure.
Venue(s): 3.5/5 Somewhat mixed feelings about the floors here. On one hand, we have the lovely Casa Loma Ballroom with a pretty decent wooden floor. As all the evening dances took place at this particular venue and the late nights at the sparkling Grandel Theater attic space, I imagine most attendees with dance passes felt quite pleased at these open locations. However, the venues for classes left an entirely different impression. While conveniently located on Cherokee Street (specifically on 2720, 2700 & Blank Space), the spaces themselves lent much to be desired. In one of the numbered venues, most likely 2700, I changed shoes only to find a small piece of glass wedged into my palm. This particular floor felt a bit dusty, but the other spaces seemed a bit more on the artsy rather than grungy side. However, accommodating three hundred dancers in a danceable space is no small feat. Finding such spacious and relatively clean locations in prime Cherokee locale proves far more important than a little grit.
Atmosphere: 5/5 Anticipating, during and after the event, I don’t recall a single memory tainting my Nevermore dance experience. Not a single iota, and that is saying something, folks. Owing partially to a generous host (thanks, Jeff S.!) with an equally impeccable housing crew (Vikyath and Ann were perfect), the trip met not a single bump in the routing or the accommodations. Logistics aside, can we talk the abundance of live music at this event? Miss Jubilee has pipes to die for. You hear her sing and, I promise you, a choir of angels would be snapping their fingers by the end of her set. Alongside her incredible jazz band, the Friday night dance pulsed with the intensity of excited feet. Keeping the adrenaline pumping for Saturday, Ben Polcer’s Nevermore Jazz Band and the late night’s Jake Sander’s Arcadian Serenaders both commandeered rhythms to make your heart sing. Watching the competitions wouldn’t be half as fun without the musicians’ enthusiasm and tolerance of aggressive dancers stomping for just one more song. Oh, there was also this little thing called the Cherokee Jazz Crawl. A block of devoted musicians, ladies on stilts, sequins and feather boas flyin’ everywhere. Jazz bands in front of vintage shops, solo guitarists strumming in front of bars and quartets in bakeries. Can I ask for anything more? How about dancers spontaneously lindy bombing each and every one of those spaces? Yep, yep I think so.
Dancers: 5/5 Again, no traumatic dance memories of dance snobs or shy wall flowers, only a relentless flow of terrific dancing with leads far above my level of expertise. I didn’t have any problems with rudeness or refusals. In fact, I remember my dance self-esteem boosted especially at this event. Every lead seemed to have something lovely to say about musicality or the excitement of the dance. I have to give credit to the bands and just the fun-loving dancers at the event. People, you thrill me. The instructors and organizers, in particular, led the way in flawless manners and appropriate dance etiquette. I remember the lovely instructor John B. helping me into my cardigan and complimenting me on my outfit. (Imagine the dance fangirldom, all 15 squealing, wide-eyed seconds of it.) Most, if not all, remained friendly and amicable without giving off negative vibes. No one could throw off the groove at Nevermore.
Classes: 4.5/5 Holy cow. I believe this was the first away event I seriously took classes at. Boy, was it a perfect choice. I spent the majority of the time listening to patient and hilarious instructors like Andy Reid, Nina Gilkenson, Todd Yannacone & Mia Goldsmith tell me how ridiculous I looked dancing (albeit nicely and in different words). I loved every minute of it. They critiqued tactfully and without singling out a student. I enjoyed the variety of classes, and the freedom for any student to choose a track. As the freedom did lend itself to a wide range of skills, I thought this more accurately portrayed the social dance floor. It forced us to keep adjusting and monitoring how moves and techniques performed with partners of varying talent, height and humor. Other than a bit more time to solidify moves and practice, the classes left me feeling geared up to learn more.
Overall 4.5+/5 Nevermore will always have a special place in my heart as the first out of town event I ventured to take class in. My brain buzzed with the happiness that comes from too much dancing, geeking out on technique and too little sleep. Also, keeping the ridiculous dance ego in check. (It really needs to be popped now and again. Like a recurring pimple or something otherwise disgusting. Ew.) I bought my first vintage dress here at the beautiful Retro 101 (Thank you, store owner for the discount simply because, “It was made for you, girl.”). I met people I only admired via YouTube and remembered they were real people who just work hard at dancing. Nevermore will I forget what it means to have happy feet, leading me to a happy heart. I will always savor the joy of Nevermore, forevermore.
Sending lindy love your way,