Carsie Blanton waved to me (as I squealed embarrassingly) in the bathroom. I crossed paths with Soo Chan Lee and Hyun Jung Choi in the hotel hallway and again waiting for photographs. Jo Hoffberg called me Long Legs. Nina Gilkenson just asked to borrow my chair in Mulligan’s. I approached, tried and failed to tell Nathan Bugh how he inspired me to keep dancing. Michael Jagger swung me out. I sat a few moments across from Todd Yannacone in the Crowne Plaza front lobby, and I shared a flight home to Chicago with Mikey Pedroza. In every jam circle, I nearly got kicked in the face watching aerials and ridiculously sick nasty footwork. This is not heaven or the Savoy, it’s the gem that is Lindy Focus. So, shall we?
Venue(s) 4/5 Oh, Crowne Plaza. How shall I describe thee? The floor itself is the standard ballroom stock, several screwed together squares of danceable space. A bit sticky, but completely manageable. However, the majority of the staff? Incorrigible. Checking in takes half an hour, and they never seem to keep track of shuttle payments. Even without their punishment of the Baltiquerque festivities, Crowne Plaza still just doesn’t know how to encourage the fun. As a venue, the hotel fairs on the rustic elegant, complete with white rocking chairs flanking the stone front walkway. The dance floors, with a host of different lighting fixtures, held up during a week-long, non-stop dance marathon of happy feet. This includes a packed New Year’s Eve party decked out in sparkles and complimentary champagne. Because of its generous amount of rooms and organization, Crowne Plaza served its purpose as a spacious venue accommodating hundreds of shuffling feet. However, the staff needs some encouragement in the attitude department. Granted, they’re working during the holidays, but a little cheer goes a longer way than disgruntled sighing. Nonetheless, dancers, being the awesome human beings that we are, just danced.
Atmosphere 5/5: My friends, Lindy Focus is one of the tough mothers of swing dance events. Of course they thought to bring the fun and funky to the assembled dance community. Every evening dance first kicked off with a camp meeting alongside the charming Kevin St. Laurent and Mikey Pedroza. Alongside this dynamic duo, amazing showcases, jam circles and competitions spiced up the event and sent us all reeling with lindy overload. Because Lindy Focus also hosts phenomenal tracks in Blues and Balboa, the camp constantly experienced high levels from the overarching umbrella of swing dancing. Of course, Lindy Focus being Lindy Focus, there had to be more. Nicole Lenzen hosted a fashion show with mini solo performances from our incredible instructors, mini camp meeting challenges (including a pick-up line competition) and hilarious videos of dance abductions, etc. Just imagine all this…with consistently jawdropping LIVE MUSIC EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. Not only at night, but spontaneous jam session during the day. Look into any room or Mulligan’s and you saw swing dancers and jazz musicians just on the spot, doing their thing. Of the numerous talented musicians and bands, the ensembles led by Jonathan Stout and Ben Polcer respectively swung the nights away. Without their enthusiasm and amazing commitment to music, we wouldn’t have swung out so hard. Dancers, musicians and especially the media folks. Holy cow. You know you have an incredible media team when a devoted blogger stops bringing her camera to the dances by the second day. Navigating through waves of people waiting for the photobooth, manning the sound without fail and producing gorgeous lighting for all performers…the coordinators of Lindy Focus accomplished it all seamlessly.
Dancers: ??/5 This one is a bit too diverse for me to quantify. An internationally recognized dance event like Lindy Focus brings together dancers and musicians from all backgrounds, locations and walks of life. By no means can I comfortably generalize the vibe from around a thousand dancers. I will say this–the majority of the people I had the pleasure to meet all shared an enormous passion for swing. Now, whether or not they enjoyed my company, I cannot say as a week-long event is hardly long enough to determine solid friendship. Most dances left me content if not ecstatic or pumped. Perhaps I idealized Lindy Focus as some mecca of lindy wonderful dancers who possessed a treasure trove full of energy and enthusiasm. Suffice to say, I did meet some people who fell short of my idealist hopes. In fact, there were a few people who looked genuinely disgruntled to be on the dance floor. I kid you not, they frowned or kept a straight face throughout the entire dance. (I felt like I should have clapped for them because never have I seen such bored and disappointed faces on the floor). However, I also met people on the entire opposite side of the spectrum who brimmed with joy to simply be dancing. Thank you to those who share the joy of swing dancing, no matter what level of expertise. For the ones who let their dance egos get the better of them, I still hope you had fun. It sure didn’t look like it with your nose all stuck up on the dance floor. (Side note: so sorry to the guy I accidentally hit on the nose during dancing. I’m also sorry for laughing. Kind of.)
Classes: 4/5 I’m an intermediate dancer, confirmed by the audition process of Lindy Focus. Talking with several other dancers, I wonder if the numbered level system disrupts the social aspect of swing dance culture at the event. When first arriving, before we sectioned off into heats for our rigorous yet brief auditions, it felt quite easier to interact with your dance fellows. No matter who I asked, everyone seemed happy to dance. Now, I’m not condoning you to force yourself upon every dancer, but I do support an open attitude to dance with anyone who looks willing and eager. Fast forward to post-auditions. We segregate into respective groups which do feel comfortable and level-ready, but seem rather cut off. Even the schedules dictate who we get to spend our time with, usually those with similar levels. Even living in a villa with dancers of all levels, we never truly bonded during class sessions but only after classes and events. A pity, if you ask me. Here we are at this amazing event, and we give ourselves over to petty placements. My suggestion is to approach it a bit like Beantown in terms of ambiguous color tracks. Although these tracks do represent a value system, they might prevent dancers from feeling inadequate based on a numeric hierarchy. Also, perhaps it might prevent the epidemic of dance snobs.
That aside, let’s get to the good stuff. Classes with world famous lindy hoppers? Yes, please. I had the enormous pleasure to take classes with Michael & Evita, Kevin & Jo and Andy & Nina to name just a few. What Lindy Focus does quite well is to shuffle instructors, regardless of level placements. I enjoyed learning from such a wide display of talent and teaching styles. I wish I could just absorb all the excitement and the willingness to pass on what they’ve lived and loved in the lindy world. I laughed. Hard. I wept. Hard. But, most importantly, I learned to swing out hard. Despite the highs and lows, my instructors taught me to dance like me and to dance like I meant it. Outside all the drama of levels and learning humility, I learned the most about dance.
Extras: 5/5 I had the pleasure to watch Laura of LindyShopper fame win the Fashion Trailblazer award. Designer Nicole Lenzen graciously let me try on the navy Elena Dress despite my limited funds. (It fit like a glove and I want it now more than ever.) Alica Vance complimented me on my pin curls and gave me great vintage hair advice for pin-straight Asian locks. Morgan Kestner validated my love of vintage makeup and had an amazing sense of humor to boot. Aurora from Ben Polcer’s crew taught us a whirlwind lesson on chord progressions. Tai astounded with some great lindy face moments. Not to mention all the great consignment shopping and secondhand delicacies I had to abstain from or let my wallet cry. Shoutout to the super nice sketch artist who warned her subject not to look as a “pretty girl” walked by. D’awww. Lindy Focus. This event helped me fall in love with lindy world all over again–harder, faster, stronger.
Overall: 10/5 Yes, I know mathematically that makes very little sense. However, I feel doubly devoted to the swing dance world more so now than I ever have. It’s hard to imagine I just started traveling back in April. Let’s just say I had a whole lot of heart and very, very limited dance ability. Now, I feel like lindy world has stolen my heart (and about 8lbs of my body, yeesh). Further, I can’t ever remember feeling this passionate or focused about anything (see what I did there?). If anything, Lindy Focus is an act of love. It reminds us who we are as dancers and how to affirm our own personalities through dance. I could ask for nothing more or less. Let’s be hopelessly romantic, adventuresome dancers. Let’s fall in love.
Love & Lindy,