Thoughts on swing dancing and Lindy Hop, one word at a time…

Performance at Sea

So this past weekend a bunch of other local Orange County swing dancers and I were drafted for a performance gig for the Noble Cause Foundation. Its a non-profit organization run by Cornell Iliescu that works to honor veterans of the United States.

At 8:00 AM we met up in Long Beach, California and boarded the SS Lane Victory, a WWII ship. Definitely one of the more interesting and nostalgic locations I have danced at. After meeting up with Cornell, a Romania WWII bombing survivor who organized this gig, he showed us to our quarters to use a dressing room. For us guys, we had provided army airforce uniforms [1] in which we had to meticulously check to make sure we were dressed in accordance to military regulations. (This is due to apparently one of the favorite hobbies of military veterans is to point out mistakes that civilians make in wearing the uniform.)

SS Lane Victory

SS Lane Victory

After changing we learned one of the benefits of being a performer on this ship was unlimited beverages. Ranging from water and sodas to beer and wine. For several of us this elevated this from a fun event to the best performance gig ever.

Around 9:00 AM the boat took off and the cruise went out to Catalina Island, circled it and then headed back to Long Beach by 4:00 PM. During the cruise there was several things going on such as a memorial ceremony for fallen soldiers, a catered lunch, a sub-plot on the boat involving an escaped German spy (aka Cornell being paraded around in a German officer uniform), and more impressively a recreation involving the ship’s gunners ward off a Luftwaffe airĀ  attack. However when those things were not going on we and the tap dancers Cornell brought along provided entertainment with the live band on the main deck.

Being the entertainment was pretty easy going though. how we worked it out was every other song the tap dancers and us would take turns performing. However after lunch break we had a blast because we started our performance together side by side both doing the Shim Sham, with us doing the swing version and them doing the tap version. Then we had a jam circle in which we all cut in, the crowd seemed to really like it.

I also need to give credit to the band on the ship as well. They were watching the tap dancers and us, in result adjusted the songs accordingly and made it easier for all of us to do our thing. Extra props for them playing Honeysuckle Rose after one of our follows complemented a horn player on throwing part of it in on one of his solos, in another song.

Anyways, favorite parts of this gig:

  • The band playing the song Avalon, while the boat was sailing in front of Casino Ballrom, in the town Avalon on Catalina island.
  • Free lunch and unlimited drinks (including alcoholic beverages).
  • WWII veterans saying how they were glad there were people who still did the dances and appreciates the music from their era.
  • The fact that if I timed my slides in Balboa with the movement of the ship deck, I could cover a lot more distance then I normally could.
  • With the German Luftwaffe attack they actually had live planes circling the boat, with actual Navy recruits firing blanks out of the anti-aircraft guns on deck.
  • Did I mention I was on a boat?

Casino Ballroom

Casino Ballroom, the West's answer to the Spanish Ballroom in Glen Echo Park.

Overall it was a great experience. The veterans and their families seemed to be entertained and I enjoyed dancing to a live band on a historical military ship.

Footnotes:

1. For us leads it was important to know that our uniforms were from a time when the Air Force was still part of the Army. Reason being is a lot of people get confused when they see Air Force symbols on an Army uniform and in result ask us about it.

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