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

Reflections on Sincerity

This past weekend I attended Camp Hollywood XIV, while I could talk about what I got out of the classes I took or how awesome the music was, there is a theme from this weekend that still resonates soundly with me. That theme is the idea of sincerity in ones dancing.

Oscar Wilde wrote in De Profundus,

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.

I have not just seen this in Camp Hollywood, but in competitions across the United States cliches such as; pointing at the judges, non musical or worse badly executed aerials for the sake of flash, and using other people’s material in a non-homage sense.

Can this sadly sometimes pay off and get people awards? Yes. However if all one wants out of dancing is some golden plastic and an ego boost, I can’t help but feel pity for them. Because in a few years no one remembers (or probably cares) who got X place, in Y comp. They remember those moments that took them on a journey and evoked an emotional response.

What inspired me this weekend was in a lot of the competitions this year at Camp Hollywood there were people who carried this spirit of being themselves and sincerity in their dancing. In many cases I was happy to see they were rewarded for it.

While there were many moments that made me smile and inspired me this past weekend, I want to talk about two performances in particular, both from the showcase division.

Camp Hollywood 2011 NJC – Morgan Day & Emily Wigger – Showcase

Even before I get to the routine I just want to add that these two handled pressure with grace. They had not one, but two technical difficulties with their performance. First the contest staff on stage could not get the music to run for around five minutes before the routine. After that first problem the DJ mistook a pause in music as the end of the routine, in result he stopped the music prematurely. The DJ then had to rewind the music to slightly before the pause and they had to start again mid-routine. In spite of those setbacks they both performed admirably.

Morgan and Emily’s routine was not extremely technically difficult nor had mind blowing musicality/moves. What made it special and a moment never to be forgotten in Camp Hollywood history was it was two people who had an original creative idea and sold it on the performance floor.

When the performance was over they received a standing ovation by the entire crowd. In addition when they received 4th place at the award ceremony the crowd booed and started chanting first place. However I think everyones’ indignation was satiated when Morgan and Emily earned the well deserved Golden Budgie award.

The Golden Bugie: An award which is given out by Hilary Alexander, who runs the National Jitterbug Championships and Camp Hollywood, awards to the person or persons who best exemplified the spirit of Jitterbug for the entire National Jitterbug Championships/Camp Hollywood.

Camp Hollywood 2011 NJC – Alice Pye & Peter Kertzner – Showcase

What I loved about this routine is the entire time I was smiling, giggling, or laughing. They took the idea of the older mentor and young newbie and let their personalities shine in those roles. I saw the routine in person, but even re watching the video online I can say with confidence the second they got out on the floor they owned that routine by not showing a second of indecision or nervousness.

On a personal note as someone who used to dance to electronica music at raves “electronic musical recitals” it made me reflect on my own journey changing from the electronic music subculture to the subculture of swing dancing. I think many other people who when they were younger and used to be involved with other subcultures, but fell into the world of swing dance can relate on a personal level to this theme.

Sincerity

In not just the two showcases I mentioned above but from also different competitors that inspired me this weekend, what stuck out was a sincerity in their dancing. They were not out there for validation from others, but the joy of dance. I think that stands the test of time more then any placement or plastic drinking mug trophy can provide.

Footnote:

I would like to thank Patrick Szmidt & Natasha Ouimet for putting up the videos for Camp Hollywood and other previous events they have attended so quickly. They do a great service for the community posting high quality videos of competitions at events for no charge and after hearing them talk briefly in a group discussion I am assured they are good people as well. Even if its only a few dollars, consider throwing them a donation at: buildingthecommunity.patrickandnatasha.com

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5 responses

  1. It was a good weekend.
    Your ability to express the deeper themes you encounter always impresses me.
    I loved seeing Alice and Peter’s showcase especially because I’ve heard her articulate the importance of expression through dance, and the story they told was really personal and relatable. I loved seeing what they created in expressing themselves.

    July 26, 2011 at 9:16 am

    • Thanks!

      I always like writing event reviews because they provide useful information to people considering attending an event in the future, but I enjoy the chance to write about more underlying themes I come across.

      July 30, 2011 at 7:36 am

  2. I agree, it is so nice to see routines with a narrative. Skill can be entertainment, but it takes a different kind of skill to be a performer and a different level of creativity to put together these kinds of performances. Bravo!

    July 26, 2011 at 3:46 pm

  3. Hey Andrew,
    Thank you for the footnote (the link is broken…) 🙂

    Pat

    July 29, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    • No problem, my local college scene actually learned the California Routine from you guys.

      (Also the link is fixed!)

      July 30, 2011 at 7:33 am

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