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

Shag Division At ILHC 2012: A Call To Action

I wanted to share with you guys a note David Lee from Washington D.C. wrote in “The Collegiate Shag Community” facebook group.

Petition for Shag Contest at ILHC: I’m sure all of us would love to see a shag contest at a high profile event such as ILHC. As it is fast approaching, now is a great time to petition for a shag contest for next year. I spoke with one of the organizers about it and running a contest presents challenges of paying for judges and prize awards. Thus, to run a successful contest, ILHC would need about 20 couples.

1) So, can you let me know in the comments whether you would be willing to come to ILHC and compete if there were a shag division? Obviously 20 couples is a lot more than there were at Camp Hollywood this year. So if you are at all inclined, please comment as it will be a gauge to let the organizers know how many people they could expect.

2) If you are interested, it would be helpful to let the organizers personally know. You can email them at ILHCinfo@ilhc.com. Please let them know both a) whether you would attend ILHC specifically if there were a shag division and b) whether you would compete.

3) Finally sponsors would help defray the cost of the contest, so please let me or them know whether you would be willing to sponsor as a scene or event organizer.

Requirements for A Competition

ILHC says they need 20 couples to run a successful competition. If you take a look at the ILHC registration page, you will see to register for any of the couple contests (Balboa/Lindy) it is a $50 dollar fee per couple. So in total they need to garner a minimum of $1000 dollars to make this contest a reality.

However it may not just be a money issue, an important part of having a contest for any event is making it exciting enough to warrant taking time away from the social dance floor. ILHC has a unique crowd of attendees in comparison to most events. In result the Shag division would have to be a fairly full in terms of registration and contain high caliber dancers for them to take the additional time and resources to make this happen.

What You Can Do To

If you have an interest in Shag there are several ways you can help out.

1.  Say You Are Willing to Compete

The first and most obvious one is say you are willing to compete. People I have talked to about dancing Shag competitively in respect to this past Camp Hollywood Shag Division frequently gave me the excuse of,  “There is no way I could even compare to the other people in the division”.

This past July I competed at the Camp Hollywood Shag division anyways. Was I ready or even close to the caliber of the other leads? Not even by a long-shot. While there were side benefits of giving me something to work towards, what mattered to me though was I  liked this dance and they needed people for the division.  Supporting the Shag community was a more important priority to me then any apprehensions I had about looking like garbage in comparison to Sailor Mike about the competition.

I think a lot of people get into the mentality of “competing against” people, which is unfortunate. One of the best pieces of advice I got in terms of competition was from an story David Frutos was telling the story about the first time he was in a competition with Ryan Francois. He said something to Ryan the effect about being apprehensive of competing against Ryan and his partner. Ryan corrected him after saying, “You are competing with us, not against us”. It is a small difference but if you come out on the competition with the latter attitude, competitions suddenly become more relaxed enjoyable experiences and seem less intimidating.

Don’t feel like you have to be the best Shag dancer ever to compete in this division. There is a year to prepare, one just has to be motivated to practice.

2. Email ILHCinfo@ilhc.com Explaining Why You Want A Shag Division

Part of making this happen is showing the organizers of ILHC there is an actual significant interest having this division exist. While any interest is good, if you email them list in particular; if you have attended in the past, if you are registered for this year, and if you have a history as a competitor at the event.

3. Spread The News of This to Other Shag Dancers

There is a bunch of us Shag dancers out there, the problem is we are all spread out. While there are a few motivated individuals out there who work hard to advocate the dance, this effort to create a Shag division will only come to fruition if we work together instead of staying fragmented. If you know any other people who are regular Shag dancers or even show a slight interest in the dance, make them aware of this.

4. Keep Dancing Shag and Work To Improve Your Own Dancing

To be candid one of the biggest frustrations I have had to deal with taking up this dance is the criticism I received towards it, sometimes even by amazing dancers who I respect.  In some cases I have even heard it referred to as a “novelty dance” or “full of patterns, mostly choreographed”.

Spending my time to argue against their established opinions is probably a waste of my time. Instead I focus more on improving my own dancing and aim to prove them wrong one day through example. In my humble opinion, how we can improve as a dance community and earn more respect is by setting a standard of excellence for ourselves and not settling for mediocrity.

About two years ago I stumbled upon Shag dancing at Camp Hollywood 2008 during their competition and was inspired to take it up after. Luckily a few months later two dancers (Amantha & Alan) were kind enough to give me a free lesson and got me started down the path of learning.

The point I want to make from that story is people get inspired to respect and take up our dance by seeing amazing dancers out there. It doesn’t matter if that forum is competitions, jam circles, or even the social floor. It is not just the reason for why one should continuously work to improve their own dancing, but why it would be a stride forward for the Shag community to be featured at ILHC. It would expose our dance at the international level to the swing dance community and give us a chance to show them what we can do.

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