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

Travel

Lindy Focus XIII – The Bandleaders Behind The Tributes

Lindy Focus this year in a move that it has cemented its place among notable swing dance events had an all star band led by Jonathan Stout.

Jerry Almonte has an excellent write up in his article titled, “Lindy Focus All Star Big Band Scorecard” that has an overview of why these particular nights of music were so special.

During the event the first four nights were tributes to the great big band leaders of the swing era. In addition Lindy Focus had their own blog this year which did a blog post about each band leader which you should check out.

Many swing dancers have listened to songs by these bands, but not everyone has seen what they looked like on film. In result I wanted to post film clips of each of these band leaders and their bands for those who have not had the opportunity to enjoy them yet.

Count Basie

Featuring Jimmy Rushing, here is “Sent For You Yesterday.”

From the 1943 Columbia film, “Reveille with Beverly” is “One O’Clock Jump.”

The Count Basie Orchestra of 1962 playing “Corner Pocket.”

Artie Shaw

From the 1938 short, “Artie Shaw and His Orchestra” is “Begin the Beguine.”:

From the 1939 film “Dancing Co-Ed” is the song “Traffic Jam.”

A clip infamous among most Collegiate Shag dancers, from the 1939 short, “Symphony of Swing” is “Lady Be Good.”

Duke Ellington

Also from the film, “Reveille with Beverly” from 1943 is “Take The A Train.”

In the 1942 Soundie “Jam Session” features Ellington and his band playing “C Jam Blues.”

A 1943 performance of a song that helped define the Swing Era, “It Don’t Mean A Thing.”

Benny Goodman

From the 1937 film titled “Hollywood Hotel” one of Benny Goodman’s classics, “Sing Sing Sing.”

From the 1943 film “Powers Girl” featuring swing dancers Dean Collins and Jewel McGowen is the song “Roll Em.”

From the 1943 film “Stage Door Canteen” featuring Helen Ward on vocals is “Why Don’t You Do Right.”

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What’s Herräng?

Clear Definitions

I think Rebecca Brightly puts it best in a quote from her article “What’s a Frankie Manning? And Other Questions You Don’t Want to Be Caught Dead Asking“,

Herrang Dance Camp (simply called Herrang after the town it’s hosted in), is lindy hop mecca. This month-long, 24/7 party is the mother of all dance events. Thousands of dancers from all over the world converge on this small Swedish town for one or more weeks in July each year.

Going to Herrang is part of earning your stripes as a lindy hopper. Since it’s an all-dance, all the time atmosphere, it can help your dancing mature very quickly. Plus you come home with an incredible shared experience that can never be matched.

I haven’t been to Herrang, but I’ve learned a lot about it over the years. Most people describe it as “indescribable.”

-Rebecca Brightly

The Folkets Hus. – Ana Luz Crespi

Wikipedia describes it as,

Herräng Dance Camp (commonly abbreviated HDC, officially Herräng Dance Camp Aktiebolag) is the largest annual dance camp that focuses on African American jazz dances such as Lindy Hopboogie woogietapauthentic jazz, and balboa. It is owned and run by Lorenz Ilg and four members of the Harlem Hot Shots: Frida Segerdahl, Fatima Teffahi, Daniel Heedman, and Lennart Westerlund. Each year, the small town of HerrängSweden is transformed into a multi-week dance camp attracting world-famous instructors and dancers alike. With the short Swedish nights, the dancing is pretty much 24-hours.

Similar to many dance camps, the format varies slightly each year but is traditionally held for four to five weeks in late June through late July. For numerous years Herräng Dance Camp has been the largest Lindy Hop dance camp in the world, with a reputation for offering both the highest standard of teaching and attracting the best social dancers from around the world. While the camp holds nightly social dances with music by live bands and DJs from around the world, the main focus of the camp is on dance instruction. In 2007, over seventy instructors were featured during the five weeks, including original dancers from the swing era such as Frankie ManningNorma Miller, and Dawn Hampton.

With over 1,000 people attending the camp each summer (over twice the official population of the city of Herräng), the camp assembles a significant amount of infrastructure each summer to meet the needs of the large number of dancers. Some of the most noticeable additions to Herräng during Herräng Dance Camp includes several cafes; a full cafeteria serving buffet-style meals; a shop for dance supplies, accessories and daily essentials; bicycle rental; housing of various standards; nightly entertainment; airport limo service; and more.

It’s a Little More Then a Definition

For the uninitiated, the typical puzzling response one gets when asking a friend what was Herräng like is “indescribable” or “you just have to experience it yourself”.  The reason for that is one’s experience at the camp is defined by the choices one makes. I cannot over emphasize enough, if you make the voyage to Herräng get involved in something and do not hide out in the internet Igloo the entire time.

A perfect example of this was because I was part of the volunteer crew for Week 3, someone I knew invited me to a beach bonfire birthday party complete with home-made sangria by two Spaniards. At this bonfire I met a bunch of Lithuanians, who I later got into shenanigans with. The last week of camp I met some Czech Republic girls in the basement when a bar mysteriously opened up there, who later on I went rowboating and picking blueberries with. A simple meeting or connection can easily snowball into several different adventures in Herräng, it is very easy if you are social to get stuck in the situation that you are choosing between three different things to do a night.

Joana and Andreas doing some aerials in a boat. – Ana Luz Crespi

The best way to give you my dear readers a cursory view of the camp is by presenting you a smorgasbord of ways you could potentially get involved. In addition I am going to use a lot of photographs because I believe they do a better job then my words of painting a picture of what the “Herräng experience” is like.

I will not try to cover the obvious stuff listed on the Herräng website or in most first time to Herräng articles, but instead give insight to the atmosphere of this camp. Covering everything would be a futile effort that would bore you to tears. This quote from Herrang for Dummies sums up my opinion on the matter.

I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on absolutely every aspect of this amazing camp, nor I am able to write a guide that covers it all. There is far too much that goes on, that it is practically impossible to know everything about it all. Unless you are somehow able to divide yourself into 2 or 3 people. – A person who has been to Herräng for 3 more years then myself.

Volunteering/Classes/Housing Accommodations/Bike Rental 

These are easily the four biggest things that affect your camp experience. If you are in general accommodations, volunteering, and taking classes it is much more likely you will get to meet a lot of people compared to if you got private accommodations that are a biking distance away from all the action and are only doing dancing at night so you are stuck meeting people through just wandering around.

While with private accommodations or in some cases the caravan choices for housing you get some privacy,  but often sacrifice accessibility to the camp (especially if you don’t have a rented bicycle) and opportunities to meet people. However, like I said in a previous post it is better to do what makes you comfortable. There is no use putting yourself in general accommodations to meet people if you are miserable the entire time because you can’t sleep due to noise.

The beach, marina, Hallstavik, and other places all become more accessible with a bicycle rental (which was only 500 SEK this past year). As a person who had a bicycle for one week and then without it the next, I can tell you I did more activities and went on more adventures that involved travel when I had the bicycle. Of course the downside is when you get fatigued at the late night dances, when you have a bicycle it is always tempting to leave early since your bed is only a short bike ride away.

Kevin and Jo, and their matching bikes. – Ana Luz Crespi

I was in one of the Int/Advanced tracks this year and through it I made a lot of friends who I danced with, ate, and spent time hanging out. However we had some rather proactive people in my class. We organized class practice sessions, even had a meet-up in one of the ballrooms for social dancing, and we have a secret facebook group for class notes/recaps or meetups for the more fortunate members who live close-by in Europe. I also who had a friend that complained her class didn’t do anything besides meet up and go on their own merry way. If you take classes I encourage you to get to know your classmates and try to meet up to practice class material or if you see them wondering while you are out and about, take a moment to say hi and chat.

The Most Badass Class of Herräng 2012 – Int/Adv Level 1 (Week 3)

The last category volunteering is probably one of, if not the easiest way to meet people and get a unique perspective on the camp. After the Harry-Potter-Sorting-Hat-Esque like ceremony on Saturday of camp you get sorted into your respective volunteer crew and then proceed to spend several hours a day with them during that week, with the exceptions of certain crews such as Tech Crew [1] or Limo Service [2] (for obvious reasons).

In the mornings and afternoons you will get to mingle and eat with your fellow volunteers at the volunteer kitchen a.k.a. the V-Kitchen. In addition, the staff of the camp tends to set up some fun activities specifically for the volunteers. The beauty of being part of the volunteer crew besides the obvious social benefits is you get to see how the camp is run and the infrastructure behind it. While many people including myself find the chaotic structure of Herräng to be maddening at times, it does have the benefit that it allows for unique things to happen that it would be hard to find somewhere else. An example of that being an entire class being moved to the beach including sound system and floor.

Week 5 volunteers – Ana Luz Crespi

Other Ways To Get Involved

One of the lovely or overwhelming (depending upon your perspective) things about Herräng is the variety of ways one can find adventures to embark on or activities to get involved with. Here I will post a small sample of some of the different things that can be found at the camp that one can get involved in.

Herräng Beach

Herräng Beach – Ana Luz Crespi

Slightly up the road from the camp you can follow signs that will bring you to the beach at Herräng. It is beautiful during the day and breath taking at night. Great place to celebrate birthdays with bonfires, go swimming, or just simply lay out and enjoy the scenery.

Party Volunteers

Savoy Party Volunteers – Ana Luz Crespi

The Friday night parties at Herräng are big productions that they go all out for converting the main building for the camp, the Folkets Hus into whatever theme chosen for that week. I had the privilege of attending three of the parties which the themes were; the 70’s, Night at The Savoy, and Pirates & Parrots.

However these parties are entirely volunteer ran and while they do have part of the volunteer staff dedicated to producing them, I have always found they need more help decorating or even people to run booths/services during the party. If you want to contribute to the camp, I encourage you to help out for at least one party.

Mission Impossible

Calle Wants You for Mission Impossible – Ana Luz Crespi

I was an agent for Mission Impossible and the most frequent question I probably received was, “What does Mission Impossible do exactly?”. The official answer is we attempt to fill a gap and help people where the camp has not officially created volunteer resources for. An example of that is during Week 4 there was a bedding crisis and we were attempting to find people places to sleep.

However many unofficial services are provided as well such as creating a Dennys or Hooters restaurant from scratch or helping the Swing Kids program have a lemonade stand for the Frankie Manning Foundation. If you are looking for a unique group to join, just keep an eye out for the Mission Impossible sign.

Circus

Juggling Class – Ana Luz Crespi

This year Herräng offered circus classes at most times in the day and as part of the night classes. Ever wanted to learn how to juggle or perhaps pantomime? Sergio and Pao were there to teach you those, among other circus skills.

DJing

Mark wants you to DJ – Ana Luz Crespi

While most of the dances have DJs that Herräng has hand-chosen previously, there are volunteer spots open for DJing. This past year Mark Khiara from Seattle was the DJ Coordinator. Ever want to find out if an international crowd would enjoy your DJing skills? Go to one of the DJ interest meetings on the weekend to hopefully get put in a DJ slot.

Set-Up/Take-Down Crew

Set Up Crew Volunteers – Ana Luz Crespi

The week before the camp begins is known as setup week and the week after the camp ends is known as take-down week. From what I have heard it is hard work, but a great way to meet people and a wonderful bonding experience. In addition you get to experience Herräng as a town without the horde of dancers running around everywhere.

Wrap-Up

As I have emphasized before, it is a difficult task to try to put into words what Herräng is actually like. People who have been there for multiple years or have even run the gauntlet of all five weeks of the camp and setup/take-down week struggle with it. I hope to give you a small glimpse of what the camp is like for those of you who are curious, or perhaps bring some nostalgia back to those who have been. I’ll leave you with this small quote from the 2012 Herräng Handbook,

And what else is there to pay attention to besides following the schedule and being attentive in your classes? A lot, but at the same time not much. Herräng has never been known for a lot of rules or regulations. Instead, within the abstract frame of good taste and proper behavior, feel free to add, change or improvise. We don’t necessarily want Herräng to be a copy of our daily life with only dance classes as an addition. Instead our ambition is to provide a rhythmical playground and a melting-pot for ideas, innovations and lost dreams. Please feel who heartedly welcome to add your piece to this kaleidoscopial picture!”

– Ewa Burak, Åsa heedman, Frida Segerdahal, Fatima Teffahi, Daniel Heedman, Lorenz Ilg and Lennart Westerlund

Parade for the Dedication of Frankie Manning Street – Ana Luz Crespi

Footnotes & Acknowledgement

[1]. The Tech Crew volunteers are responsible for anything at the camp involving sound equipment or visual presentation. Every sound system used for the classes all around the camp and  by them and the camp meetings involve them and the official tech staff members.

[2]. Limo Service volunteers are responsible for the pickup and drop-off of teachers and special guests. They deal with the coordination of the buses that pick-up and drop off people from the Arlanda airport. In addition they also sometimes provide unique services (ask any 2012 attendees about the love-mobile).

Pol and Hannah, from Herräng’s Limo Service. – Ana Luz Crespi

ALC Fotografía (Photography)

I’d like to thank Ana Luz Crespi from Argentina for giving me permission to use these beautiful photos for this article. My words pale in comparison to what these photographs can show you about Herräng. I encourage you to visit her personal website or her photography facebook page. Leaving comments in the article about the photographs is also encouraged as well!


10 Things to Know About Herräng

Herräng. If you have been dancing for awhile you probably know what this is, whispered among experienced dancers as the “Mecca of Lindy Hop” or “Swing Dancing heaven”.

Nina Gilkenson even said in Part 1 of her A Word on Swing interview,

“And then my other goal was to go to Herrang, see what that was all about. I heard about it, it sounded like paradise where you got to dance all the time and hang out with a billion swing dancers […] -Nina Gilkenson”

However Herräng for the uninitiated has this air of mystery about it and articles one can read online, stories one can get from friends, and videos of the event on youtube all paint a very different picture of what this event is like.

Average day in Herräng.

With this post I hope to give those who have not been Herräng but are hoping to make the plunge in the future some advice to make their stay easier.

The List

  1. Do Research: Most of the people I know who get frustrated and stressed at Herräng is due to being unprepared for the environment of the camp. A good place to start is Lloyd’s website where he literally has reviews of 10+ years of the event. Another nice little FAQ from Lindyhop Whiteboard Supreme.  Yehoodi has a nice talk show that goes over some details about the camp. Lastly I did a short AMA on reddit’s r/swingdancing subreddit about the camp from a volunteer perspective. Besides that your friends who have gone to the event personally, youtube videos, and Herräng on facebook are also  great resources.
  2. Bring Extra Money: One of my biggest complaints about Herräng is once you get to the camp there is literally no way to get additional Swedish currency, unless if you can somehow get transportation to the nearby town Hallstavik. (There were rumors one could get cash back from the local general store the Kuggen, however when I attempted to get cash back they told me only Swedish cards were accepted.) My advice? Use the Herräng cost page to figure out how much money you need, then bring an additional 1000 SEK minimum.
  3. Make Arrangements Based On Your Personality: Personally I loved the spartan-like housing of General Accommodations, however I am also a fairly big extrovert and love being around a lot of people. To individuals who need time away from people or are light sleepers, the same arrangements could easily become hell on earth. Likewise the earlier weeks of 1 & 2 have a different feel then the latter weeks 4 & 5 a.k.a. the latter is way more crowded, if possible you might want to book your trip accordingly. The important thing is to find out what makes you comfortable as a person and tailor your Herräng experience to suit that.
  4. Learn Floorcraft (If you don’t know it already) : You have two options; first you can go to sleep after the meeting at 10 PM and wake up at 2-3 AM when there starts to become floorspace available on the dance floors or you can dance in really tight quarters. I am talking about people-who-will run-into-you-while-you-are-dancing-Balboa lack of room.
  5. Be Aware of the 2 Dance Tradition: A good portion of the world outside of North America it is standard practice to have two dances in a row. Whether you choose to follow this tradition or not is your own prerogative, but it is a good thing to be aware of.
  6. Friday Night Parties & Tuesday Slow Drag Night, Bring Appropriate Clothes: For Slow Drag night, people tend to be dressed to the nines. While you don’t have to all out, dress at minimum semi-formal to not stick out like a sore thumb. Likewise for the Friday night party (themes can be found on the website beforehand) bring some kind of costume along or at minimum hit up the prop-shop the Wednesday before the the party you are attending, any time afterwards the place will probably be cleaned out of useful items.
  7. Sleep Is A Resource To Be Carefully Managed: With classes, late night dancing, possibly volunteering, and random adventures it is easy to start losing sleep. It is possible to rough it out for awhile completely sleep deprived, but remember there are costs to that. Less sleep means it is more likely that one can come down with the Herräng flu that goes around every year. In addition I have had two friends this past Herräng who missed things that were important to them simply because they decided to take naps and their body was too exhausted to wake up to alarms.
  8. Daily Meetings, Get There Early or Slightly Beforehand: Nearly every article I have read about Herräng has listed go to the daily meetings. This piece of advice is from myself who was a tech crew volunteer and helped to run about 6 of them, if you want to get into the actual meeting prepare to wait in line/queue up for a minimum of 30 minutes beforehand. Otherwise get there 10 minutes beforehand and grab a spot in the Library, Bar Bedlam, or the Dansbanan where the meeting is projected onto screens.
  9. Take Care Of Your Body: This goes hand in hand with number 7, but realize at minimum you will be dancing for a week straight. This is a large amount of dancing is on top of possibly classes and volunteering. I recommend stretching, yoga, napping, taking it easy on dancing one night, anti-cold vodka at the Ice Cream Parlor, taking it easy at the Blue-Light,  and whatever you need to prevent your body from breaking and falling prey to the dreaded Herräng flu.
  10. Go On Adventures: Last but not least, get involved! There is Mission Impossible, Friday Night Party decorating crew, Circus, and the list could go on… and on. Herräng’s environment heavily encourages participation by all attendees, part of the experience is getting dragged into a random project or starting your own.

If you have been to Herräng beforehand and have some advice you felt has been left out or if you haven’t been before and have some questions, I encourage you to post in the comment section!


Travel Advice: Getting the Seat You Want On A Plane

With ILHC approaching on the horizon I know not just a bunch of my friends from Southern California, but Lindy Hoppers from around the world are going to be boarding planes with the East Coast as their destination. In result I want to address an issue that many passengers get concerned with, getting the seat they want for their plane flight.

Attending college in Pennsylvania but living in California during school breaks has required me to take multiple flights a year and while I may not be seasoned as some of the national instructors, I have picked up a few tricks from frequent travel.

Personally, I am an aisle seat person. Having the option that I can get up and wander around the plane at any time makes me happy. However I know some people like the scenic view and prefer the window. I’ve yet to meet anyone who likes being squished in the middle.

There are though a few ways (devious and non-devious) that one can ensure they are in the seat of their personal preference.

1. Check in Online

This by far is probably the easiest and stress free option. Most airlines when you check in online will give you box where you can select a seat preference. I’ve yet to not get the seat preference I wanted when using this method. In addition if you are just flying with one carry on luggage and a personal item this allows you skip long lines at the front of the airport to check in.

2. Ask a Flight Attendant  for a Seat Change.

Flight attendants tend to be friendly people who try to make your flying experience as comfortable as possible. If you spot an empty seat that you would want to sit in, there is no harm in asking. Worst case scenario they say no and there is no loss to yourself.

3. Just Sit In An Empty Seat

I actually employed this method on a recent flight from Colorado to Pittsburgh, I got assigned the middle seat and I was not going to deal with that for four hours. What you do is put your carry on luggage in the overhead bin like usual, then hang out at the back of the plane until everyone is nearly seated. Keep your eyes peeled and just sit down in an empty seat, I have managed to snag entire rows to myself on some flights doing this. Worst case scenario if you are accidentally in somebodies seat or a flight attendant asks why you are there, just respond with “Oh, I apologize I am in the wrong seat” and move back to your original seat. Though I have yet to have that situation arise.

Hopefully this helps a few people’s flights a slightly more comfortable experience. If you have any short flight related travel tips, feel free to leave them in the comment section.