Not a whole lot of time so I'm pulling one from the archives (ak.a. old Facebook notes). I wrote this after we finished the first ILHC last year. You can also check out the compilations of ILHC videos I've posted to get a more visual taste of the event.
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One of the fun things about being involved with an event like this is getting to see and hear things I wouldn’t normally if I was just another attendee.
- During the Friday floor trials, as we were still setting up the ballroom, the guy in charge of the hotel staff peaked at the competitors for the Classic division practicing. At one point we were checking out the room while Carla and Zack ran through their routine. Even though he had never seen Lindy Hop until that evening, he turned to me and said, “Out of all these people, I think they are going to win.” I just smiled and shrugged non-commitally, and moved on to the next thing that had to be set up.
- For those of you wondering, we asked the hotel to crank down the temperature in the ballroom to about 50 degrees in preparation for the day’s dancing. So if you thought you were coming in early to warm up, then I apologize for that. :)
- Another floor trial story on Saturday morning involved seeing Kelly Arsenault come in around 10 am to practice for her cabaret piece. At that time she told me that she still really didn’t know what she was going to do. 16 hours later she took first place.
- Having a competition is a good way to stalk dancers. There were so many good dancers in town, you needed a scorecard to keep track of them, and fortunately not only did we have those, but the dancers also had numbers pinned on themselves for convenient identification :)
- I can’t say enough about the Boilermakers on Saturday. I have to agree with Julius Yang’s opinion on Yehoodi that it was a shame that we had to do another contest after their last set because they sounded like they were about to let loose. You can see them jump on the video clips for the contests. They’re also a great bunch to work with, very accommodating. Towards the end of Strictly Lindy contest, Peter Strom asked them to bring it down and play softly for a verse, before letting them cut loose for a rousing finale. There aren’t many bands that would let someone dictate how they play right in the middle of the song, but they know and trust Peter not to let them do something stupid. Plus I love Naomi singing with them if only because it gives them an excuse to explore Duke Ellington’s criminally neglected classic 30’s material.
- Awkward: Before and after contests we had to run into the back to control the lights. At one point I burst through the door to find Marty Klemptner and another guy stripped down to speedos and covered in baby oil. I tried processing that for about half a second before I said “I don’t want to know” and headed straight for the light switches.
- The midnight buffet was a master stroke by Tena. A lot of times at events, people scatter to grab some nourishment, but we gave a pretty reasonable and very quick option right there in the hotel. That helped to keep the energy high through the late night.
- That and how everything was located in a central area. Unless you were in your hotel room, it was easy to find specific people or just run into someone random and hang out for a spell. From a staff stand point it may have been too social because it was too easy to get sucked into catching up with people. The other alternative was to blow past people in order to get actually something done. I apologize to all the people I may have been short with, but ya’ll have to stop being so friendly when I’m on the clock.
- Saturday late night was much busier than the night before as Swifty handed off over a hundred dancers to me a around 3:30 am.
- Austin people are hard. I DJ’d the last shift of the late night. At around 5:20, there were very few people left and most of them weren’t even dancing at the fairly glacial pace I was setting, so I decided that it was time to send everyone home by cranking up the tempos. I wasn’t completely unmerciful, as I played fast songs that would have driven everyone onto the dance floor if it were only five hours earlier-Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho, Madam Dynamite, Lindy Hoppers Delight. Finally I got to the Kansas City version of Lafayette (250ish bpm) and Jonathan Jow from Austin got the picture, grabbed Laura Glaess and swung-the-f%#&-out for a good two to three minutes. Needless to say I was impressed, and dropped the tempos back down. I kept it going until about 6 am, when it looked like we really were done and whipped out the slowest version of Roy Eldridge doing “After You’ve Gone” at a brisk 312 bpm. Sure enough Austin peeps were back on the floor, and even tried getting other people involved by tagging them in. Although it just turned into a steal dance with Laura Glaess before she finally ran off. As impressive as that was, I was even more impressed when she walked in to do a floor trial with her team at 10 am.
- During the floor trials on Sunday (Yeah I was up early a lot. Mental note for next year: Get someone else to do floor trials), as the team “Keep ‘em Flying” came in for their slot, their coach Holly Thomas Yang told me that she usually gets them up at 6 am for practice, but she decided to be benevolent that weekend and only got them up at 9 am. After a short pause, she grinned and noted that since they’re from the west coast, 9 am east coast time is something like 5 am to them. All this while she was deciding whether to practice at the real tempo of the song (around 230 bpm) or the “slower” version at 225.
- Checking my email on Sunday morning I noticed the first ILHC YouTube clip online of Max & Annie’s Showcase performance that happened not even 12 hours ago.
- If the Open Jack & Jill final seemed slow to you that’s because it was. We were actually going to do a slow song and then a fast song for everyone, but Peter accidentally ended before we got to the fast portion. However, Sylvia decided that they had seen enough and let us move on in the schedule.
- I can’t say enough about what happened in the Juniors division. Peter Strom deserves a huge amount of credit for rallying crowd. I had a big goofy grin on my face the whole way through, bobbing my head like a big ol’ dork during “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Valerie Salstrom did a very good thing for everyone by bringing those kids.
- I had a very long conversation with Sylvia after the comps were done about contest formats and the use of relative placement. I’ll admit I wasn’t a complete believer in our contest structure going into the event, but that wasn’t part of my responsibilities anyway. However, after watching everything play out through the weekend and talking to Sylvia I have a better understanding of why we did things the way we did. As much of a fan as I am of the free wheeling nature of contests like ULHS, I’ve come to agree that people need some structure to aim for. The trick is not to overburden them as to stifle their creativity. I think we did a pretty good job, and as a result got a lot of different looks especially in the Showcase division. There’s still adjustments to be made, but I think this was a pretty good start.
- Later, I finally got my dance on during Peter’s soul party. Seriously, it’s my firm conviction that if you don’t like soul music, there is something mentally, emotionally, intellectually, morally, ethically, spiritually and psychologically wrong with you on such a fundamental level that you should be isolated form the general population in order to prevent the further devolution of the human race.
- I love Nina. Sick with the flu, she stuck it out until the end, even engaging in a lengthy gymnastics challenge in the lobby.
- It broke my heart to close up on Sunday, but we didn’t have much of a choice since our reservation ended at 3 am and the hotel had to set up for a 7:30 am meeting. I give Peter credit for trying to keep the party going as long as possible. Even getting kicked out of the ballroom didn’t stop people as they kept dancing to Todd playing guitar while Nicole Frydman sang.
- By the time we finished packing up the truck with the flooring around 5 am, there was no trace of us being there on the second floor. First floor, on the other hand, was a different story as I found several dancers hanging out in the lobby. A couple of them were waiting for airport shuttles, but most had just come back from eating. By the way, if you haven’t been to Kabob Palace in Crystal City, I know a group of Austinites (Austinians? Austiners? Austini?) that can give a good recommendation.My favorite part of any competition weekend is still wootin’ and hollering on the sidelines for people; even those I only casually know. It was good to see old friends and acquaintances compete and give me an excuse to do that. I even met a few new people in between running around.