Well, so much for live updates from Lindy Focus VIII. It was not from lack of anything to talk about. Plenty happened; I just decided to take advantage of the first event I’ve been to in over four years where I didn't have to work in any capacity. I almost forgot what it’s like just to go to an event just to dance. It took some time to get used to which is why it was nice to be there for all five nights. I didn’t partake in the whole event though as I only went to the evening dances, and skipped the classes. It was nice to sleep in and catch up with people during the day and spend the night dancing until the early mornings. I think I closed out all of the dances except the last one which lasted past 8 am. I left around 7 am only because I needed to pack and shower for the long ride home.
This was only my second Lindy Focus, but the event was noticeably larger than last year, which I was told was bigger than years’ past. The event originally started as a regional event featuring local instructors. As time passed and the other national level New Year’s events like Danver’s New Year’s Eve Extravaganza and the Rhythmic Arts Festival fell by the wayside or moved on, Lindy Focus stepped to the fore to offer a huge holiday event.
And Lindy Focus really is a Big Time production these days. The main dances took place in the hotel’s brand new 20,000 sq/ft Expo Center. Even with the event’s largest recorded attendance in its history, a space that large should have been still too big for it, but they made excellent use of it to maintain a comfortable atmosphere.
Even when I’m not working, I guess I can’t help but geek out over details like that. I had to check myself a few times as I found myself nit-picking details here and there, but that’s all they were. Overall, this was a first rate run event. No event is run perfectly, but this one came pretty close.
It all started with the organizers Jaya and Michael Gamble and Sosh Howell who did a great job of balancing the right mix of fun and professionalism that an event this size needs. That’s a tough thing to do when you get twice as many registrants as you did the year before.
They were lucky enough to have an equally dedicated staff to help them. That’s really the hardest thing to get together for events like this since no event promoter can be everywhere, addressing every problem at once. They were a fun bunch of people too. So fun that I almost found myself wanting to be back there with them sharing in that us-against-the-world camaraderie that you get when you work events like this. Almost.
Music Goes Round and Round
I’m glad I rested up for the dances because the bands and DJ’s they got were top notch. The Boilermaker Jazz Band in particular were on fire for their two nights with special guest vocalist from DC, Betsy Kipperman.
I enjoyed the Loose Marbles more the second night than the first where they did a great job playing for the crossover Jack & Jills.
The band advertised as the Stephanie Morgan Quartet changed their name to Crybaby right before they started their late night set on Wednesday night. I typically don’t go for the more modern jazzy sound they played. It wasn’t bad, but it’s not necessarily my thing. However, I think I enjoyed it in contrast to the Loose Marbles’ more traditional sound from earlier in the evening.
Russ Wilson’s Nouveau Passe Orchestra played on New Year’s Eve and did a solid job of ringing in the new year especially with their rousing rendition of “The Big Apple Contest” to end the night.
When there wasn’t any live music, the DJ crew of Mike Marcotte, Kyle Smith, Allen Kerr, Mike Thibault, Rob Moreland, Michael Gamble were able to keep the party going til dawn, and sometimes beyond. They all did a great job, but I’d like to give props to Mike Thibault for dj’ing a kick ass soul set on Wednesday night. I think it's easy to go overboard with these sort of things, but I think the scheduling of the set combined with Mike’s dj’ing were perfect.
Going into the weekend, I thought an event that lasted five nights was remarkably short on competitions, but I think it ended up being just the right amount. Lindy Focus isn’t a competition event, but it did allow people to get that out of their system if they wanted to.
The Couple Showcase and the Vintage Cabaret were incredibly entertaining, the former especially thanks in part to Karen Turman and Andrew Thigpen’s inspired performance which inspired me to post my only blog from the event last week.
I missed out on the Strictly Balboa competition, but was very impressed by the Crossover Jack & Jill. I was honestly dubious of the concept, but the energy of the contestants and the crowd really made it work. It was a good combination of competition, social mixer and introduction for competitors and the audience.
Advanced Leads and Intermediate Follows
Advanced Follows and Intermediate Leads
Then there was the Underground Lindy Focus Championships, a series of dance contests devised by the MC Andrew Thigpen to get people to throw down. I think the execution was pretty inspired: At certain points during the late night dances he would tell people to find a partner first, and then announce the contest and its rules. It kept everything loose and fun.
The first one was a super-strictly Lindy Hop competition where couples were tapped out of a giant all skate if they were seen doing any Charleston. The second contest was, you guessed it, a partnered Charleston competition.
Claudia Joyal Laplante & Davis Thurber won the Lindy Hop portion and Natasha Ouimet & Patrick Szmidt won the Charleston. They then faced off in a jam contest on New Year’s Eve. The overall final was a little anti-climactic compared to the finals to the separate contests, and I was a little puzzled as to how the crowd could choose a winner in that last showdown when the couples essentially performed a choreographed routine. Still I think Patrick and Natasha deserved to win based on their previous performances in the week.
Speaking of Andrew Thigpen. I think he did a nice job of MC'ing the activities even as he began loosing his voice halfway through the event. He does a good job of conveying the welcoming attitude of the event. Although I did appreciate Karen's often well timed shout of "DANCING" whenever Andrew rambled too long.
Throughout the week there were several performances by the instructors sprinkled throughout the week during the main dances and the late nights. My favorites included Mike Faltesek and Nathan Bugh's performance as well as this one by Nikki Marvin & Mikey Pedroza’s which I think is their best one to date.
Of course no event these days would be complete without a performance of All The Single Ladies (and Lads)
As I said before, Lindy Focus was a rousing success. I had a great time hanging out meeting and dancing with old friends and new people.
I’d like to thank everyone who came up to me and chatted about this blog. It feels kinda weird to meet you all in person, and find out that there are real people reading the blog and not just some random spambots hitting the site. Honestly, I feel more comfortable thinking that the blog exists in some vacuum, but don’t let that stop you from coming back. I had a lot of interesting conversations which will be the subject of some upcoming posts.
On a related note, I had a good time hanging out with fellow bloggers Alice (who represented in the Crossover J & J) and Mary (who also represented in Bananagrams). We didn’t discuss our plans for lindy world domination as I had hoped, but there was an enthusiastic response to my idea for a Lindy Hop bloggers gang sign.
Happy New Year!