Looks like all the news was coming out of Austin this weekend with the third Annual Lone Star Championships. Run by Tena Morales and Scott Angelius, this event is meant to be a more relaxed competition weekend with an emphasis on social dance contests such as Jack & Jill’s and Strictly comps. I didn’t go, but that won’t stop me from saying a few words and gratuitously mention that <plug> I work for Tena on the International Lindy Hop Championships happening this year August 19th-22nd, 2010. Registration opening soon!</end plug>
Smaller scale competition events like Lone Star Championships are useful places for newer competitors to get a taste of what it’s like to be in the spotlight. There’s also the added benefit of doing it with the support of all your friends cheering you on.
I think one of the reasons why DC emerged as such a strong scene earlier in the decade was because of events like the Virginia State Open where people like Nina Gilkenson and Naomi Uyama cut their competition teeth before taking their show to a more national audience. Plus little big events like this are a good excuse to get everyone in a local scene together with some nearby friends.
The interesting twist at Lone Star this year is that the event attracted bigger names than I thought it would when it first started a couple of years ago, but that’s what you get when you run a great event. The lack of any performance divisions does leave plenty of time to have multiple levels for the J & J’s and the Strictly’s, so newcomers don’t have to step into the same competition floor with veteran performers and instructors.
This allows them to let even the dancers in intermediate level J & J get spotlight dances. That’s not necessarily something you would see at a bigger national level event.
The only place where not having multiple levels was an issue was in the Blues and Solo comps. Since Lone Star is a Lindy-centric competition, it’s not necessarily a big deal, but it does make it difficult for intermediate/advanced dancers to get a shot at the finals when they’re running up against the likes of Juan Villafane or Evita Arce and Jeramie Anderson. Although I will say Evita and Jeramie along with Alice Mei & Mikey Pedroza absolutely slayed the blues contest.
Not sure if they can do anything about this short of creating more divisions. It’s always a balancing act with those sorts of decisions because you don’t want to shaft the social dancing time especially with live bands. Regardless, tt’s a nice problem to have, and it’s hard to complain about quality dancing.
Speaking of live music, the two bands that played, Giant City on Friday night and the special Austin’s All Star Jazz Band on Saturday sounded great from what I’ve seen and heard on the YouTube clips.
I really enjoyed the trumpet and trombone players in the Blues contest. Everyone sounded great actually, but those two especially reminded me of Bubber Miley and Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton during Duke Ellington's Cotton Club era band.
Austin has quite a rep as a music town, but I’ve rarely heard anything about the bands that play for the dancers down there. I hope to hear these guys in person some day.
From my vantage point viewing the event through the magic of the interwebs, it looks like all the competitions were pretty entertaining. I think the decision to have the invitational J & J danced to two songs, the first a classic swing song and the other a choice of either a neo-swing tune or a “Hot Club Jam” (not a Django reference) is a great way to take the edge off of the competitive atmosphere and make the big name dancers more accessible to everyone else.
I do have the sneaking suspicion that the Hot Club Jam selected for Nina Gilkenson (Also runs ILHC and wants you to register soon) and Peter Strom was not a random selection.
As I mentioned, there were no choreographed performance competitions, but there were a few special performances. I did appreciate Led Feet’s performance to an easy swinging version of “Exactly Like You.” The formations and the men’s attire were very reminiscent of the National Shag Dance Team stuff I used to see at the old North Atlantic Dance Championships back in the day. I’m glad we’re getting away from the idea that every Lindy Hop routine has to be raw and crazy, danced to a song from the Swing Kids soundtrack.
Also, video of Evita Arce and Michale Jaegger’s Singin’ In The Rain performance made it passed the copyright police. Check it out while you still have a chance.
I’ll put together video compilations later this week for everyone’s ease of access and I’ll also post results when I get them. In the mean time I’ll leave you with a small taste.