I haven’t had a whole lot of time to write, so I might as well talk about what’s been keeping me busy. The last few weeks before an event are usually the busiest times for event organizers and now there are just three weeks before this year’s International Lindy Hop Championships. So instead of nitpicking another dance video, I’ve been spending my spare time trading hundreds of emails doing the bidding of my ILHC overlords: Tena Morales, Nina Gilkenson, and Sylvia Sykes.
My role in this whole thing is to make their dreams come true by acting as middle management. They tell me what needs to be done, and then I get someone else to take care of it.
For example, this year we’re taking advantage of The Boilermaker Jazz Band playing on Friday night by having them play live music for the Solo Charleston finals.
The Boilermakers last time they were in DC playing for the Big Big Benefit.
For me, I just type a couple of emails and copy and paste stuff to the schedule. Then I enjoy the show while Contest Coordinators Aurelie and Tony Tye scramble with Competition Tabulator Scott Angelius and Head Judge Sylvia Sykes that night. I think I get the better end of this deal.
Of course I get all the blame if something goes horribly wrong, but the key here is to have top notch staff taking care of it. That’s your management tip for the day: Delegate to people who work harder than you. Seriously, Tena, Nina, and Sylvia have assembled an all star line up to staff this event. Most of them can and do run their own major national/international level event.
Here’s another secret. If you look at the schedule for that Friday night, you’ll notice that the preliminary round for the Open Strictly Lindy Hop division is right before the band’s first set. We do that on purpose to get as many people in the ballroom as early as possible because we know how most Lindy Hoppers like to show up to dances fashionably late. This division is one of our biggest and between the competitors and their friends cheering them on, that means there will be plenty of people to dance with when the band starts. Sneaky, ain’t it?
By the way, if you plan on competing and haven’t registered yet, then DO IT NOW. Competitions are almost full. And I'm not saying that just to drum up interest. They’re actually almost full. We’ve expanded the Open J & J to 4 heats already, but that’s going to be it. Our registration is way over our pace from last year, so if you want to compete, get your registration done now.
Of course the other big change is the addition of the LED talks. (Lindy, Enlightenment, Dance) which are short presentations by leaders of our scene about anything. They are FREE. You’re welcome. They will start on Friday afternoon with six sessions starting at 1:30 pm and go every 30 minutes until about 4:30, with six more on Saturday from 11:00 am to 2 pm.
Right now we’re tweaking the schedule strike a balance in the flow of the presentations which will range from the useful (Andrew Thigpen’s talk about getting to as many events as possible on a tight budget or certified Rolfer Jason Sager’s presentation about taking care of your feet) to the outside of the box (Naomi Uyama showing non-Lindy movement inspirational clips, Nick Williams talking about musical theater skills in dance, Skye Humphries illustrating the genius of Charlie Chaplin) to the entertaining (Anything that Sylvia Sykes says, which technically counts as all three).
Speaking of Sylvia, she’ll be reprising her very popular “What Judges Look For” presentation from last year at the end of the day on Friday at 4:30 pm.
Jonathan Stout is currently scheduled to do two LED talks: one about pioneering jazz guitarist Charlie Christian and another about leading a band with Hilary Alexander. But he’s at ILHC mainly to play the Saturday night dance with his band the Campus Five. That band will be backing up the finals of the Open Strictly Lindy Hop and Champions Strictly Lindy Hop divisions that night.
Jonathan Stout & His Campus 5 throwing it down for a jam at this year's Lindyfest
But you won’t have to wait until the weekend starts to hear quality live music. Gordon Webster will be holding it down on Thursday night starting at 8:30 pm. He was just in DC for Capital Blues’ Red Hot BBQ Blues dance at Glen Echo and he swung so hard he just about tore down that historic venue. This time around he’s not only bringing his full band, but he’s also backing up the world premiere of the Rhythm Catz otherwise known as Malcolm Holt and Steven Mitchell.
People seem to think that Lindy Hoppers turning into musicians is a recent fad, but just like everything else, Steven was doing it before you even heard of Lindy Hop.
Here's Steven and Malcom singing with Naomi Uyama and Gordon Webster's band at The Snowball in Stockholm, Sweden last New Year's.
Recorded music doesn’t really match up to live, but I think our crew of DJ’s headed up by Mike Marcotte will do a good job of keeping up the energy when there aren’t musicians playing. I’ve been working with Mike on selecting competition music every year for multiple competitions annually for the five years. Any time we get together to discuss selections for the next event, it feels like a master class in jazz appreciation. We spend hours listening and talking about the finer points of particular songs and whether they’re better suited for competitions or social dancing. And if they’re for comps, then which ones? Are we talking about prelims or finals? When do you want to go for consistency and when is it better to strike a contrast? How’s the recording quality? What do you think about this solo? When should a particular song be faded out and when can you let it ride?
But this weekend isn’t just about competition music. There’s going to be dancing until at least 5 am each night, starting on Thursday night. The party will keep going after awards on Sunday evening until midnight and then we’ll have two rooms going: one with swing music and the other with Peter Strom’s infamous Soul after party until they kick us out at 4 am.
It’s going to be a good weekend.