Analogies seem to be in fashion these days, and Lindy Focus is a good one for the way our scene has been developing for the past few years. What started out as a very small regional event, has now blossomed into one of the biggest in the country. I’ve been to the last three Lindy Focuses (Focii?). The first was Lindy Focus 7 just when the event was expanding by hiring bigger name instructors and bands. Now there aren’t just more attendees, but they’re more diverse in terms of experience level. I wrote a bit about this situation last year, and have been wondering how the community will deal with this dynamic in general and how an event like Lindy Focus can deal with it specifically.
The thing I appreciate the most about the way Jaya & Michael Gamble and Sosh Howell run Lindy Focus is that they know that there’s no one, be-all-end-all-solution. They’re not afraid to try new things and are also critical of things that already work very well. It’s important to not take the latter for granted because the changing demographics by themselves ensure a different experience from year to year.
One of the key things they emphasized this year was encouraging attendees to take initiative in contributing to the event. For example, it’s become standard for many events to offer multiple options for late night dancing. Despite its size, Lindy Focus only had one late night dance on the schedule, but eventually separate impromptu blues and balboa late nights popped up and even a club jams room. That one featured a dance battle complete with a casualty for authenticity’s sake.
Then there was the infamous yet succinct Balti-qurque party. I think it says something when people go out of their way to formulate mayhem in a way that doesn’t disrupt the event at large. Does it even count as mayhem?
One of the main instigators of that conflagration (my word of the month) was Michael Seguin who also made an interesting dance statement. Although he’ll probably be the last person to admit that he was doing as much, seeing his performance with Ann Mony in the Slow Dance division was a nice counterpoint to the way a lot of people approach competitions.
A lot of newer dancers see competitions as a way of validation or maybe getting their name known. But more and more they have to deal with veterans like Seguin or Josh Welter (winner of the Open Jack & Jill with Mary Freitag-first couple in the video below); people that don't have anything to prove in a contest, but he can tear it up when the mood strikes them.
The answer of course is to have multiple competitions levels, but then you run into the issue that Lindy Focus isn’t really a competition centric event. Personally, I’m a big fan of competitions. I like going to prelims just to pick out a person or couple and scream at/for them. However, despite the size and overall length of Lindy Focus, I felt that there may have been too many competitions at this event. Mostly because between the comps, special performances, jams, and the New Year’s Eve Show, it felt like I was looking at some of the same people all week long.
I wouldn’t mind if they brought back the crossover competitions from last year pairing advanced and intermediate dancers with each other. As it was, I thought it was pretty classy to feature the Novice Jack & Jill on the big night of New Year’s Eve.
It’s hard to complain too much about the contests and the performances because everything was pretty high quality especially the New Year’s Eve Show. Major compliments to the director, Evita Arce, for coordinating such an entertaining and cohesive show. It was great to see such a variety of acts from that didn’t settle for standard team, coupled, and solo formulas.
It’s hard to pick a few highlights, but I really did like The Swinging Air Force’s luggage themed routine. As amazing as Annie & Max’s winning ILHC showcase routine was last year, a lot of people were left hanging or were just flat out distracted from the unused baggage in the set up for that piece. To their credit, they took that idea a step further and then some with a blockbuster opening for the show.
It’s hard to imagine the amount of work they put into pulling that routine off, but that seemed to be a theme for all the performances. You don’t have to look much further than the performances of Karen Turman and Andrew Thigpen to see that.
I told Thigpen after his ILHC showcase that they set the bar too high for them to top themselves. He didn't miss a beat and replied "I don't care. We'll just set a different bar." That one Lindy Focus performance is a production and a half, but then you see their routine from the next night to see how far they’ll go.
You really have to see this one through until the end. You think you’ve seen it from ILHC but they really went the extra mile on this one. It boggles my mind to think about how much they both busted their butts that week between Karen’s other performances and Andrew’s duties MC’ing for the event. At last year's Lindy Focus, Karen & Andrew inspired me to write about making statements in Lindy Hop, and the effort here again is one hell of a statement.
That’s the really amazing thing about Lindy Focus: how much people worked extra hard to add to the overall experience. And sometimes they just involve everyone like Elizabeth & Jeff Camozzi (Edited to add new video)
On paper, this routine just sounds cheesy with the unorthodox musical selection and the ending, but Liz & Jeff make it work with humility and honesty. This is the kind of thing that I was talking about in my year end wrap up. Not every performance has to be super fancy to be memorable. People don’t usually remember who won first place. They remember witnessing or being a part of something special. I’m glad I found this video because I think I had something in my eye while watching this in person
All this made for a great vibe at Lindy Focus, and this was just the stuff to watch. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed relaxing by spending the bulk of my days in the hotel bar lounging in front of the fireplace trying to do some writing. I failed mostly because of the steady stream of friends and acquaintances would stop by to chat. Some of them were taking breaks in between classes, but many dancers were like me were saving our energies to dance until dawn for five days straight.
A great way to start a new year.
There are a lot more video highlights from this event, but I think I’ll save them for a separate post next week.