After years and years of hearing people gush about this event, I finally got to experience Camp Jitterbug and the Jump Session Show in Seattle, Washington this weekend. It's four days full of incredible swing music, dancing, and fun in the heart of a wonderful city. Having experienced it, I can say that Camp Jitterbug sets a high bar for other swing dance events to aspire to.
The weekend kicks off with a star-studded, full-length dance show called "Jump Session" at the Benaroya Theater. Being in an opulent 2,400-seat theater, packed with other excited swing fans and dancers to see awesome dancing is an incredible experience. I really enjoyed the different styles of dance on show, with a strong emphasis on lindy hop, but also featuring tap, vernacular jazz, hip-hop, shag, and contemporary. And having New Orlean's own Meschiya Lake and her Little Big Horns on stage the whole time was an extra special treat.
After the dance performance, we got to do our own dancing in the lobby of the theater, the first of many awesome social dances held that weekend.
A lot of the challenge of putting on these swing dance weekends is balancing between a wide variety of kinds of activities and events for your attendees, who might be complete beginners to seasoned pros. I thought that Camp Jitterbug struck a nice balance between social dancing, live music, dance workshops, lectures, cultural activities, showcases and competitions.
For me as a long-time social dancer, Camp Jitterbug was worth attending just for the dance concerts along. The ridiculously talented musicians included:
- Ben Polcer's Swinging Seven
- The Careless Lovers
- Meschiya Lake and her Little Big Horns
- The Casey McGill Orchestra
Each of these bands played set after set of awesome jazz music for dancers. While they were all amazing, Meschiya's last concert on Sunday night was particularly inspiring and mind-blowing. Several times the dancers just spontaneously stopped dancing to cheer along the band, which is really rare at a dance event. Meschiya even came off the stage to dance in a jam with us.
The venues were really perfect for dancing. I particularly loved the Century Ballroom, which just recently announced that they had raised the $92,000 they need to pay of a tax bill that threatened to close this beautiful dance spot. The main ballroom at the Century has a perfectly sprung hardwood floor an elegant, art deco vibe to it. Seattle-ites are so lucky to have it.
The dance workshops were also really well organized. I got to learn from top-ranked instructors from all over the country and the world, including swing legend Ryan Francois, the ever entertaining Chester Whitmore, swing champs Juan Villafane and Sharon Davies, and many more.
I really appreciated the location of the venues, almost all of which were within a few minutes walking distance from each other, and the main hotel they had arranged for us. There were lots of restaurants, cafes, 24-hour grocery stores, and more nearby. I can't think of another swing dance weekend that was so conveniently located that didn't require shuttle buses, driving or planning for every meal and break.
And Seattle is just a really awesome city that I look forward to visiting again soon. I only got to a fraction of the amazing coffee spots that I wanted to check out!
Overall, I agree with all the hype surrounding Camp Jitterbug and would be happy to return again next year.
NOTE: Due to the Frankie100 festivities on schedule for May 22-26, 2014, Camp Jitterbug 2014 will take place the following weekend, May 28-30, 2014. Mark your calendars accordingly!