Photo Credit : Maren Marien Henes
Finally home after a fantastic trip to DC for the 10th annual International Lindy Hop Championships. I've been coming to ILHC for many, many years, and it never gets old for me. ILHC brings together lots of things I cherish — being around some of the most talented dancers from all over the world, watching them perform up close and personal, social dancing to an all-star band of musicians, and hanging out with far-flung friends that I rarely get to see together.
This year was particularly special for me because I got to experience it as a competitor and a participant. For the past few years, I've been coming as part of the Yehoodi team, helping run the live broadcast from ILHC. It's regrettable that we didn't get to run a broadcast this year. But on the plus side, it made it possible for me to experience ILHC in a completely different way.
At this ILHC, I was competing in the solo jazz teams division with my team the Shimmytown Shakers, and individually in the solo jazz division. Both of these were really fun and challenging experiences that I'm glad I said yes to.
The solo jazz prelims were kind of a blur, honestly. I didn't dance as full out as I would have liked because I felt a weird tinge in my left knee that worried me a bit. I didn't want to risk injuring myself before our team performance. Still, I'm glad I did it, even if I didn't do my best dancing.
Here's the awesome finals of the open solo jazz division. Honestly, seeing that talent, I'm relieved I didn't make finals.
The Solo Jazz Teams division was another story. I had been preparing with my team for more than two months, including daily practices during the two weeks running up to the event. I don't think I've prepared this much for any dance performance in a long, long time. We faced a daunting field of 12 other teams from around the world, including many professionals and international stars of the lindy world. Despite all that, we went out there and did the thing. It was exhilarating, electric, and over in the blink of an eye.
I'm so proud of the work that we did, and excited that we get to to it again at Camp Hollywood next weekend!
I was equally excited to watch the solo jazz team "Rhythm Section" do their thing. As soon as I saw their floor trial, I knew they were a shoe-in for first or second place. So damn good!
Watching the other competitions was almost as exciting as competing in them. Being at ILHC means watching the best lindy hoppers in the world throw down, alongside hundreds of other cheering and clapping dancers. I screamed my voice raw and literally clapped till my hands bled.
This year in particular, California and San Francisco Bay Area in particular showed up in a big way at ILHC. Sitting with my fellow Californians, waving away with these silly foam fingers (Thanks Jo Hoffberg), Adam Hitchcock waving a huge California flag behind us, was a ridiculously fun experience. We cheered for every Californian competitor, screamed out the names of our friends, and generally made a hella noise the whole time. So glorious.
I enjoyed all of the contests, but my favorite divisions were the Juniors, Teams, Solo Jazz Teams, the two Solo Jazz divisions, the Invitational Jack and Jill, Pro and Open Classic, and Pro and Open Showcase.
Here are some of the performances I'm going to be watching again and again.
Classic: Skye Humphries and Frida Segerdahl
Classic: Joshua Welter and Hyunjung Choi
Juniors: Victor Edlund and Wilma Edlund
Juniors: Eric Chapel and Thea Wallqvist
Juniors: Tyler Fullwood
Classic: Cat Foley and Benjamin Cook
As a sidenote, my favorite social dance of the weekend was following the amazing Cat Foley.
Team: Brothers and Sisters in Rhythm
Outside of lindy hop, one of my favorite parts of ILHC is the soul party on Sunday night, hosted by Peter Strom. A special addition this year was a funky line dance called "Kids" taught by hand dance / west coast swing superstars Marcus and Tren from DC.
Here's Marcus and Tren leading the "Kids" line dance with us. So much fun, I want to do this again in the Bay!
And here they are doing a west coast swing demo. I have never seen west coast done so funky before!
Besides the dancing, there are lots of other awesome things that happen at ILHC. The LED Talks are neat opportunities to hear from some of the leading thinkers, innovators, and creators in our community. I attended the Legends of Swing talk featuring Norma Miller, Sugar Sullivan and Jean Veloz, MCed by the talented Naomi Uyama. It's great hearing stories from our legends, who we are so blessed to have with us. And Naomi did an incredibly skillful job managing this sometimes cantankerous and willful panel of speakers. I was super impressed.
Another great addition this year was the Swing Museum, curated by the ILHC staff. They had some wonderful gems from our lindy hop history, including a pair of Dawn Hampton's gold shoes (sigh), an original dress featured in a famous balboa dance video, an actual Harvest Moon Ball award, and lots photos and ephemera from the golden age of jazz and lindy hop. As a museum professional, I approve of this addition, and hope it continues to grow in future years.
Overall, I'm just grateful that I had the opportunity to again experience the International Lindy Hop Championships. It brings together the best from our community and showcases their art so well. The energy is electric and the love and appreciation for all the dancers is wonderful to experience.
Ah one, ah two, you know what to do…