Last Friday, Manu and I walked into an elegant, empty ballroom in Times Square, NYC.
“You know where we are, right?” Manu asks me.
“The Edison Ballroom?” I reply.
“Naw, dude. This is the Supper Club.”
I stop in my tracks as it hits me where I’m standing. We’re in the $%^&ing Supper Club! For NYC lindy hoppers of certain age, this was the place to go for an elegant night on the town.
Rechristened the “Edison Ballroom,” this dance floor is full of so many great memories for me as a baby lindy hopper. And now I realized we were going to make new memories here as the site of the 2022 International Lindy Hop Championships!
Last year the ILHC organizers announced that they were moving from the DC area to New York City. The change was prompted by the desire to return to the birthplace of lindy hop and “celebrate Frankie Manning’s birthday, World Lindy Hoppers Day, and connect back to the roots and history of the dance.”
Now I’ve been going to ILHC for years, and have enjoyed so much about this event. Tena Morales, Sylvia Sykes, and the rest of the hardworking team have set a high bar for competition weekends, with a combination of first-class dance contests, incredible live music, lots of social dancing, workshops, cultural and educational programs, and more.
But we’ve been in a pandemic for more than two years. What would an in-person international dance event even be like? Apparently would be like this…
And like this…
And like this…
This is a little taste of what the weekend was like for those of us fortunate enough to get to experience ILHC in person. Some of the highlights for me:
- Cheering on dancers from all over the world coming together to compete with all their hearts and souls
- Being in a dance space that respects, celebrates, and elevates the Black roots of lindy hop
- Social dancing till I couldn’t feel my feet with some of my oldest friends and new friends I made this weekend
- Experiencing three big bands in one weekend, led by Charles Turner, Eyal Vilner, and Danny Jonokuchi
- Dope jam circles with people throwing down their best moves as the crowd roared
Of course going to an in-person, international dance event while we are still in the midst of a pandemic is not without its risks. But to minimize the risk of infection, the event required proof of vaccination, temperature checks at the door, regular testing, and optional but encouraged masking. I tested daily while at the event and felt safe while I was there. But of course everyone has to make choices that are best for themselves and their loved ones.
Honestly, the biggest downside of being at the in-person ILHC was not really getting to experience the Virtual ILHC, which I completely enjoyed last year. I’m so glad that the organizers have made a way for folks to participate from all over the world, whether or not they can travel to the venue. And the virtual format has led to some incredible innovations like the Video Showcase division. I can’t wait to check out all the online contests soon!
Going to a big lindy hop event like this took a lot out of me, emotionally, financially, and physically. I know I’m not the only one who felt this way, from folks I talked to. But getting to experience all the things that made me love lindy hop in the first place and reconnect with the roots of the dance and my community made it all worthwhile.
My thanks to all the organizers, staff, volunteers, teachers, musicians, DJs, MCs, and everyone else who made this weekend possible. I can not imagine how challenging it must have been to pull this off.
Oh, and did I mention the late night parties DJed by Remy? OMG.
For those interested in the ILHC contest results, here are the winners and scores.