Freedom Swing 2016

Hello everyone, welcome back to the work week. If you live on the East Coast of the US, did you survive the storm?

Speaking of the storm….

Amidst the screams of OMG SNOW-POCALYPSE and frantic calls from family, the Sven and I made our way south to Philadelphia. It was fine. Yes, the roads around Philly were gross, and it was cold and windy–but come on, people, I grew up in Vermont and now live in Syracuse, NY. This kind of winter nonsense is par for the course. I have 4-wheel drive and a sand bag in the trunk.

Anyway. I digress.

The reason I was braving winter’s wrath was to attend the Freedom Swing west coast swing competition, where Steve and I were to go another round with our Rising Star routine. I have to admit, by the time the dooming snow reports were rolling in, my interest in racing 4 hours south to beat the storm was at an all-time low. When we made it to the hotel, I was grumpy, tired, and more interested in lounging around than putting on a show.

Honestly? Despite all that, I enjoyed this competition more than all the others I’ve been to, and here’s why.

Many people bailed due to the storm, so the workshops were manageable sizes and there was room on the dance floor. I have no love of the mosh pit, especially not when trying to do a dance like west coast swing, which has a propensity to fill the space it’s given. But since the attendance was lower, I got to meet some people, chat, dance, and didn’t feel overwhelmed by the huge space and crowds.

We also ended up being the only couple present in our competition division. This is a mixed blessing, for while we didn’t get to compare ourselves to other couples, we did get personalized feedback from the judges. That, to me, is more useful than a number and a potential medal. I really value the opportunity to talk to ‘experts’ in the field, and it was sweetened further by the fact that many of them seemed positive about our presentation. One Blake Hobby, in particular, gave some wonderful and insightful feedback–and that, for me, is gratifying in that Blake used to be a professional ballet dancer before switching to west coast swing….kinda like a certain person who’s blog you’re reading. Frankly I crave validation from both sides of the aisle, and her comments were constructive and made my night.

Really this whole experience just underscores for me how much I don’t like actual competitions. Once I realized we were the only couple present for our division, I completely relaxed and actually enjoyed the show. Sure, people were watching–but people are always watching. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is pitting dancers against each other–look, I grew up in a competitive dance environment. I push myself to do the best I can, and it’s hard enough to keep me from tearing myself down about failures. I much prefer to just put on a show, let the audience decide if they liked it, and tell us by clapping. (Or awkward silence. Whatever works.)

And there’s one other thing. Due to the ill-named Blizzard of 2016, the power companies in the affected states brought in linemen from all over the country, and in Philly, those linemen were staying at our hotel. Many of them, curious about the music, wandered into the competition ballroom and received their first introduction to west coast swing. I myself had a long conversation with Eddie from Florida, who, delighted with the party unfolding in front of him, told me about his wife and how they’d taken ballroom lessons years ago, as well as recounting tales of watching his parents square dance in decades past. In return I explained how Jack & Jills work, and shared all sorts of dance trivia. I love introducing people to social dance–it’s fun, it’s exciting to do and to watch, and I hope Eddie and the other linemen spread out across the country and maybe discover a new thing to do with those they love.

Happy Monday. Keep dancing. 🙂

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