SwingDiego 2011 – Update #4

I mentioned that Danny Maika played live for late-nite dancing. Well weren’t we surprised when Earl brought Danny out onto the floor for the Champions’ Jack and Jill! This was Sunday afternoon, the final Big Show of the weekend, the best of the best about to get out there and blow our minds (since our minds weren’t already blown enough.)

So out come the Champion finalists, flying, hopping, rolling or jumping onto the floor (since they’re not like normal boring humans who walk to get around), they take their seats (so to speak – some actually *taking* their seats); and then out comes Danny Maika followed by a mess of wires, a mic on a stand, lots of duct tape, and Rob scrambling to get it all hooked up. But 20 seconds into the first song POP! the sound goes out. Out come Earl and Rob scrambling to rewire but again POP! Pop!Blam! its not working. This time Earl and Rob decide to hook it up somewhere off the floor – not quite as cool as seeing him play right there in front of you but still, pretty cool. But it’s taking a while to get all this arranged so in the meantime Parker calls for a champion all-skate.

Hahahahaha. Good luck.

These are people who can’t even walk uncreatively. And it’s Sunday, everyone is giddy. Everything seems uproariously funny. “Pass me my Red Bull” makes you fall off your chair howling and holding your stomach.

The all-skate lasted just long enough for them to pair up and get into closed position – about 12 seconds – before disintegrating into a wild disarray of noise, color, and body parts shooting out in all directions and then suddenly, like a school of fish, like it *had* to have been choreographed or else the earth’s magnetic force or other mysterious homing effect was guiding them, they all turned at the same moment, ran to the left and landed on the floor in a neat semi-circle where Kyle lead Jordan (who makes a very bad girl) in a death-drop so ugly you were afraid it might actually end in the death of anyone within range of Jordan’s flailing feet.

And then like a flock of geese they were up running over to the other side of the floor where they gathered round jam-style to take turns strutting their stuff for us and themselves and in an inspired moment of genius Victor threw “Strokin'” back on again. First out were Katrina and Kielbasa, then Marcus joined in and THEN … Clarence Carter says “Now. When I start makin’ love to my woman I don’t stop till I know she’s sassyfied” … and on Now out comes Sarah with her back to the audience and begins the Butt-Shake To End All Butt-Shakes – a butt-shake like I didn’t know existed in the world – the butt-shake that puts all other butt-shakes to shame – a rotating butt-shake with two halves going in opposite directions – a marvelous, shiny, non-stop, energizer-bunny of a butt shake which shook for 8 beats and then shook 8 more beats and then kept on shaking for the entire verse and the longer she shook the more you thought you might die laughing until finally, when you thought your head head would explode, when Clarence Carter sang his naughtiest lyric, Sarah turned to the audience and with one hand on her mouth and the other on her butt, with her coyest Betty Boop face, on the break, she stopped shaking.

Another one of those historic moments.

And then the music was fixed, Danny Maika was up and running, and the champion finals began. But what a great little break, right when we needed it, after a morning of routines and JJ finals and just before the last great show. That half-hour of impromptu silliness couldn’t have been more perfect.

Parker and Earl will be giving us a second event, starting next year! “Sin City” in – where else? – Las Vegas! Parker and Earl are either lucky or smart when it comes to location – first San Diego and now Vegas? Can’t wait, this is going to be goooood. Parker announced the new event on Friday evening, saying “I dare anyone to have a better time than me!”

He also told us about a cool new technology toy: there’s an app called Jinx which let’s you text the DJ song requests! (Wait. I can text the DJ already, right now, just by, well, by *texting* the DJ.  The DJ is Victor, always ready to play requests. I can text Victor and say “If u play ldy gaga I might hav 2 choke sum one LOL :-)”  But, come to think of it, I wouldn’t have to text him. I could just walk over to the DJ booth and talk to Victor in person, or even choke myself while yelling Lady Gaga Lady Gaga just to get the point across. Don’t exactly know why I need Jinx but I’m sure I must.

Parker also wheeled out the 30′ high gold Bob Price Social Dance Award trophy cup which is presented every year to the person the DJ’s pick who they see talking, dancing, and laughing with everyone all weekend long. The winner gets a lifetime pass to SwingDiego – pretty cool. He also reminded us to take a look at the Wall of Champions, adding that Jordan wanted it to be made very clear that he has had *nine* wins, not eight as the Wall mistakenly showed.

Parker is really good on a mic. I told him this after Friday’s announcements. Parker likes to talk so when he’s on he’s on … much longer than you’d think a ballroom full of 1,400 restless people who like to move for amusement might have patience for. And yet he is able to command full, rapt attention. When Parker starts talking all other conversations stop. Something about his eye contact, the way he looks directly at you, leans forward, speaks right from the heart. He welcomed and thanked all the people who’d travelled from far-away countries.  He thanked the pro’s who are creating those communities around the world, describing how their lives are not as glamorous as they might seem, living in airports, 18-hour cramped flights, missed connections, lost luggage, endless jet-lag, power bars for dinner, language problems, messed-up accommodations … it’s rough, and takes devotion and the commitment to a vision of west coast swing communities around the world. Every country represented at SwingDiego was introduced to the dance by our pro’s making trips there to teach basics, build friendships, and show a new country how much fun our dance can be.

I’m glad Parker said this. It doesn’t get said enough.

He walked to the front of the floor, leaned in close and said to a hushed ballroom “Okay I want everyone to listen to this. It’s about respect. There are people here who spent more money, early in the year, to have a seat at a table. Please don’t sit in their seats, or block their view. That would be disrespectful. This is about taking care of everyone including the people who paid for tables. Do you have problems with your seating? Come talk to me! I want to know! We want everyone to have a great time!”

We love Parker. We love Earl.

For a month now I’ve been thinking about what it is about SwingDiego that sets it apart. Yes, it’s for serious dancers so all the top competitors in the world want to be there. That’s true. And yes, it is a 4-day blowout of a party, no question. And yes, San Diego is beautiful. And yes, great DJ’s, a great judging panel, food, daycare, great floor, all those things. But these are the details. There’s some other special something that makes SwingDiego feel the way it does and I think I’ve realized what it is. It’s that Earl and Parker *love* the community.  The dance, yes, they love west coast swing – we all love this dance. But Earl and Parker love the west coast *community* – our history, our characters, and the joy of the dance that’s been the thread tying us to those first crazy dancers who invented west coast in the 30’s.  This love shows up in all the details of SwingDiego – you can’t put your finger on it but somehow the atmosphere feels respectful of you and respectful of your devotion to west coast swing. You can feel their love all weekend long.

This all sounds very mushy, I know, but I do think this is what the difference is between SwingDiego and lesser events. This love of the people, the community, and the dance is the “essence” of the event and it permeates everything, the whole feel of the weekend.  Parker and Earl love the community.

Which makes me want to remind them that if they love the community they haven’t met everyone in it yet.

Just kidding.


2 responses to “SwingDiego 2011 – Update #4

  1. Pingback: SwingDiego Update #1 – Bladder Issues | Liza's Updates·

  2. Pingback: MadJam 2014 Update #2 – Classic Battles It Out Again! | Liza's Updates·

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