Saturday morning we stumbled out onto our balcony and through the thick San Diego morning fog, far down below between the palm trees and monster-sized roses, beyond the pool we could make out 100 people moving silently in unison, like Tai-Chi practitioners in the park at the break of dawn. But they weren’t doing Tai Chi, they were learning west coast swing. This was “Project Swing,” Parker and Earl’s baby. 100 strangers received passes to six hours of special workshops taught by Jordan and Tatiana, Kyle and Sarah, Michael Kiehm, and Taylor and Ben McHenry. 100 brand newbies who’d never danced a step in their life showed up Saturday and Sunday mornings at 10 am to learn from the best in the business.
Last year 30 people were at these workshops, this year 100. And Project Swing continues all year long, introducing new people to the dance and giving them the basics and inspiration they need to get going. You can do this in your community – it’s easy! Email Parker or Earl – they love to tell people how to do it: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
So many innovations this year:
– Day-Care! Because, as Earl said, it was Mothers’ Day after all, and we have a whole gaggle of new babies in the community with more coming.
– No Competitors’ Meetings! Were we grateful? And not a single snag or hold-up on the floor. No one danced in the wrong division, no bib numbers were messed up, and even Michael Kiehm managed to pronounce names (almost) correctly and we’re talking Russian, Mandarin, Malay, Francais, Portuguesa, Tamil, Texan, Spanish, Deutsch! Thank you Earl and Parker for doing the dirty work beforehand so that our weekend could be better. What a difference it made – *everyone* was talking about it.
– Saturday Night’s Red Carpet! West coast royalty and glitterati posing for the cameras! Papparazzi! Flashes popping! Photographers crowding round!
– Full hot-meal bar all day long at the back of the ballroom and the food was good, too: a full Chinese buffet, salads, sandwhiches, fruit, snacks, wine and mixed drinks, coffee … huge screen overhead so you could watch the floor up-close while you were back there … and a 10-song lunch break in the middle of the day so you could wander among the flowered trellises in San Diego’s brilliant sunshine. Completely solved last year’s stuck-in-the-ballroom-with-no-food problem.
– Live music! Danny Maika (like last year) playing covers of favorite blues and contemporary wcs classics. Danny played sets from 2-4am, and … he played for the Champions’ JJ! More on this later …
– Warren Pino’s “Q&A Research” market research in the form of an online feedback survey (the completion of which got you entered for a chance to win a free pass to next year’s event). Love the idea of using formal market research (and making use of a community resource as competent as Warren) to pinpoint exactly what people want. Parker and Earl take feedback seriously. Write to them! They’re all ears. They care – they’re committed to setting the standard for the best wcs competition event. They travel the circuit all year taking notes, talking to other event directors and members of the community, asking and listening. And it shows – each year SwingDiego is crazy better than the year before. Earl recently said somewhere (on Facebook maybe) that he looks back on previous years of the event and shudders at the “monstrosities” they’ve “foisted upon the community.” Reminds me of a similar comment Jordan once made that every year he looks at last year’s routine and cringes at how bad his dancing was. Funny to hear such things from these people but they’re humble and they share the drive to push forward, keep upping the ante, making it better, always pushing to improve. Love that attitude.
Thursday night’s kick-off dance was OFF THE CHAIN. Huge floor (okay, not as big as Dallas or Boogie’s 5,800 sq ft, but huge plenty huge) packed with great dancers. Packed floor and yet – I was not used as a weapon, wasn’t worried I’d get taken down, or my legs kicked out from under me, or my achilles tendon sheared off the bone by someone’s heel, or my toes crushed, or knocked unconscious, elbowed in the eye, or someone’s fingers driven up my nose. I wasn’t worried about any of these things and none of them happened to me or anyone else that I heard about. Maybe because the floor was the perfect size, shape, and speed for the number of dancers? Or maybe because there were so many great dancers? Who knew how to cooperate on a crowded floor? And had manners? And were in a good mood? Cause everything was perfect and it was just one helluva good party? Whatever the reason it was the best Thursday night we’ve seen anywhere in recent years … awesome music (all weekend!), jumpin energy till the sun was fully up in the sky. When the weekend starts off like that you are shivering with excitement to see what the next three days will bring. The next morning (morning as in “late” morning) dazed dancers with smushed spiky hair, puffy eyes, and stupid grins, carrying cafe grande’s, stumbled out to the pool to resuscitate themselves. That’s how it was every morning – Parker and Earl were the only two looking energetic and elegant in suitjackets, everyone else in various stages of undress, limping around in the brilliant sun hunting down caffeine, breakfast, or practice space, grunting in one-word sentences “Howyou?” “Notupyet.” “Coffee?” “Ovthere.” “Showernow.” “Somushfun!” “Seeyouinthere.”
More in a bit …