SwingDiego 2011 – Update #2

Swing Diego-o-o! Gee Willikers what an event! It’s been over a month and we still can’t stop talking about it. WHAT A GREAT COMP AUGHGHGHGHGHGH!!

Get this: there were 17 Brazilians! 17!! Last year a really cute guy stood next to me in the registration line and when the Two Vivians (that’s right, both registrars named Vivian) asked his division it was clear he didn’t know a *single* word in English, not even “What’s your name?” or “Will you marry me?” This was Diego, the first Brazilian ever to attend a U.S. west coast event. Well, Diego must have had fun cause this year he came back and brought 16 of his friends with him. What a treat! These are fun people! Spent the weekend leaning all over each other laughing, crying, jumping up cheering, arms wrapped around each other, passionate, sultry, full of love of life, dancing with anyone and everyone, winning everything they entered … are all all Brazilians this loud and loveable?

And … 30 Frenchies! 30! That’s a lot! And UK! And Switzerland, Belgium, Russia, Australia! Texas! And Singapore for cryin’ out loud, Singapore! We keep waiting for the Japanese, *fools* for dancing, just plain all-out obsessive nuts. They dance in the streets in Japan – crowds of Japanese Balkan folk-dancers, Japanese cowboy line-dancers, Japanese Zulu war dancers. One day soon the Japanese will discover west coast and the entire island of Honshu will enter Novice.

“We have five heats in Novice, 7,500 people per heat.” That’s how Royston (in a flower leigh and a girly mini-drink with a mini orange umbrella in his hand) introduced Novice. It was huuuuuge (and included two guys standing side by side, one tall one short, strangers to each other but wearing the same outrageously loud plaid shirt). All the JJ divisions were huge, as was every other contest all weekend. Tons of competitors at Swing Diego which meant tons of people working to get better. Which made for WAY fun social dancing, four packed nights of it, every night until 8 the next day.

24 couples in Classic! I think that might even be more than at the Open. 12 in Showcase, which often has two or if we’re lucky four couples. Eight Junior couples! A packed Open Strictly, simply packed. Okay, it was an Open so it included everyone Allstar and below. But you saw the floor for prelims and stood staring with goose-bumps at the best dancers in the world all out there at once, paired up in interesting couples. I tried getting a picture but couldn’t fit the whole scene into the frame – the dark ballroom and all those bodies shimmering under the spotlight like some gorgeous sea creatures rising up out of a deep black nightime ocean.

And the Champions’ JJ, and the Champions’ Strictly, and Robert Royston’s “Strokin’!” – one of those spontaneous events that become west coast history.  Here was a floor full of Champion dancers, the best in the world, and every eye in the room – including the eyes of the other dancers – was on Royston (and his partner Jill) who lip-synced and mimed every word, every moment in that salty song. You couldn’t watch anyone else, he was just too funny. Robert Royston became Clarence Carter, Clarence Carter, Clarence Carter and the entire ballroom jumped up roaring and clapping in a standing ovation – a performance that will be re-told forever after. Here’s the video:


Who was the first couple on the floor in Classic? Diego, of course! With his partner Jessica. She is HOT. And he is EXPLODING with enthusiasm. Together they make some couple, holy shamoly. Their routine looked like Zouk (as in the sensual Brazilian Lambada-Zouk where the connection is hips but not “hips” the way we talk about it which has hands in the middle of the connection; this is a hip connection without any middleman – her-hips-on-his-hips – connection Brazilian style) or the fusion of Zouk with west coast which I think has a name – Lyrical Zouk – with small communities in Brazil and London. Whatever – it was a thrill to watch. Brazil! Bringing us cool new stuff! Sexaaay sexaaaay – ginormous back arches whirling into hair whipping, uninhibited hot, tropical vibe.

Next Michael and Deborah with their beautiful, crazy fast footwork.

And then Jordan and Tatiana. You think, Could they get any better? Nah, impossible, it’s already as good as it gets. Well it got even better. And they won with it! It’s the emotional power of this routine that puts it in a league of its own – it grabs you from the first instant and won’t let you go. The emotion is not superficial, laid on top of the movements to add drama. It’s as if they choreographed the emotional arc of the routine and then just let the movements come naturally from their feelings. So the dance seems very human, you recognize the movements, they feel natural as if you’d make those gestures and movements yourself if you were expressing those things. It’s just stunning dancing.

Then Ed and McCenzie (wow, they’re looking great lately), the Markers (ADORABLE!), Yenni and Eric (Fierce! Completely revamped the routine we’d seen at Capital a few months earlier – Yenni looked like she wanted to bite someone’s head off, blazing eyes, seriously badass, strong and hard-hitting), Lee and Fabian, Reynald and Angelique.

Then Ronnie and Brandi (Have I written about Ronnie and Brandi’s latest routine? It’s terrific, yet again, like everything they do. It’s sexy, funny, and beautifully executed. Their dancing is intelligent – don’t know why I want to use that word but I can’t think of how else to describe it and don’t have the training to decipher what I see. Maybe it’s that they’re technically proficient? Clean? Precisely in the music? Or maybe that the flow of movements and ideas make sense? Like a well-written paragraph?); Audrey and Christophe (French); Kris and Rebecca (first time out after Kris’ awful episode with a strange stomach virus that had him hospitalized for several days); Will and Lasonda; Andrew and Beverly; Ben and Olivia; Jesse and Libby (Oz); Kyle and Sarah (BAD. ASS. Best I’ve seen it – heard they missed a hand but if they did I sure didn’t notice. To me they looked ferocious.).

Sean and Courtney (sleek, controlled – she says it wasn’t but from my point of view its noticeably calmer every time I see it); Brennar and Torri (blazing fast mind boggling choreography screaming blues); Dan and Dawn; Josh and Deron; Ben and Melissa (love the quality of movement, the speed, the way they accelerate and decelerate, the singing choreography – this routine seems to me like a perfect, lovely poem); and last of all Josh and Kathleen with an articulate, subtle, witty, quiet, loving, precise, beautiful, hilarious paean to west coast swing basics which I found brilliant and marvelous and which I think they did extraordinarily poorly with (as in they came in last, maybe? which makes me shrug my shoulders and laugh but probably didn’t make them do that.)

But all these 24 Classic routines came second on Saturday night – after Showcase. We heard that some people found the night too long but we did not feel that way, not at alll. We were in heaven. Then again, we were sitting in the front and heard that the sound at the back of the ballroom was problematic (Parker was readjusting it all weekend trying to respond to every complaint – maybe resident master sound engineer Alex Kosiorek can help next year?). We loved every single second of Saturday night. Especially the fact that Showcase was first, and was scheduled for Saturday instead of the less-important and less well-attended Friday night as happens at most comps.

I’m glad I don’t have to schedule a weekend. No idea how I’d handle multiple Jack and Jill levels, Strictlys, and huge routine divisions. And teams and cabaret. And pro-ams. Would I add another day, starting the comp on a Wednesday? Eliminate some of the social dancing? Eliminate some divisions? Limit the number of routine couples? Hold qualifying prelims for routine divisions? I don’t like any of these choices. But the community is growing, soon we’ll have 50 couples in Classic and we’ll *really* have five heats of 7,500 each in Novice, and they won’t all be Japanese. Guess we’ll be seeing different schedules soon …

More in a moment ….

… And in the meantime, if you’re not on Facebook or haven’t seen these yet, here are some pictures – hundreds more to upload:



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