Swing Fling 2011 Update #3

“Smurfs! A ballroom of dancing blue smurfs!” That was George Wenschel and his videography team on Friday evening when the room was bathed in blue lighting, as if you were dancing underwater in an aquarium. Moody, other-wordly, spooky almost.

Blue was only part of a marvelous weekend-long light show at Swing Fling – what a playground for anyone with a camera.  Top quality halogen stage-lighting; atmospheric lighting; commercial spotlights for performances; light shows on the screens and walls during social dancing (whirling wheels and shapes!); LED RGB mood-lighting fixtures in different colors to affect the energy in the room.  An artistic environment all weekend long!  As this new version of Swing Fling fades into memory it’s the dramatic shadows and colors of the ballroom that linger in my mind.

Dave Moldover (producer of Swing Fling, MadJam in March, and the upcoming VSO in the fall) calls the lighting “a production element” and says that this, along with live streaming of the event to ustream (4,500 people from all over the world watched on their phones and laptops!), quality “signage” (that’s a word?), the elegant white backdrop,  titles streamed to the two huge monitors in the ballroom (and feeds to the internet and the hotel TV which we watched in our room all weekend long) – all these things Dave calls “production elements” and says they are the reason the event feels commercially produced rather than home-grown and amateurish. It’s a good feeling – like you know things will be managed correctly.

And they were! 51 workshops ran precisely on time. (That’s a lot of education for your money – a weekend “school” if you want it.)  Not a thing was late all weekend, including Awards. Jody (on the mic Sunday afternoon): “Because the Swing Fling team is so efficient Awards will be very soon. We will now have a Zero-Song break okay finished now it’s Awards.” No long-winded speeches, no endless thank-you’s (acknowledgement of volunteers was woven throughout the weekend, emcees asking staff to stand for applause).  Awards were so speedy – the plaque table rolled right up to the front and plaques handed out as the winner approached – that I had to run around frantically snapping pictures of whoever decided to pose for a moment mid-stride. It didn’t feel rushed it just felt efficient, and respectful of a tired Sunday crowd having to pack and get to the airport.

About that hotel TV station:  This was something Dave has done for a couple of years at MadJam, too. We love it, and kept it on in our room the entire weekend to know which heat they were on, if the social floor was crowded, and to make sure we were hearing all the emcee Funny’s. But the reception at the hotel this weekend was not good (last-minute technical snafu) so when the lights in the ballroom were low we could only make out ghostly purple silhouettes …

… and we discovered something! We were able to identify every shadowy figure. Instantly, without even trying. There’s the guy – you know him, we all do – who dances split-weight with two bent knees, bobbing his head enthusiastically to the music, kicking up a foot every now and then for accent. There’s the girl – you know her! she’s everywhere! – who walks like a cowboy with a load in ‘is britches, and holsters, who jest git down offn’ his horse, liftin’ up his feets tryin’ not to stomp in them thar cow patties. There’s the one with frozen hunched shoulders and a forward neck, chin lifted up too high to compensate. The girl bent over with her butt stuck out, the wooden-legged toy soldier whose knees don’t bend, the woman with body parts wiggling in all different directions. There’s the robot. We recognized EVERYBODY! This was a shocking and rawther uncomfortable discovery when one began thinking about oneself.

Eleven routines Saturday night!

First, Robert and Nicola with their new “Edge of Glory” (Lady Gaga’s acoustic version) Showcase – only the second time out on the floor (first was last week in Denver). We love it! It feels contemporary. Not just because of the music – the choreography feels fresh and current.

Next Greg and Lemery with their winning “Teenage Dream” Showcase (they’ve been taking 2nd and 3rd around the NASDE circuit and both are, as of this writing, at the top of the NASDE charts).

Erik and Anna, “She Will Be Loved” (Maroon 5) – another of their lovely sweetheart routines.

Markus and Tren, in ripped jeans and red and plaid, Markus with his cute swingy little braids and skinny little Trendolyn with that big fluffy head of kinks and a red flower over her brow, so dang cute! Jumping across the stage in an exuberant hip-hop/stompin/swingin/whackin’ piece to “Boogie Shoes.” They haven’t decided if they’re going to take it to the Open – hope so! it would add a lot of fun to the Cabaret division.

Next Tybaldt and Hazel with another hustle – lovely as always.

Then Jason and Yvonne. So glad they brought this crowd-pleaser out to the east coast (we saw it at last year’s Open – they got a standing ovation): “We No Speak Americano” (by Yolanda Be Cool). Great funny song, great funny routine.

And then … Luis and Taletha, to Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) and Oh! My! Goodness! TALETHA! That girl is BAD. ASS. I can’t comment on Luis, I didn’t even see him I was so mesmerized by Taletha. She stands with her back to you in the shadows of the far back corner and chills run down your spine just watching her stand there. And then she turns and looks you in the eye and that’s it, you’re done for, can’t look away for the rest of the routine. Those eyes! The tilt of her head! The force of her movements! I watched Taletha all weekend – JJ’s, Strictly’s, social – such intensity electric bolts shoot out of her ears, sparks fly from her eyes, her feet singe the floor boards. I can’t tell you a thing about the routine cause I didn’t even see it. Or hear the music (I had to call to ask) because my ears went deaf for 2 1/2 minutes. I’ll have to go look on youtube to see how they did.

You too can see this and all the other routines on Dave’s youtube channel where he provides everything that would go on a DVD, including JJ’s and Strictly’s, free! Not only does he let anyone film whatever they want throughout the weekend, in addition he hires a professional videographer (George, a great guy who doesn’t like smurfs, with his pro team) to give him quality footage which he then uploads to his youtube channel (1.5 millioin subscriptions!).  Click here:

Dave Moldover’s Youtube Channel

Next, Jason and Sophy, “Summer Breeze” (by Jason Mraz), and a summer breeze is exactly what they looked like, Jason in a loose white Hawaiin shirt covered with flowers, Sophy in a floaty white flowered dress to match. With her eight-month-pregnant stomach she looked like a scoop of vanilla ice-cream with confetti sprinkles and a cookie on top.

Next Billy Fajardo dancing with a human pinata – Katie Marlow covered in tassles head to foot – Mexican yellow, black and red – rows of tassles flying horizontally as she spun around and above him in their saucy hustle-merengue showcase routine.

Then Kevin and Tammy in a happy “reggae-swing” to Bob Marley’s “Jammin'” and of course you had to love this cause who doesn’t love Bob Marley? Kevin in shimmering gold, Tammy in rich satin red with gold flowers, a brilliant green choker, and huge peacock earrings in the same colors. Together they were a luscious whirl of jewel tones. Kevin designed these outfits (Tammy made them) and he’s got a fantastic eye for design and style – Tammy’s layered, ruffled dress hung perfectly on her round body, spinning way out when she twirled, perfectly balanced with her plump little legs beneath in gold satin heels. They were like a gift basket of candied fruits dipped in chocolate.

And last, Kelvin Roche and Lorianne Greenhouse, performing another of their sexy spectacular winning Hustle Theatre-Arts routines, with lifts and death drops and flash and fire to make your jaw drop. Love her outfits. This time she was a muted canvas – from her blonde hair to her shoes to her flesh-colored leotard – she matched the floor. Except for one color: the very tips of her long nails were screaming Neon-Orange.

Saturday night’s program ended somewhat anti-climatically with the combined Allstar/Pro Jack and Jill Final which might be funny later but was not funny at the time. It was, well, I guess you’d call it odd. Twenty-two famously good dancers dancing … oddly. Not the good kind of oddly. As Robert Royston said of one of the dancers, “He was going for stretch. Trying to elongate his partner.”  Another couple was battling to see who could dislocate the other one’s shoulder first. One couple was doing waltz, or rather, he was waltzing while she was doing, I don’t know what she was doing. Standing there. At one point I had a clear thought cross my mind: “This is a very bad Jack and Jill.”

Except for Erik and Deonna, who won and deserved it.

Unlucky judges for this competition were: Festa, Nicola, Robert, Bill Cameron, and Chief Judge Dawn.

And the placements were:

1st Erik Novoa & Deonna Ball
2nd Jason Wayne & Stephanie (Batista) McHenry
3rd Doug Rousar & Hazel Ulrich
4th Jason Barnes & Patti Jobst
5th Luis Crespo & Jen Czarkowski
6thTybaldt Ulrich & Taletha Jouzdani
7th Gregory Scott & Jennifer Lyons
8th Markus Smith & Jill Dumarco
9th Jason Miklic & Lisa Schaupp
10th Rob Jackson & Lemery Rollins
11th Dean Garrish & Kelly Hull

More in the next Update ….

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