SwingDiego 2013 Update #8

We’re home!

I have SwingDiego Tourette’s Syndrome.

Involuntary bouts screaming:


[pause, panting, people in the frozen vegetables aisle are staring at me. Hoping no one calls the police.]

A second eruption:


[random twitches and triple-steps]

Then I resume whatever I was trying to do here in real life.

SATURDAY NIGHT! AUGHGH! A whole new level of awesome!

Robert Royston PSYCHED the ballroom! And I mean he worked that crowd up to a feverish pitch like no emcee does better. Robert was full-press on, ratcheting us up into a frenzy of excitement.

As if energy wasn’t already bouncing off the walls. Crazy electric excitement in that enormous ballroom! Everywhere people crowding onto the floor, into the aisles, standing, sitting, packing into every space, every chair and table, men in suit and tie, women in full-length gowns or sequined tubes to mid-thigh, red lipstick, chandelier rhinestone earrings, bling everywhere, and SHOES! What a display of glam 5″ heels! From the “Dress To Impress” Red Carpet and Earl and Parker’s balcony party just before, posing for glam portrait-pictures in front of the SwingDiego wall (Check out Brad’s pictures! SO great!

The program opened with a demonstration routine – a steaming hot, sensual  Rumba and Argentine Tango – Michael Kiehm and Tashina Beckman stride step by step onto the floor in capes as if emerging from a mist in some remote Spanish moor, shrouded in danger and sexual tension, throwing off their capes to reveal Tashina’s full-length black dress, open back, slit up one leg to the top of her thigh – she’s stunning – the two of them slicing back and forth across the stage to the chilly sound of Alanis Morrisette’s “Uninvited,” then picking up their cloaks and disappearing back out into the fog.

Michael is searingly handsome. That jaw-line, those piercing eyes, that shock of white hair. Royston kidded him all weekend about being The Most Interesting Man In The World. If he’s not Mr. Dos Equis, he’s his doppelganger.

“He lives vicariously through himself.”

“He is the life of parties he has never attended.”

“Even his enemies list him as their emergency contact.”

“He taught a German Shepard how to bark in Russian.”

“He once had an awkward moment, just to see what it was like.”

“Nothing tastes like chicken to him, not even chicken.”

“He can speak fluent French, in Russian.”

“At museums he’s allowed to touch the art.”

Michael Kiehm, the Most Interesting Man In The World.

And then … CLASSIC!

1. First up: Maxim and Virginie! To “Mannish Boy” (Muddy Waters); in black and maroon, Virginie in a filmy silver-gray sexy top; this couple is a crowd favorite because they communicate so well with the audience, so relaxed out there, having way too much fun and including you in the party.

2. Clint and Mackenzie’s quiet, sadly beautiful “Creep” (Ingrid Michaelson); in black and purple, Mackenzie in a cropped top to highlight her perfect torso and mile-long legs; love the halting, introspective choreography that seems a perfect expression of the song, love watching Mackenzie move (or stand still), love how their heights and body shapes work together.

3. Ronnie and Brandi’s beautiful story-piece “Draw You” (Daniel Bedingfield); in clean, understated, classic black and white – here are my comments on this lovely routine from the Open in November.

4. Sean and Courtney’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” (Tom Odell’s wonderful stark, emotional cover); Courtney in satiny navy-blue, Sean looking all grown-up and debonair, Cary Grant haircut, black short-sleeved shirt open over black tank – HOT. Gorgeous couple, gorgeous emotion-packed choreography, quiet moments interspersed with explosive bursts. Doesn’t feel contrived – you believe they’re saying something personal, that they’re telling you about themselves.

5. Michael and Katie, “Where The Streets Have No Name” (30 Seconds To Mars) What a great song! Begins with a slow dramatic buildup which erupts into a high-spirited, breathless, jubilant, driving ride – perfect choreography, perfect expression of the song; their facial expressions, and variations in speed and power of movements, couldn’t be more perfectly musical. Such pretty people to look at, too! Katie with her beautiful strawberry hair in a sheer yellow top, Michael in short-sleeve tailored shirt, navy with yellow trim … you imagine them speeding off into the sunset, hair flying in the wind, leaving it all behind …

6. Kris and Rebecca, “More Than Words” (The Piano Guys), Rebecca in sheer teal top with rhinestone bra and open back, satin teal slacks; Kris in classic white shirt and black vest; a romantic “I love you” piece with Rebecca’s gorgeous balletic movement and Kris’ expansive, loaded stretches. Lovely!

7. Jordan and Tatiana! “Somebody That I Used To Know”; More ferocious, lavish, charged with fiery force and power, than we’ve ever seen it. They are BEASTS! And the technical difficulty! And frighteningly clean precision. Mind-blowing. Here’s my description from their debut at the Open.

8. Gary and Susan, “Maybe” (The Beatles); she in silvery pale blue and bling, he in classic white shirt and gray vest; love their music choices which seem always to be drawn from classic rock and great 60’s classics; their technique is PERFECT. Not a body part, not a single hair, ever out of place or unaesthetic. Here’s my description, again from the Open.


Gray hoodies, teal accents and  “stuff” here and there to match, white converse all-stars, and Jen’s HAIR! Awesomely cool braids, corn-rows, spikey ghetto style.

To “I’ll Kill You” – a Busta/Eminem remix by Remy Kouadjo Kouakou Kouame – BRILLIANT piece of music editing with stops and starts, jokes, an “announcer” who sets you up to expect the piece to slow down and instead BAM! smacks you upside the head with hyper triple-time rapping frenzy.

I can’t even write about this routine without crying, literally crying for joy here. The music! The choreography! So much fun! So smart!

And they nailed it! This thing is a manic piece of choreo, sticking out in every direction, big and tiny movements every which way … and they nailed it.

And it’s swing! They figured out how to do hip hop but not at the expense of swing. It’s a swing routine! Try watching it as if you’re a judge looking for swing patterns, anchors, triples, basic movements. It’s all there, west-coast has not been sacrificed to get the hip hop feel.

Years ago Genieboy and I had an idea to do a routine which was hip-hop based cause it seemed to us that the two genres complimented each other, both being street dances, and hip-hop music having become standard fare for social dancing.

So we went and found us a hip-hop choreographer, got an awesome routine, began practicing, and were instantly moved to violently stab each other to death.

Needless to say we never put our west-coast/hip-hop routine on the floor.   But we’ve been waiting for years, puzzled that no one else had thought of the idea. We figured maybe because until now the time wasn’t right to present judges with something this non-traditional?

So we are thrilled.

And oh my, let me tell you, so was everyone else! The audience went BALLISTIC, screaming throughout, LEAPING to their feet in a standing ovation which was actually a JUMPING ovation – people up and down screaming, pounding hands, crying with delight, red-faced laughing-crying … What a scene!

Wait till you see it. Watch the video – it’ll thrill you.

But you must see it live! It’s a different experience seeing it live. And to have seen it at SwingDiego, first time out on the floor, in that HUGE BALLROOM! With that gigantic frenzied crowd! The level of cheering and excitement!

An experience we’ll never forget.

10. Paul and Catriona, “Somewhere with You” (Tyler Ward); Cat in sleek purple, Paul in black; love these two together, a perfect couple in body shape, with lovely lines and clean execution.

11. Sebastien and Blandine, “Skinny Love” (Birdy); same stunning, gorgeous routine they’ve been performing since the Open, in black and gold (love her slicked metallic-gold hair, dangerous black eye makeup.) She’s mesmerizing! Can’t take my eyes off of her either in this routine, or watching her social-dance. She has her own unique style which we’ve watched her develop over the past few years, tightly controlled, blindingly quick, uber musical, austere precision is the best way to describe it. If I didn’t know she was French I would guess that she was German, her movement feels that way. Her head, neck and shoulders so still, hips and feet directly under her going wild hitting every note, every inflection. In this routine she does a series of pirouettes starting up high, picking up speed and spiraling downward till she’s spinning, one hand holding her head bent over in sadness, down at the floor, knees bent, so fast you can’t count anymore. Her exits from all the many lunges, drops, and lines are pristine. Full of angst, pent-up European weltschmerz. I love this routine!

11. Lee and Fabienne, “Happy” (Martin Sexton); in turquoise and rhinestones, an adorable, happy, fun piece that shows off their balance, strength, and control – they’re both gorgeous technicians with backgrounds in other genres and their training shows.

12. And Kyle and Sarah, in black and Kyle in a teal shirt; their funky, sexy, funny “Seven Nation Army/We’re in Miami Trick” which they’ve been performing for about a year now … here’s a description from Liberty 2012.

All of these routines – every division at SwingDiego 2013 – can be seen on thumbsupvideo, which was streaming live throughout the weekend (except when the server went down – during Showcase – ugh – all those people around the world watching and the screen goes dark.)

Here’s how:

Go to the SwingDiego page of thumbsupvideo, here.

You will see this:

  • DVDs for US and Canadian residences: Competition DVD set is $85, (finals only) Workshop Notebook is $45  and the Combo Set (comps and workshops): $115.
  • International Orders:  Competition DVD set $80, Workshop Notebook $45  and the Combo Set $115.
  • You can watch all the exciting final divisions and prelims on our On Demand video server with excellent 1meg/sec video for $20.  Special Offer for Steaming users: If you purchased the streaming video for this event you will receive $30 off the DVD competition set.  Your price is $55 instead of $85.  Click here to purchase.

Click on the words On Demand.

You will be taken to a collection of all the SwingDiego videos, and a registration form, where you can register your name, and then purchase whatever you want to watch. Once you’ve registered you will use that name and password forever after, to see any videos from any events where thumbsup is the videographer.

If you have questions Bruce Gleason says feel free to email him at info@thumbsupvideo.com.

So many more stories to tell about SwingDiego 2013, the event of the year!


6 responses to “SwingDiego 2013 Update #8

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