Liza May

ESS 2014 Update #2 – Spectacular Beauty

I arrived at Shelter Island and the lovely Kona Kai resort the day before ESS officially began in an effort to outsmart any airport conspiracies trying to screw up my plans.

So quiet here on the bay!

Only the sound of sun on the sand …

And metal riggings clanging against booms and masts like wind chimes …

And sails ruffling in the breeze …

And a million varieties of gulls and shorebirds calling across the water. 480 bird species here! A bird-watcher’s paradise!

But the sound of Shelter Island that has stayed with me all year – I run back to my room and out onto the balcony to sit in the windy dark and listen and listen! - the nighttime cries of sea lions!

And seals!

Whole colonies, rookeries, of them! Barking on the bay all through the night, their uproar echoing across the water and through the open balcony doors of my room, from dusk till dawn!

What a spectacular place to spend a weekend studying dance!

It is 10am as I write this morning, and the mist still covers the bay. Soon the sun will lift and a brilliant, high-contrast, saturated-colored picture will emerge, so glorious it’s hard to remember that something equally as marvelous is about to begin in the open ballrooms along the beach.

Today most of the nearly 300 camp attendees will arrive, buzzing around the registration table in the big open room on the front balcony, overlooking the spot last year’s group picture was taken.

Soon auditions will start for those who want to attend a level above their points-registry assignment.

And then, at 4pm, levelled classes begin.

What makes this weekend uniquely powerful is the intimacy of these classes, the give-and-take, the question asking, the in-depth addressing of specific questions throughout.

Feels like you’re getting private coaching; but in the company, and support, of 30 or 40 other students at precisely your level, and who share your level of obsession and commitment.

They repeat here, often, that this is not at all like a workshop at a convention.

Here there’s time. Time to answer questions in depth, time to explain in detail the mechanics and concept of every movement.

This weekend is designed to be one long, continuous study experience. They want questions throughout, during off times just as much as during classes.

“Can you show me again?” “I have this difficulty, can you help me with this?” “I have a question bothering me for months, can I ask you about it?” “What is your opinion on this?” “Can you repeat what you said earlier, I’ve forgotten it already.”

They want to make themselves available — their experience, expertise, advice, help – offered fully, from the moment we arrie on campus till the moment we leave on Sunday.

You can imagine the level of shivery excitement here, with this wealth of talent, and this open invitation to ask, ask, ask.

You can also imagine the people who attend. No weekend dabblers here. These are 300 hard-core, enlisted, card-carrying, lifetime zealots.

Yesterday was an all-day Teachers Training consisting of three 2.5-hour sessions back to back.

SUPERB information for current and future teachers, for anyone thinking of teaching, or of supporting others to do so in communities around the world. Honest, gritty, real, thoughtful, well-informed advice and in-depth examination and discussion of every and any issue regarding teaching west coast swing.

Attendees of this special session were an interesting mix of long-time teachers, new teachers, future teachers, and a curious (to me) number of people whom I never would have imagined had any interest in either the subject of teaching or the prospect of teaching themselves.

Three such DIFFERENT sessions! Totally different material, totally critical material in each case. Parker and Jessica on the art of teaching; Jordan and Tatiana on the brass tacks of content – what to teach, when/why/how; and Kyle and Sarah on building community, the business and the life of a travelling pro.

I took good notes and will say more later. It was mesmerizing. Rapt attention from attendees, and I mean slack-jawed silent concentrated focus, for all those many hours, interrupted only by the tapping of notes on laptops, and complicated questions and discussion.

And then!

The Bonfire!

Oh my goodness. Such stories!

So heartbreakingly beautiful.

More later, much, much more!

But now …

Tthe morning mist has lifted and the deep blue bay is dancing and sparkling in the sun, streaks of white froth behind speedboats skidding silently far out on the horizon, the air filled with the sounds of near and distant gulls, wind blowing through the palm trees.

I’m going to walk down the sand to the ballrooms to say hello to incoming friends and get ready for classes to begin!

Filed Under: ESS

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