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1. The FLOOR again hahaha that damn floor.
So how big was the floor?
Bigger than Jim Minty! Bigger than Earl standing on top of Jim Minty! Gary Jobst on top of Earl! On top of Jim Minty!
The floor was 6,000 square feet! That’s really big. I think.
The ballroom – not the floor, the ballroom – was 40,300 square feet! That’s pretty big too, right?
The ceiling was 30 feet high! I think that’s really high.
God please let me have the zeros right this time! Because I am irking the daylights out of a whole lot of men who are writing me privately losing patience. No women – thank god – but a whole lot of men.
2. It was Parker who emceed that final hilarious Battle Of The Sexes Jack and Jill, Parker who made the funny comment about Tatiana risking her entire career to win. I hit “send” and then saw I got the emcee wrong oops. (Robert Royston emceed the entire event up until this final competition.)
3. Someone wrote to say “Not everybody is competitive! I’m not! I don’t dance to compete I dance cause it’s fun.”
So now I know there’s one person in the community after all who doesn’t like competing! Who knew?
Maybe being a competitor is in your genes. You either love it or you don’t. Genieboy and I both love it and we love being around other competitors – the fiercer, the more competitive, the better.
Genieboy tells me – from a life in football, rugby, basketball, soccer, baseball, and coaching – “The fiercer the competitor, the bigger the baby.” Big tough linemen = great big babies, he says.
Not that there’s any correlation with the dance world.
We do think it’s funny when the pros give us that speech, “Dancing is not about winning a Jack and Jill. Is that why you’re dancing? Then you’re dancing for the wrong reason! You shouldn’t be dancing to “win.” You should be dancing for the fun of it.”
Yeah, right. Like you do.
I always want to say “But competing IS what makes it fun. Even funner than it already is.”
Because I love competing.
But I hate losing.
People come up to comfort me, they say “Don’t feel bad. It’s not about winning. It’s about having fun!”
No it’s not. It’s about winning. Go away I’m having a melt-down.
Okay, okay, I knowwww. It’s about having fun, too.
But talk about being a baby! I HATE losing.
And yet. Given the opportunity I’ll jump right in and compete over and over again, no matter how many times I get smacked down. And every time, without fail, I always think I stand a good chance of winning this time because … I dunno.
Because I’m deluded.
So yeah, maybe not everybody loves to compete – but some of us do.
I would guess there’d be a lot of “born competitors” in the arts. Sports, too, of course.
Also cancer research, Silicon Valley, and The Food Channel.
4. Genieboy says he never thought about stabbing me violently in my sleep. He thought about stabbing me violently, just not in my sleep.
Anything else need correction? If not, give me a chance – I’m not finished yet.
CHAMPIONS STRICTLY FINALS
I’ve told you about Benji and Tatiana’s winning Strictly but the other ten were just as amazing. Couples had a choice of fast or slow
Royston to Louis: “Fast better be FAST, bro. Back in my day we danced to 145. Barefoot. In the snow. Uphill. Damn kids.”
1. Olivier and Virginie P; “Summer Jam” (R.I.O.) – with a splits by Ollie, later dropping her in a back-bend, and while holding her neck with one hand he steps over and straddles her, waving the other hand in the air cowboy rodeo style …
2. Ben and Melissa (Ben announcing himself as “The Ghetto Rabbi,” so Royston launches into “If I Were A Rich Man” from Fiddler On The Roof – I think Royston knows every word to every song in every Broadway show in history); dancing to “That’s The Way Love Goes” (Janet Jackson) – SO smooth and flowy, with a slide by Ben and a”spin – pop!” by Melissa to accent that first final “5, 6, 7,8″ of the intro; and then to imitate Olivier Ben drops Melissa into a backbend, straddles her and waves his hand rodeo-style – all in slo-mo to suit the song. So funny, so smooth.
3. Jordan and Jessica; (Royston to Jessica, referring to the shirt mishap the previous day: “Now for the record, is everything all fastened and not coming off?”) to “Diamonds Adorn” (Travis Garland.) No jokes in this dance, just stunning, gorgeous, connected, expressive, beautiful movement, sailing across the floor. Is there a more beautiful couple?
Royston: “I have a very serious question to ask everyone here. Did ANYBODY AT ALL see Jordan?”
[shaking his head, looking around the room]
“He may as well have sat back there with my drink.”
“My favorite Jessica Cox story, and also the one that makes me the most angry. I have a three-year-old daughter who was playing on a luggage cart, in a hotel, with one hand.” [he demonstrates].
“And Jessica walks up and says, “No, no, Summer. Use both hands on the pole.”
[Royston imitates Jessica pole-dancing - his arms outstreched, back arched, butt swaying like Jessica Cox's butt would sway if she had Royston's butt]
“And Summer did! She did it right!” [and he shows us Summer's version of pole-dancing]
Jessica from the sidelines “I would NEVER do that!!!”
Royston “Haha Yeah right. We just saw Jordan! He was the pole!” [demonstrating Jordan standing totally still like a pole, waving his hands all around, with a couple of familiar Jordan-esque movements in between]
I would LOVE to watch the Champions do impressions, moving caricatures, of each other. You know it would be fall-down hilarious because these people know each others’ movements well. Too well.
Maybe next year’s Champions Jack and Jill contest.
4. Benji and Tatiana with the astonishing, winning dance mentioned in the last Update.
Royston: “I know for a fact that NONE of that was planned, none of it choreographed. That’s a new genre. It’s called “Improvisational Cirque de Soleil.” They practice it by playing Drunk Twister.
Royston was ON all Saturday night. On top of everything. Taking care of the audience, taking care of the pros as they came out to dance and afterwards, moving the schedule along, taking care of Louis and Victor to make sure they were always ready with music.
And he was funny. So damn funny!
Early in the evening he asked that somebody bring him a vodka-and-tonic and after a few times asking nicely he resorted to begging until finally someone brought him a drink. He then spent the rest of the evening with the drink in one hand, taking a sip now and then as a beat in a joke, working the audience like a Vegas pro, looking, in his handsome suit, very much like Dean Martin. Classy, a perfect look and feel for this event. Great emceeing.
5. Jesse Vos and Brandi; “Things Are Changin” (Gary Clark Jr.); another gorgeous, perfect dance – no jokes, no tricks, just smooth, lovely, subtle, understated, exquisite expression of the song. I can’t say that I watched Jesse much at all – Brandi is so compelling I can’t take my eyes away. I guess Jesse must have been good. Right?
Royston: “Ever get the feeling that Brandi could stand there for 32 counts and still dance more than you do?” [demonstrating a perfect Brandi Attitude.]
6. Kielbasa and DeLuca (Love the sound of that! More musical than “Michael and Jen” right?) to “Forest Gump” (Frank Ocean); sultry, funky, west coast at its sexiest. So fun to see these two dancing again – they were a great routine couple! And seem to feel the music in the same way.
7. Barry and Tessa, “Imma Go” (Taio Cruz); LOVE Barry dancing! Especially love Barry dancing FAST! And with Tessa! So fun! Between Barry’s total joy out there, and Tessa’s enthusiasm and fearless tricks, drops, and gorgeous musicality (including about 70,000 pirouettes holding one leg, head back) – with all this the dance was SO much fun to watch.
And funny! Of course funniest when the mistake happened which was either a mistake or very good comedy. Tessa did a splits in the middle and Barry, dancing backwards holding one of her hands, tried pulling her up out of the splits. Tried and TRIED to pull her up, tugging her along moving backwards and back some more with an intense expression on his face – but Tessa just didn’t get up. So we got to watch the funny thing that happens when one person is in a splits and the other person is straining to get them on their feet by dragging them across an entire 60,000 foot floor through 16 counts of music hahaha. Loved seeing both of them laughing at this, un-phased, having a blast out there. Great joyous dancing.
8. Michael Norris and Deborah, to “Valerie” (Amy Winehouse); Oh MAN was this fantastic. Crazy, crazy great footwork! Michael is a Shagger, and Deborah – who can follow ANYONE, doing anything – arguably the best follower ever in west coast history – followed Michael’s shag footwork, his bends, shapes, tempos, inflections – followed every tiniest nuance – with her west-coast footwork in a PERFECT match. It was stunning. They floated back and forth across the floor as if sliding on ice, their feet in constant motion. Also Michael has no kneecaps, as Royston pointed out. He’s astounding! The Shag single and double knee drops, the Shorty Georges – jaw-droppingly beautiful.
WE GET TO SEE SHAG NEXT WEEKEND! IN ATLANTA! AT GRAND NATIONALS! AUGHGHGH CAN’T WAIT! If you haven’t seen the Shag juniors community you’ve been missing something terrific. Shag kids don’t have bones in their legs – they don’t actually have legs – just empty trousers that can fold down on top of themselves and unfold back up again. With motorized feet down at the bottom.
9. Kyle and Torri, “Novacane” (Frank Ocean); Torri had lost her voice and Kyle said “It’s cause she smoked a pack of Marlboros” which was the opening for Royston to begin doing “Torri-As-Slimy-Cigar-Smoking-Mafia-Don” (or Bluto from old Popeye cartoons) which he did – hilarious! – for the rest of the event. Especially hilarious because Torri is so adorable, so the opposite of Bluto.
Torri is another one I can’t take my eyes off of – and so is Kyle – so the two of them out there, the level of skill, talent, precision, creativity, wit – no words, really – this was just west coast at its finest, yet again. They are just so damn good these two! As good as it gets. I happen to love this song, too. I was mesmerized.
10. Maxim and Virginie Grondin; “Madness” (Muse)
(Maxim asked for a slow song “Because I’m old.”
Royston: “Wait did you just say you’re OLD? Yeah, you’re old.
“He doesn’t know what the means.”)
What an entertainer Maxim is! Those big bright eyes having a conversation with you, that smile always just about to happen, his calm, happy presence on the floor. And beautiful tall Virginie with her head whips, hip accents, hitting everything – every tiniest note in the music – with some body part even if just a finger.
They did the pull-me-up-out-of-a-splits thing, too, only it was Virginie pulling Maxim this time, and it worked better than it had worked for Barry and Tessa. So it was nice – but not as funny.
We like seeing the pros mess up. It’s funny! It’s like when our kids and grandkids see us make mistakes and die laughing – knee-slapping, belly-clenching guffaws, retelling the story 1,000 times so they can laugh again and again. It’s fun to see that even the Big Guys can make mistakes.
11. Maxence and Sarah, “Shoop” (Salt-N-Peppa); The whole audience weaves in their chairs when this song comes on. And who better to do funky Old Skool than Sarah – the funkiest dancer around! Saturday night she was looking particularly beautiful – sleek and classy in all black with the most adorable new haircut. Lovely, smooth, sexy, grooving dancing to a great classic.
And the Final All-Skate to a great song – Pitbull’s “Pause” (I love everything Pitbull, but that’s just me. Certain of my friends – not naming names you know who you are – don’t like Pitbull or anything remotely like Pitbull or written in the same century as Pitbull or any song containing the words “pit” or “bull.”) which Louis started with the intro to “Roadrunner” (Can’t tell you how many times we danced to THAT song – ugh – allll through the late 80′s and 90′s. Glad we don’t anymore. It gets old fast. Like after 30 seconds into the first time you hear it.)
And that was the STUPENDOUS Champions’ Strictly. What a show!
For you hometown DJ’s and competitors, here are a few more of the contest songs played by the GREAT DJ’s of the weekend, Louis, Victor, and Kelly Faust:
Open SS Finals:
“S&M” (acoustic version – Rihanna)
“Moves Like Jagger” (Maroon 5)
“Gonna Move Across The River” by I forget who
“Seven Nation Army” (Mady Finley)
“Don’t Wanna Go Home” (Jason DeRulo)
“Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” (Michael Jackson)
“No Diggity” (Oli Brown)
“Trouble” (Olly Murs) (that’s a lot of Ollies for one division)
Intermediate JJ Prelims:
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
“Things Are Changin” (Gary Clark Jr.)
“Get Lucky” (Daft Punk)
“Dirty Pop” (Justin)
“Creeper Returns” (Mark Hummel)
The prestigious Triple Crown Award has been awarded, for the second time in SwingDiego history, to Tatiana Mollmann.
This much-coveted award has been won only once before at SwingDiego by – guess who?
This is a big deal. Winning the Triple Crown means that Tatiana won all three major divisions: Classic, Jack and Jill, and Strictly.
And wow! She sure deserved the prize!
Here is her Strictly, danced with Benji. Astonishing! We have watched this over and over, open-mouthed, mesmerized. Pure west coast – triples, pushes, passes, whips – pure lead-and-follow, unchoreographed, created moment to moment. West Coast Swing at its pinnacle.
For those who can’t view the video (non-USers or others with bandwith restrictions): Tatiana and Benji are dancing to “Lights” (Jess Moskaluke cover) with luxuriously large, lovely movements enhancing all of our familiar west coast patterns, and extreme “mind-reading” cooperation. If you have ever wondered how to define “Connection” this is it. Leading and following via foreheads, shoulders, neckbone, Benji’s outstretched leg – any points of contact. Wide, graceful, sweeping movement across the floor; stretches, leans, level changes, variations in tempo and pace, backbends, drops, dips; emotion that feels honest. Large and magnificent.
And here is her winning Jack and Jill in which she did …
… A HANDSTAND OVER A CHAIR!
[hahahahahaha excuse me a minute while I die laughing one more time.]
And before you get upset about the obvious non-dancing of doing …
… A HANDSTAND OVER A CHAIR …
[hahahahahahaha I can't stand it hahahahahaha]
… this was the contest in which the couple had to fight a Battle Of The Sexes – without touching! - for 30 seconds before their actual dance began.
Every year Parker and Earl come up with some new way to provide audience entertainment during this final competition of the weekend. And every year it’s a surprise for the pros as much as for us, the audience, and not always easy. In fact, never easy. Especially considering that it’s Sunday afternoon and if we are tired, you can imagine that these pros who have been judging and teaching all weekend, not to mention competing with routines, are much MUCH moreso.
This year Parker introduced the surprise by describing for us how ultra uber MEGA cutthroat these people are … so competitive, he told us, that when they dance they aren’t only competing against other couples, they’re competing against each other while competing against the other couples. They are always competing. They never stop competing.
While they’re eating they’re competing. In their sleep they’re competing. In every waking moment they’re competing.
So funny! And so true.
So this 30-second bit was a chance for them to try to outdo each other in any way they could, out there in front of an audience which, of course, is all they live for in life.
So when Maxence dragged a chair out onto the floor to do something clever (guess we’ll never know what he had in mind) Tatiana thought:
“Ooooh! Handstand over chair!”
And that is what she did.
Royston, doubled over in stitches: “She’s THAT competitive that she’s willing to sacrifice her entire career to win the moment.”
Their dance which followed, to “Scream” (Usher, and a slower acoustic cover) included multiple pirouettes in unique positions, running to four walls during the “yaaaaaa” part of the song, and other fantastic tricks and flourishes.
But most importantly it was a marvel of gorgeous, smooth, connected, flowing swing, beautiful swing, with lightning fast footwork and mind-sync collaboration and connection between the two.
I notice I seem to be repeating myself here on this “swing content” theme. I guess because I’m thrilled to see the dance be OUR dance – not morphed into something that’s not our beautiful beloved swing – and at the same time so creative, current, dancerly, smart, witty, and expressive. Tatiana is a west coast swing dancer. All of her crazy-wonderful creativity emerges from the foundation of west coast with respect for what defines and separates our dance from other genres. She’s a model for this – respecting the dance – stretching it to its limits, but not beyond.
And for the final Crown, here is her winning Classic routine with Jordan, “Somebody That I Used To Know” bigger, badder, faster, stronger, more fiery and passionate than we’ve ever seen them dance. The level of difficulty – the speed alone! – makes the hair on the back of our necks stand up. They are as good as it gets!
Congratulations to Tatiana for winning the 2013 Triple Crown!
And now I’d better hurry up and write about ALL THE REST of the astounding dances in the Strictly and Jack and Jill, because I know that every pro who might be reading this is a bit disgusted at this point.
Also every non-pro is a bit disgusted.
Come to think of it, every member of the entire international west coast community, on all continents, any dancer who might be reading this, is a bit disgusted.
And proud and happy for Tatiana.
I have SwingDiego Tourette’s Syndrome.
Involuntary bouts screaming:
AUGHGHGHGH!!! SWINGDIEGO! AUGHGHGHGHGHGH!
[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.
9. BEN AND JEN!!!! The BIG NEWS! 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, simply brilliant, with stops and starts, jokes, an “announcer” who sets you up to expect the piece to slow down from it’s CRAZY high pace and instead BAM! Smacks you upside the head with hyper-triple-timed thumping bad-ass rapping frenzy.
I can’t even write about this routine without crying, literally crying for joy here. The music, 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 so intricate and risky … And still – they nailed it.
And – it’s swing! Total swing! Try watching it as if you’re a judge looking for swing patterns, anchors, triples, basic movements … it’s all there, all west-coast all the way.
Years ago Genieboy and I got the idea to do a routine which was hip-hop based cause it seemed like the two genres were meant for each other, both being street dances, and hip-hop music having become standard fare for social dancing.
So we went and found 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 edgy?
So we are thrilled.
And 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 jumping up and down screaming, pounding hands, crying with delight, everywhere people 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, 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.)
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 email@example.com.
So many more stories to tell about SwingDiego 2013, the event of the year!
I was telling you how funny Benji was as emcee on Saturday afternoon, teasing people and making fun of their names, and I said that he had called Luis Crespo “Clueless Crappo” which I thought was pretty hilarious. Except oops, Benji didn’t say that. He said “Luis Crrrrreppo” with a beautiful rolled “r”. Creppo, not Crappo. And not Clueless. He wouldn’t say that cause it’s not nice.
I, on the other hand, might say that, not because Luis is either of those things but because I blurt out anything funny the moment it comes into my head. But Benji didn’t say that.
What also funny is that Luis says he’s been called Luís Crisco Oil, Luís Rice Crispy Treats and Luigi Monté Cristo.
Second correction: I can’t seem to get the ginormous ballroom floor size right. Andy Bouman corrected me – it’s not 60,000 square feet like I first said. But I got it wrong the second time too, which nice Andy Bouman has corrected again. The ballroom itself is in fact 60,000 square feet. It’s the floor that is 1,600 square feet, not 60,000.
Thank you for helping me Andy! As I said, it’s a blonde thing.
Parker taught us a new dance – it’s called “The Earl.”
Here’s how you do The Earl:
You have to be standing. You can be just barely standing, or, if you need to, using a wall to lean on to keep from falling down.
You put your teeth over your lower lip.
Now hold your right hand in front of your right neckbone, three fingers pointing down, elbow out to the side.
Then you pulse up and down to the music, only moving your feet if you feel you might be losing your balance.
You’re doing The Earl!
Social dancing here has been CRAZY. We left the ballroom Saturday night (or “Sunday morning” as normal people would call it) at 6:30am and it was PACKED. Dancing continued till 10:00 am when they were finally kicked off the floor for the first workshop.
Dancing’s rocking the ballroom as I write this at 3am Sunday night (Monday morning.)
Packing to leave for the airport in a few hours …
1ST PLACE Jordan and Tatiana
2nd Ben and Jenn
3rd Gary and Susan
4th Kyle and Sarah
5th Ronnie and Brandi
1ST PLACE Benji and Torri
2nd Myles and Tessa
3rd Ronnie and Laureen
4th Greg and Lemery
5th Robert and Nicola
1ST PLACE Chris and Nicole
2nd Josh and Anyssa
3rd Tommy Brodie and Monica Garcia
4th Tyler Perkins and Julianne D’Amico
MASTERS JACK AND JILL
1ST PLACE Patrick Plagens and Carrie Lucas
2nd Alex Vlahos and Julie Epplett
3rd Genieboy Collins and Laurie Shafer
4th Mike Glasgow and Beverly Solazzo
5th Mark Slater and Peggy Allen
NOVICE JACK AND JILL
1ST PLACE Jao Parada and Mariana Amaral
2nd Alyson Candido and Holly Johnson
3rd Ralph Maddox and Shirlee Toledo
4th Marcos Felipe and Alison Duchatel
5th Sebastien Guy and Andrea Fiusa
INTERMEDIATE JACK AND JILL
1ST PLACE Tien Khieu and Cintia Fiaschi
2nd Cristiano Fialho and Sylvie Burgnard
3rd Denis Belekian and Kelly Reis
4th Bruno Lineker and Rehanna Loncar
5th Devin Guiliano and Jade Ruiz
ADVANCED JACK AND JILL
1ST PLACE Joshua Sturgeon and Lindsey Nastos
2nd PJ and Marina Motronenko
3rd Josh Williamson and Tashina Beckman
4th Diego and Jessica (they drew each other!)
5th Hugo and Stacy Kay (and they drew each other, too!)
CHAMPIONS JACK AND JILL
1ST PLACE Maxence and Tatiana
2nd Kyle and Melissa
3rd Jordan and Patty
4th Ben Morris and Alyssa
5th Ollie and Virginie Grondin
1ST PLACE Brad Whelan and Lindsey Nastos
2nd PJ and Janelle
3rd Joshua Sturgeon and Kara
4th Diego and Katrina Ostrenski
5th JB and Jessica Pacheco
1ST PLACE Benji and Tatiana
2nd Kyle and Torri
3rd Maxim and Virginie Grondin
4th Ollie and Virginie Perga
5th Jordan and Jessica
JACK AND JILL FINALS JUST POSTED!
alts: Mark Slater; Benson Malto
alts: Abra Slater; Nancy Price
alts: Ben McHenry; Kris Swearingen
alts: Courtney; Mackenzie
alts: Julien Vallier; Kevin Kane
alts: Emeline Rochefeuille; Larisa Tingle
alts: Zakhar Peshekhonov; Olivier Deprez
Sarah De Sousa
alts: Phallon Tillis; Hannah Guttman
alts: Bruno Cesar Theodoro; Rogerio Storani
alts: Luce Pasquini; Amanda Khoo
OMGAWD We just watched Champions Jack and Jill Prelims.
Two heats which took over an hour to accomplish and we’re all wishing it would have taken three or four or ten hours because it was SO FUNNNNNY!!!
Royston couldn’t be on the mic cause he was dancing.
Parker couldn’t be on the mic cause he was running the wonderful Project Swing workshops (free workshops taught by the top teachers of the world – last year 100 brand new people attended these workshops – complete strangers to west coast swing brought in primarily via word-of-mouth, friends inviting friends, strangers met in the airport, mall, restaurant, hotel … what an awesome idea!)
So who was going to emcee the Champion Jack and Jill?
“So You Think You Can Dance” theme music comes on and out walks …
Because Benji wasn’t dancing in the Jack and Jill. He can’t cause he won’t be able to dance tomorrow in finals (if he were to make finals, that is) because he’ll be taping his upcoming appearance on “Ellen” (a great TV show here in the States – Ellen DeGeneres, a comedian, now talk-show host – very funny.)
Talk about being born to be on a mic! Benji is Buddy’s son. Born to Perform. HEEEE-LARIOUS! This was a one-hour stand-up routine. Solid laughs from the minute he took the mic, every word from his mouth fall-down hilarious. What great energy in the ballroom! Everyone was laughing, how could you not be? All the contestants, all the audience members, all the staff, everyone in the room was in stitches for an hour.
He brought the leaders on one by one grossly mispronouncing every name and accentuating ev-er-y syl-la-ble completely wrong, especially bungling the non-American names. And adding jokes and nicknames to each. Personally tailored teasing and picking on his friends. These guys know each other so well, watching them is like watching brothers laughing at each other.
Luis Crespo was Clueless Crappo. Maxime Zaaa Ahhhhh Zzzzzzz Waaaa Zaaaa Ooooooeeeeeee. From Siberia Mr. Paul Warden. Pedro Verde are you here? That’s Pete Green. I speak (in an accent) “zee authentic leenguage.” “Please-do-not-boo-her Miss Melissa Yaaaaay!” (audience always calls “Ruuuuuuuuuutz” when she comes on the floor which sounds like booing.) “Mr. Myles Cunningham.”
Same thing bringing on the judges – “Marteeen ParkerDearborn,” “Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island,” “Neeeeee Co-laaaaaa” (like the Riccola cough-drop ad,) “Pa Heeeel Adams.”
The last judge was Sharlot Bott which he pronounced correctly. “I don’t dare mispronounce Sharlot’s name. I would fear for my life.”
“The theme for the Jack and Jill has changed,” he said, “They’ve decided to do music from 80′s sitcoms.
“Which were cancelled in their first season.
(making fun of the DJ’s continual struggle to come up with interesting music themes for Champions divisions)
“No, that’s not what the theme is. I have no idea what the theme is. But the music will be So. Good. because these are the Best. DJ’s. In. The. World.” (major kissy sucking-up sounds at the DJ booth.)
A few leaders weren’t in the ballroom yet, a few judges’ sheets were missing names, the heats weren’t straighened out, Mark Sheuffle (Chief Judge this weekend) trying to get it organized – Benji just made the moment VERY funny announcing what was more than obvious,
“We have some confusion here.”
“Hey did you guys hear that Michael Jackson died?” “Hey here’s Nick King! Everybody let’s give a round of applause to Nick King for being late!” “Hey we’re trying this new innovation called ‘Jack and Jill’ we’ve never tried it before at an event.” “Hey did you hear that Whitney Houston died? Who knew?” “Hey, leaders,” (speaking in a bizarre accent) “leaders – your challenge will be to incorporate a WHIP into your dance. Did anyone understand me with that accent? Hey have you ever heard Kellese talk? She says something and I’m like WHAT?!? WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?”
“And now we’re calling out the followers! The reason 90% of us dance west coast swing!” (that cracked up not only the audience but Benji himself was doubled over laughing.) “And here is Brandi Tobias, my ex-wife.” “And Tatiana Moooooolah-meeeeen. Tatiana go away. You’re not in this heat. You’re the weakest link.”
Through all of this Louis is playing Pitbull in the background, Irish step-dance music, Indian Bollywood music and the Champion contestants are lined up out there dancing all genres, horsing around, laughing … just hilarious.
And the dancing! Oh my gosh. Champions Jack and Jills at SwingDiego are always the best. Cause they’re so happy here!
Oh and Jordan and Jessica drew each other in the final rotation and Jessica’s loose shirt came off. Completely off. Jordan had to pick it up from the floor and hurl it into the audience (PJ caught it! Like a wedding bouquet! Except I don’t know what that means for PJ). And there’s Jessica clutching at her sports bra and Benji says “And that is the reason that bulimia works, folks.”
I am a huge fan of inappropriate humor. And now an even huger fan of Benji.
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” (Craig David)
“Soul Serenade” (Jeff Golub)
“Treasure” (Bruno Mars)
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
Things Are Changin” (Gary Clark)
“Get Lucky” (Daft Punk)
Open Strictly Finalists just announced:
Diego and Katrina
Arnaud and Tori Ellington
Julien and Sharon
PJ and Janelle
Hugo and Stacy
Josh Williamson and Nicole
Daniel and Emeline
Tze Yi Wee and Linda Cuccio
JB and Jessica Pacheco
Steve Hall and Beverly
Brad and Lindsey
Joshua Sturgeon and Kara
and 1st alt: Andrew Slac and Laura Deshano
We just watched CLASSIC PRELIMS!!!! 23 routines, many (most) new. I’ll describe them next Update – heading down now for Champions Jack and Jill prelims, followed by Masters, Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced JJ prelims (and Novice semis in the second ballroom.)
Oh and by the way – the ballroom is HUGE. It was pointed out to me that 60,000 square feet, as I said earlier, is indeed VERY huge.
Yeah, no, the ballroom is not 60,000 square feet, it’s 6,000 square feet, one less zero.
I’m blonde. You could tell me it was 60,000,000 square feet and I wouldn’t know the difference. I have no idea what any of these numbers mean.
Next Update in a couple hours … running back to ballroom now …
What a night!
Robert Royston on the mic all weekend – YAY! He’s so funny! So kind! Some people are just born to stand in front of a crowd with a microphone. Robert has emcee genes.
Biggest Open Strictly we’ve ever seen – EVERYONE was out there – everyone. Young juniors couples, old geezers, Novice, Allstar – it was a huge marvelous international division – 115 couples!
Midway through the evening they changed the schedule to accomodate the numbers and give contestants a shot at making the next cut by adding – in addition to prelims and semis – a “quarters” round. Finals will be danced Spotlight (like all Finals here) tomorrow night after Classic.
Here’s who made Quarters:
Diego and Katrina O
Arnaud and Tori Ellington
Nechadi Djessim and Marina Motronenko
Julien Vallier and Sharon Her
PJ and Janelle
Hugo and Stacy Chiang
Josh Williamson and Nicole Clonch
Grigory and Katia
Daniel Guido and Emeline
Tze Yi Wee and Linda Cuccio
JB and Jessica Pancheco
Sebastien and Rebecca
Miguel Ortega and Kate Lovegrove
Thomas Carter and Miki Finley
Andrew Slac and Laura Deshano
Evan and Shannon
Clint and Maddie Finley
Edson and Cintia
Jason Taylor and Terra
Carson Brand and Kristen Humphrey
Steve Hall and Beverly Brunerie
Brad Whelan and Lindsey Nastos
Steven Guido and Hannah Clonch
Cody Anzelone and Olga
Kofi and Sylvia Burgnard
Josh Sturgeon and Kara
Kevin Kane and Lena Rummel
Tony Schubert and Ellyn Brady
Kevin Bretney and Larisa Tingle
John Piper and Laura Clipp
We are waiting for Open Strictly finals to be posted …
Here are the songs played for the Open Strictly rounds:
“Another Man’s Shoes” (Brother Yusef)
“Next 40 Years”
“Raise Your Glass” (Pink)
“Emotion” (Destiny’s Child)
“Natural Man” (Lou Rawls)
“5:19″ (Matt Wertz)
“Available” (Flo Rida)
“Lost In You” (Chris Gaines)
“Gangster of Love” (Johnny Guitar Watson)
“The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” (The Script)
“Back To The Middle” (India Arie)
“Cause I Love You” (Mike Morgan and The Crawl)
“Come On Get Higher” (Matt Nathanson)
“Beauty and The Beat” (Bieber)
“Whatever Happens” (Michael Jackson)
“Let’s Walk” (Austin De Leon)
“Breaking Me” (Johnny Lange)
“Please Don’t Go” (Mike Posner)
“Give Me The Night” (Randy Crawford)
“Rack ‘Em Up” (Jonny Lang)
“S&M” (Rihanna, acoustic version)
“Moves Like Jagger” (Maroon 5)
“Gonna Move Across The River”
“Seven Nation Army” (cool acoustic girl)
“Don’t Wanna Go Home” (Jason DeRulo)
“Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” (MJ)
“No Diggity” (Oli Brown)
“Troulemaker” (Olly Murs)
“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” (an acoustic remix)
“That’s The Way Love Goes” (Janet Jackson)
“Show Me” (Usher)
Kris Swearingen and Laureen
Paul Warden and Alyssa
Olivier and Virginie Perga
Nick King and Courtney
Greg Scott and Cat Wiles
Miguel De Sousa and Christina Ponce
Ben Morris and Rutz
Jordan and Jessica
Sean McKeever and Cameo
Ben McHenry and Mackenzie
Luis and Blandine
Benji and Tatiana
Chuck and Malia
Jesse Vos and Brandi
Michael Kielbasa and Jen Deluca
Barry Jones and Tessa
Stephen White and Samantha Ramirez
Michael Norris and Deborah Szekely
Kye and Torri
Maxim and Virginie Grondin
Maxence and Sarah
Edwin and Katie
I sat next to the Brasilians! THE BRASILIANS!!!! SO MUCH FUN! SO LOUD! SO EMOTIONAL! SUCH ENTHUSIASM! Wow is it great to have Brasilians here!
Champions Strictly Finalists (also dancing Spotlight, tomorrow night after Classic)
Olivier and Virginie
Ben and Melissa
Jordan and Jessica
Benji and Tatiana
Jesse and Brandi
Kielbasa and Deluca
Barry and Tessa
Michael and Deborah
Kyle and Torri
Maxim and Virginie
Maxence and Sarah
(alts: Ben McHenry and Mackenzie; Chuck and Malia)
Rome and Chevy to “Dog Days” – love LOVE this routine, the song, the choreography. So great to see them dancing it again!
Diego and Jessica to “Sweet Child of Mine” (by Guns and Roses) – Brasilians dancing to pure classic rock! What fun!
Sebastien and teeny weeny tiny wee adorable little Vanessa to “Locked Out of Heaven” (by Kidz Bob Kids)
The Roystons, Ronnie and Laureen, Luis and Jenn, Myles and Tessa, Stephen and Sabrina, Greg and Lemery, and Benji and Torri all dancing routines we’ve been watching since the Open. So good. So very good.
Classic prelims are tomorrow morning at 11:00 am. That’s hard for the competitors and hard for us to be awake at the hour to watch and cheer. But we’ll be there!
Here’s who’s dancing Classic prelim (they’re calling it “The Qualifier”):
Kevin Kane and Shanti Davis
Rob Jackson and Heather Powers-Rutledge
Sebastien and Blandine
Katie Schneider and Michael Kielbasa
Peter Fradley and Michelle Fletcher
Miguel De Sousa and Yenni
Arnaud and Beverly
Ben Morris and Jen Deluca
Brunno Cesar Theodoro and Paula Cavaicanti
Ben McHenry and Cameo
Gerald and Robin
Lana Santos and Daniels Saralva
Muriel and Stephane Houis
Lee and Fabienne
Kris and Rebecca
Shaheed and Rachele
Paul and Cat
Maxim and Virginie
Clint and Mackenzie
Joshua Sturgeon and Lindsey Nastos
Hugo and Stacy
Sean and Courtney
Gary and Susan
Couple technical problems tonight:
Some sound-system glitches throughout the night which I’m sure Earl and Parker are struggling to get fixed (as Royston said “There’s nothing that stresses out an Event Director more than problems with the sound system) – buzzing, snapping, the speakers went out a couple of times in the middle of social dancing, bass/treble balance seems to be having problems, lost Robert’s mic at the end of strictlys … none of which bothered us dancers much but it will be nice when the sound is as good as it can be in this terrific ballroom.
Also problems with both the link to the thumbsup live stream, as well as the feed itself. Bruce Gleason, the videographer, tells me all problems should be fixed by tomorrow and tonight’s divisions can be purchased as soon as he gets them fully uploaded (they should be available already.)
This is an amazing event.
Last night’s Kickoff Dance – the first dance to inaugurate the new ballroom – CRAZY great.
When we left at 3am there were at least 700 dancers on the floor, from all around the world. Russians, French, Brasilians, Singapore, Korea, Israelis, Swedes, Finns, England, Scotland, Ireland, Hungary, Phillipines, Australians, Canadians, Morrocco, Pakistan, Turkey … And the level of dancing! SO many superb dancers!
An amazing thing is taking place here this weekend. It feels like the official launch of the next chapter in the history of our dance, like this marks the beginning of a new age, the recognition that efforts to spread west coast around the world have succeeded and the dance is now firmly rooted in countries outside of the United States, reflecting influences, styles, and regional color from every part of the globe.
More than once last night I found myself standing in a group of American dancers, all of us staring, smiling in amazement and delight, at a floor packed with the highest level of swing happening anywhere you looked – cool new styles, movements, tricks, postures, footwork, interpretations – sweaty couples dancing their hearts out with huge grins on their faces, unable to speak each other’s languages but communicating perfectly in the shared language of west coast swing. What a scene.
The ballroom! It’s magnificent! So enormous they’re only using half. Behind the huge backdrop, screen, and raised stage is just as much room again which will be used as a staging area with a practice floor right there for contestants to warm up before coming on to compete. Earl says they’ve got the coolest follow-spot lighting planned for bringing dancers out to the floor.
The professional crew who installed the sound system – four GINORMOUS speakers with 180 degree surround-sound – say that this hall has the best acoustics in the city (other than round symphony-halls) – they’ve held rock concerts here. Even last night, with 1,000 people yelling and laughing, the sound was incredible.
And the lighting! Oh. My. Gawd. Someone said it feels like Vegas.
The production elements of this event are spectacular! Doesn’t get any better than this!
The floor itself is bigger than last year’s – (60,000 sq feet versus 54,000 – I think I have those numbers right) – but not so big as to lose that intimate packed-dance-club feeling. And not so small that you’re at risk of getting hurt – a delicate balance which Earl and Parker think carefully about (they think about EVERYTHING carefully, every detail considered obsessively, all year.)
Oh, and down the hall there’s a SECOND floor! Which is the same size! A second 60,000 square foot floor! In a ballroom just down the hall. Novice semi-finals will be held there during Intermediate, Masters, and Advanced prelims. (Novice prelims will be held in the main ballroom so that every competitor here will have the chance to dance in the main ballroom.) We were wondering how they planned to do the “concurrent jack and jills” thing. This is is how, and it’s ingenious. Novice is always a gargantuan division and this way the schedule won’t be held up by multiple Novice heats – and, and added benefit – there won’t be the need to cut down the number of contestants who make it to semis in order to accomodate the schedule, so many more people will advance to semis. So smart!
Yesterday the wine tour, the golf tour, shopping, site-seeing, and lots of arrivals. Today people dragging suitcases along the pathways all day long. Last year 600 people pre-registered. This year 1,000 people pre-registered. This is a huge event.
It’s 2pm as I write this – the weather is fabulous – and the pool is surrounded by dancers just waking up from dancing until breakfast, now sprawled out in the brilliant blue-sky sunshine or splashing in the hot tubs or getting dressed for pro-am strictlys at 3:00. Outside of that nothing to do today but rest up and get ready for the non-stop schedule which begins with Opening Ceremonies at 7pm followed by Champion and Open strictly prelims and finals; and SHOWCASE!
I know of SO many new Showcase and Classic routines being launched here this weekend but I can’t tell you who or what because I’ve been sworn to secrecy. But ohhhhh myyyyy gawd are we in for some great GREAT routines AUGHGHGHGH!
You can watch all weekend here!
And if you’re not here – YOU MUST TRY TO COME NEXT YEAR!
This is the event not to miss.
We’re on our way!
The level of excitement for SwingDiego this year is off the charts – judging from facebook, texts and emails, replies to my last update, and conversations with friends coming in from all over the world. Crazy!
At this point most non-US’ers are either en route or already in San Diego … 40+ Brasilians, large groups from Russia, France, UK, China, Singapore, Australia, Hungary, Sweden …
We cannot WAIT to see the new ballroom! 40,000 square feet! The largest ballroom on the wcs circuit we will ever have seen.
So many new routines being debuted this weekend!
Two Jack-and-Jill rooms being run simultaneously, to accommodate the large divisions!
So much new and different – Parker and Earl always always try new innovations – every year they introduce new stuff … we’re on pins and needles anxious to see it all …
I feel bad for all of you who can’t make it this year – it’s going to be something special. Still not to late to make last minute plans, maybe discover a last-minute cancelled seat the airline selling at a reduced rate (priceline?)
If you can’t make it you can watch the live stream all weekend here.
AUGHGH!! SO EXCITING!!
SwingDiego is almost here! Our favorite event of the year!
Some folks have already arrived … Europeans, Australians, Asians and Americans coming in early to see San Diego! The beach! The gorgeous weather!
Getting in before Thursday morning? Want to try golfing? Check out the SwingDiego Annual Golf Scramble 2013
Or maybe you want to try wine-tasting? And mimosas, bellinis and hors d’oeuvres in a limo? Check out the Annual SwingDiego Wine Tour
Want to site-see? Wikipedia calls San Diego “America’s largest urban cultural park” with more than 25 museums and attractions, from the astronomical to the zoological. And you don’t have to rent a car! The “Hop On Hop Off Trolley” located just behind the hotel is a great way to get around to see the sites.
San Diego hosted two World’s Fairs, the Panama-California Exposition in 1915-1916, and the California Pacific International Exposition in 1935-1936. The expositions left a lasting legacy in the form of Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo, and by popularizing Mission Revival Style and Spanish Colonial Revival Style architecture locally and in Southern California as a regional aesthetic and nationwide design influence.
Are you a photography buff like me? Balboa Park is CRAZY for beautiful pictures of architecture and gardens. Are you a theater buff? In Balboa Park you can catch a Tony Award-winning play most evenings!
And the zoo! The San Diego Zoo is top-rated everywhere, consistently included on various top zoo lists and active in animal conservation. The San Diego Zoo put its first animal on display in 1916, a Kodiak bear named Caesar. But the zoo’s most popular inhabitants by far are the Giant Pandas. Basi and Yuan Yuan arrived on loan from China in 1987, the first breeding pair taking up residence nine years later. Since then, several panda cubs have been born to female Bai Yun, each of the adorable little black-and-white creatures becoming an instant hit, drawing huge crowds and celebrating their birthdays with “cakes” made of ice. You’ll also see California Condors, koalas, an albino boa constrictor and over 4,000 rare and endangered animals, in addition to a botanical collection of 700,000 exotic plants.
Military buff? Try the USS Midway! A 972-foot-long aircraft carrier turned into a tourist attraction, consistently ranked by Tripadvisor as the #1 attraction in San Diego, its appeal seeming to span all ages and genders. The longest-serving U.S. Navy carrier of the 20th century, the USS Midway was the largest ship in the world from 1945 to 1955, carrying over 4,000 people. In addition to the enormous ship itself you’ll also find more than 25 other aircrafts on display.
Or visit Sea World and the famous Shamu, the killer whale! Shows all day long, and opportunities to see marine creatures up close and even touch and feed them!
Or you might just want to stroll downtown to enjoy the restaurants and unique culture of this historic town full of restaurants, shops, museums, and galleries, and recently heralded as one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the United States. “As a port city San Diego has always had a gay and lesbian community, but it was largely closeted. Beginning in the 1960s the neighborhood of Hillcrest began to attract large numbers of gay and lesbian residents, drawn by low rents, high density, and the possibility of an urban dynamic. In the 1970s gay men founded a Center for Social Services in Hillcrest which became a social and political focus for the gay community. In June 1974 they launched the first Gay Pride Parade, which has been held every year since, and Hillcrest is well recognized as the focal point of the LGBT community. Also in the 1970s several churches, especially The independent Metropolitan Community Church, as well as movements within established denominations like Dignity (Roman Catholic), Integrity (Episcopalian), and Lutherans Concerned, formed a coalition that helped gays reinterpret biblical passages condemning homosexuality, and reconcile their sexual orientation with their religious faith.” (wikipedia)
Or my favorite “site-seeing” spot in all San Diego – “Fashion Mall!” Located, fortunately or unfortunately, DIRECTLY BEHIND the hotel. 200 stores! 18 restaurants! Trouble!
All of this in addition to SwingDiego itself, the awesomest event on the planet. This year? More awesome than ever before because of … new surprises ….
What a lovely day! Blue skies, palm trees waving in the breeze, brilliant sun – San Diego!
9am this morning bodies already stretched out beside the pools, canon-balls into the hot-tub, outdoor terrace breakfast buffet filled with east-coast U.S.’ers still on home-time.
Thursday night dance AUGHGH! Not just Facebook-awesome – actual real awesome! The huge ballroom PACKED last night, all night till daybreak. Everyone says no contest – this was THE best Thursday Night ever – maybe the best late-nite dance in the history of human civilization. Craaaazy wonderful energy.
Everyone came in early this year – Wednesday, Tuesday even! – so the place is shaking with excitement and we haven’t even started yet. Spotted so far: crazy Aussies, bouncing Brazilians, proper French, pale English, US’ers from every state including some we’ve never heard of.
This is our favorite comp.
Someone called me last week – an event director – and I said yeah swingdiego best by a long shot why she asked what’s different?
And I launched into a no-punctuation rhapsody before realizing oops brain to mouth Houston we have a problem you’re talking to an event director! Hello! Did you ever think maybe you’re insulting the daylights out of her? Yeah but on second thought maybe she finds it useful? So maybe keep running your mouth? Oh nevmind your mouth has been running all this time anyway.
And this is what I heard myself saying which I agree with:
“The floors are great, the deejays are great, the judging panel is great carefully picked judging taken seriously here, weather is gorgeous, lying by the pool is great, schedule is great, every top pro and am dancer in the world is here, pro staff carefully picked and cared for, special needs of Allstars cared for, newbies welcomed and cared for, feels like quality, like a class act. Every detail. Everybody’s walking around dazed and happy.”
At the present moment we are dazed and happy either watching Pro-Ams or sunbathing by the pool. Tonite: the mega-uber Open Strictly and then the Champion Strictly! These are quite something. EVERYONE in the world out there on the floor. It’s a photographer videographer poet and artist’s dream scene. Surreal.
You can watch all weekend for free – ustream live-feed at:
Or pay $10 for four-hour segments on the ustream pay-per-view channel, here:
Both have chat features where you can talk with everyone else watching from around the world and let Bruce (that’s Bruce Gleason of thumbsup video, here filming the event) know when there are problems with the feed.
Great night so far: Masters JJ prelims and finals, Open strictly, and Champion/Allstar strictly. Before I run back down to the ballroom to dance until breakfast here are awards so far (minus pro-am strictlys which I didn’t catch, and Masters JJ which will be announced tomorrow):
Open Strictly (Advanced and below):
1st Place Kris Swearingen and Emmeline
2nd Kevin Kane and Shantal
3rd Cliff and Kara
4th Jesse Vos and Maddy
5th Reggie and Marina
1st Place Kyle and Jessica
2nd Kielbasa and Rutz
3rd Ben and Sarah
4th Maxence and Tatiana
5th Jordan and Virginie
Final comment: The Denver contingent is here and wow, Denver does a bad-ass Wobble.
Final-final comment: Bra mishap during Open Strictly resulting in bra sliding upwards off the intended body part. Horizontal double-boob becoming two happy free boobs with a bra riding above, right in front of our eyes. Very funny – thank you from those of us watching. You know who you are. I’ve heard so many funny bra stories through the years – one day we’ll have to tell some here.
First on the agenda for tomorrow morning: Qualifier for Classic at 11am. This is new this year, very cool. More on this tomorrow.
Now, down to dance!
From now on you get to say “We made Finals in Classic at SwingDiego.” If you make finals, that is. Which is what the Qualifier is – a Prelim for the routine divisions, SwingDiego’s newest innovation to manage the large numbers of entries in Classic and Showcase at this event. Bragging rights, and looks better on a resume than “we placed 12th.” If last year you placed top five you’re not required to do the Qualifier (although you can, if you want the opportunity to put the routine on the floor in front of cameras and a live audience.) The top 16 couples continue on to dance in Finals tonight.
Also new this year: Earl and Parker’s elegant Saturday night Cocktail Party now occupies not one but *two* suites and balconies overlooking the pools and palm trees. Not to be missed – an elegant pre-party Southern California style.
Oh by the way – Thursday night didn’t just feel huge it actually was huge – 1,058 dancers on Thursday – that’s got to be a record for a Thursday-night Kickoff dance. Which was still rocking at 9am the next morning.
85 couples in Open Strictly Prelims yesterday afternoon. Three heats. Judges: Michael Norris, Deborah Szekely, Jessica, Melina, Kellese, Sharlot, and Chief Judge for the weekend: Sharlot’s Fiance.
Heat 1: “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” “Someone Like You,” and “Me You and The Music.”
Heat 2: “All Around The World (Lou Rawls version)” “More Than Words,” and “Dance Again”
Heat 3: “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” “Stitch by Stitch” and ‘Dip Out of the Club”
Semi-Finals 40 couples in two heats.
Heat 1: “Move Across The River,” and “Man In The Mirror”
Heat 2: “Spankin’ Leroy” and “Mr. Know-It-All”
1. Clint and Kara, “Moves Like Jagger” (great song to start off with – audience roared at that first whistle) WOW Kara! Girlfriend is throwing it all on the floor! What a great dance!
2. April Sakaluk and Edson Modesta (Brasil!), “I’m A Single Man”
3. Diego and Jessica (Brasil and Brasil!) “California Gurls”
4. JB and Sabrina “Give Me Everything”
5. Jesse and Maddy “DJ Got Us Falling In Love”
6. Reggie and Marina “Please Don’t Go”
7. Kris and Emmeline oops
8. Stefan and Anyssa “OMG”
9. Kevin and Shanti “Blow”
10. Ryan and Taylor “Strobe Lights”
11. Katia and Grigoriy “Dynamite” (Michael: “Is there a tongue doctor in the house? I need one” – WOW did he bungle their names. Michael gets the prize for the funniest mangling of names. I’d like a video of clips of Michael mispronouncing one name after another over the years. Priceless)
And the All-Skate to Sweet Home Chicago.
Damon, Lisa, Brent, Kellese, Cher, Michael Kielbasa, Chief Judge MarkTheMarine, and Bill Cameron as “Referee” (looking for violations, lifts, drops … )
1. Ben and Cameo
2. Clint and MacKenzie
3. Gerald and Robin (Calgary)
4. Sean and Courtney
5. Eddie and Helen
6. Reginald and Lara
7. Jake and Kara
8. Robert Royston and Deborah Szekely
… and the new routines (for us, anyway):
9. Abi Leggett and Stefan Schneider (US & Quebec) – “Glow” by Jack Zerby
10. Edson and Cyntia (Brasil) – “Smooth Criminial” by Michael Jackson
11. Kirill and Irina (Moscow) – “Till The Ocean Takes Us All” by The Car Empire
12. Kris and Rebecca – “Gold” by Kaile Goh
13. Maxence and Virginie (France) – “This Is How It Goes” by Missy Higgins
14. Dave Ward and Maria Ford (Canada) – “I’m Tore Down” by Clapton
15. Scott and Melina (Australia) – “Nothing’s Real But Love” by Rebecca Ferguson (may be the same routine they danced at the Open but if so it sure looked different to me)
16. Peter Fradley and Michelle Fletcher (London) – “Me Without You” by Loick Essien
Nine of these couples will not go on to Finals tonight.
So we’re glad we got up at the crack of dawn to watch or we would have missed all the great new stuff.
Not happy about the crack-of-dawn thing, however. I wolfed down the breakfast buffet and had to charge back up to the room leaving behind Genieboy hoisting Annie Hirsch by her right butt cheek – he insists he had to do this in order to make sure she didn’t fall but everyone watching nearly choked on their breakfast laughing at this – hoisting her teeny little self high up into the air to perch her on the seat of a unicycle which happened to be passing by on the terrace. Driven by a young guy with half of his hair magenta.
But we now have only an hour before Jack and Jills which begin with Champions so rushing rushing …
GORGEOUS weather today, like yesterday and the day before and the day before that.
In ballroom, typing with thumbs, Earl just announced Classic finalists:
Jordan and Tatiana,
Kyle and Sarah,
Robert and Deborah,
Jake and Kara,
Ben and Cameo,
Maxence and Virginie,
Sean and Courtney,
Kris and Rebecca,
Brennar and Torri,
Scott and Mel,
Ben and Rutz,
Brandi and Ronnie
Royston on the mic:
“We have a lot to do this morning. We have 785 girls in Novice … oh wait, there was a scratch? Okay make that 784 girls. Actually, everybody here in the ballroom is in Novice, right?”
“This next person is just from “France.” No city listed because they live all over the place in France.”
Skipping around the floor arm-in-arm with the first girl in the line – to complete silence since the DJ hadn’t cued the music up yet: “What a great song! This is my favorite song all weekend!”
Saturday’s Jack and Jill divisions were humongous. Competitors from all over the world! SwingDiego is the most International of all US events and the level of dance highest on the circuit. Novice division is so good it looks like Advanced circa 2003. This weekend we had Brazil (several tables full! So much laughing! What a lust for life!), France, Australia, Moscow, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Singapore, Switzerland, Minnesota, Budapest, London, Japan, South Korea, and Rabat, Morocco!
And people on every continent watching live on u-stream (8,000 hits during Jack and Jills!) sending Royston text messages (often unrepeatable) to give him a hard time while he’s trying to emcee.
Louie playing show tunes during every interlude.
Judges: Martin, Damon, Lisa, Deborah, Phil Adams, Cher, Michael Norris, Bill Cameron, Michael Kielbasa, Melina, Mary Ann, Jessica, Brent, Kellese, Sharlot, and Chief Judge MarkTheMarine. (Louie played “Born In The USA” to announce the judges.)
Four heats of 40 couples in Novice Prelims. Prelims went to Semi’s (a little less huge) later that afternoon. Finals were on Sunday. Spotlight! Exciting to be alone in the middle of that huge floor, in front of the lights, cameras, and audience! Especially for new dancers!
Novice Winners: **
1 Richie Selby & Olga Usmanova
2 Justin Zadro & Kelly Reis
3 Cristiano Fialho & Nicole Dauvali
4 Joseph Gleason & Ahlam Bouabdallah
5 Daniel Silvedra & Laura Klipp
6 Matt Richey & Amber Heddleson
7 Alexis Frenot & Ann Wood
8 Jean-Philippe Rocchi & Phallon Tillis
9 Andre Silva & Elina Bodnya
10 Alfredo Melendez & Sophie Piranda
11 William Brown & Magalie Vergne
12 Rick Manderscheid & Luba Mikhailova
Intermediate Prelims three heats of 40 couples, went to semis, then Finals on Sunday. **
1 Roger Ferriera Batista & Terra Deva
2 Tze Yi Wee & Liza Hillman
3 Josh Williamson & Shantala Davis
4 Brandon Manning & Marina Nemkovskaya
5 Edson Modesto & Samia Amrani
6 David Guido & Marina Motronenko
7 TJ Bednash & Irina Puzanova
8 Grigory LeBedev & Alissia Bishop
9 Peter Elliott & Monica Garcia
10 James Cook & Jessica Greer
Advanced/Allstar (these divisions are combined at SwingDiego) Finalists:
1. Anyssa and Cliff to “Shaking My Head” … and wow! Anyssa! She is adorable!
2. Emmeline and Ben Clemons to “Domino” … and omg Emmeline! She is adorable!
3. Diego and Virginie to ooops forgot to write down the song because omgawd Virginie is way too adorable!
4. Estelle and Haider to “I’m Day Dreaming” and Estelle! She is so adorable!
5. JB and Sabrina to “You Make Me Feel So” Sabrina with that wild platinum hair she is adorable!
6. Kris and Chevy to “Turn Me On” and Chevy is way too adorable!
7. Stephen and Sam to “Who’s That Girl” and come on! Samantha? She is adorable!
8. Yuna and Carson to “Little Bad Girl” … Yunaaaaaa! She is so adorable!
9. Huge and Taylor to “Hit The Lights.” What can I say. Taylor is adorable.
10. Rome and Jessica to “Hangover.” Jessss-iiiiii-caaaaa omg! Adorrrrrrable!
Too bad wcs girls are so terribly unattractive.
And the placements were: **
1 Kristopher Swearingen & Chevy Slater
2 Diego Borges & Virginie Grondin
3 JB Brodie & Sabrina Paxmann
4 Stephen White & Samantha Fernandez
5 Ben Clemons & Emeline Rochefeuille
6 Clint Glasgow & Anyssa Olivares
7 Haider Khan & Estelle Bonnaire
8 Hugo Miguez & Taylor Harrell
9 Carson Brand & Yuna Davtyan
10 Rome Slater & Jessica Pachico
Masters Prelims two heats of 13 couples each. Masters was the only division where finals were Friday night. Spotlight.
1. Mike Glasgow and Julie to “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” by Carl Carlton
2. Peggy Allen and Wayne Brodd to “To Be Real” by Chaka Khan
3. Patrick and Jill to “Best of My Love”
4. Genieboy and Kelly Wentling to “Word Up”
5. Joe and Beverly to “Boogie Shoes”
6. Warren and Janet to “Rock With You”
7. Mike Heath and Patty to oops didn’t get it
8. Mike Gadberry and Pam to “Just Got Paid”
9. Chips and Laurie to “Dance Machine”
10. Gary and Sarah to “Lady Marmelade”
… and the placements were:
1 Joe Sparacio & Beverly Solazzo
2 Warren Pino & Janice Salmon
3 Mike Glasgow & Julie Epplett
4 Michael Heath & Patty Ingram
5 Chips Hough & Laurie Shafer
6 Mike Gadberry & Pamela Giles
7 Gary Thompson & Sarah Grusmark
8 Patrick Plagens & Jill Aversa
9 Wayne Brodd & Peggy Allen
10 Genieboy Collins & Kelly Wentling
** Couldn’t write fast enough to catch the names of prelim and semi contestants – sorry about that – I know many of you reading this would like to know who competed in prelims, who made semis, how your friends did – my suggestion at this point is to watch the ustream videos if you are able to get online …
Saturday Night! Showcase!
1. Myles and Tessa, “Rolling In The Deep” (I wrote about this routine at the Open: http://wp.me/p1qHTC-75). Entire ballroom jumped to their feet in a Standing Ovation.
2. Eddie and Elyse, “The Light”
3. Rebecca and Ben Hooten, “Little Bad Girl” (Description here: http://wp.me/p1qHTC-7c)
4. Cody and Tracy, “Dirty Bit”
5. The Roystons, “Edge of Glory”
6. The Toepels, “Animal”
7. Ronnie and Laureen, “Without You” so gorgeously clean, smooth, dramatic – they make sailing through the air look easier than standing still. Standing Ovation.
8. Scott Mehlberg and Marina Motronenko, “Higher”
9. Benji and Torri, HUGE HUMONGOUS Standing Ovation which just wouldn’t end. What a routine! With a new surprise! ( http://wp.me/p1qHTC-7c)
10. Luis and Jen, “Miracle”
11. Stephen and Sabrina “Somewhere With You” – great new routine, Sabrina in a white fur top! white chiffon half-skirt over white pants, blood-red lips. The two of them with their brilliant platinum hair – they’re a striking couple.
12. Greg and Lemery, “No Diggity” (http://wp.me/p1qHTC-7W)
… and the placements:
1 Benji Schwimmer & Torri Smith
2 Myles Munroe & Tessa Cunningham
3 Ronnie DeBenedetta & Laureen Baldovi-Mason
4 Gregory Scott & Lemery Rollins
5 Ben Hooten & Rebecca Ludwick
6 Robert Royston & Nicola Royston
7 Stephen White & Sabrina Paxmann
8 Eddie Valdez & Elise Valdez
9 Cody Melin & Tracey Melin
10 Luis Crespo & Jennifer Pasetes
11 Patrick Toepel & Lisa Toepel
12 Scott Mehlberg & Marina Motronenko
Saturday Night! Classic Finals!
Judges (for Classic as well as Showcase): Cher, Bill Cameron, Kellese, Sharlot, Damon, Brent, Jessica, Phil, Martin, and Mark as Chief Judge.
1. Jordan and Tatiana, “More” No matter how many times we watch them dance we are surprised again each time. Everything we love in other couples Jordan and Tatiana do but seem to do better, or bigger, or smaller, or where it gives contrast. Power, drama, wit, lines, shapes, speed. And it appears effortless. (Description here: http://wp.me/p1qHTC-8g)
2. Kyle and Sarah, “Seven Nation Army” and “We’re In Miami” New routine! First half to a GREAT bluesy version of this song is so smooth, clean,with enough swing content to please an entire playground “swing-set.” Second song starts and with it the jokes. So hard to do funny in a routine and even harder in west-coast than in other dances (like bouncy Lindy, for instance, which looks comedic even when it’s trying to be serious) but Kyle and Sarah pull it off. Kyle limps to limping lyrics, stands behind Sarah and turns himself using the sides of her head. They land facing each other on “What’s that now?” and stand there in silence, looking at us, making us wait for the punchline … on “I’m going in” Kyle reaches through her legs, grabs her hand and spins her around. Perfect timing, told like a good joke. They’re so smooth they make this very fast song look slow. Great routine.
3. Robert and Deborah, “Man In The Mirror”
4. Jake and Kara, “Do I Move You” (http://wp.me/p1qHTC-8d)
4. Ben and Cameo, “Fort Knox”
5. Maxence and Virginie, “This is How It Goes” Sexy sexy sexaaay. Feels very French: Complex, rich, dense choreography; austere and elegant; so understated an American might call it chilly – the opposite of broad Disney spectacle. Like they dance in black-and-white instead of color. Love how they load every movement by moving the opposite way first. Love their quick feet. Love their beauty.
6. Sean and Courtney, “Feelin’ So”
7. Kris and Rebecca, “Gold”
8. Brennar and Torri, “Sadly Beautiful” (description from Capital earlier this year: http://wp.me/p1qHTC-8g)
9. Melina and Scott, “Nothing’s Real But Love” yes, I wasn’t hallucinating, different routine than at the Open. Same marvelous coral and turquoise costumes (the two trending colors this spring – how did she know that in November?) but different song, different choreography entirely. These two look so happy together it’s just fun watching them. Love Melina’s force – how she punches a movement, finishes completely. Scott lifts her off the floor by a foot and a shoulder – that’s cool.
10. Ben and Melissa, “You and I” (http://wp.me/p1qHTC-8g)
11. Ronnie and Brandi, “It’s Not Impossible” (http://wp.me/p1qHTC-8g)
… and the placements:
1 Jordan Frisbee & Tatiana Mollmann
2 Kyle Redd & Sarah Vann Drake
3 Brennar Goree & Torri Smith
4 Ben Morris & Melissa Rutz
5 Ronnie DeBenedetta & Brandi Tobias
6 Sean Mckeever & Courtney Adair
7 Robert Royston & Deborah Szekely
8 Scott Stuart & Melina Ramirez-Stuart
9 Maxence Martin & Virginie Grondin
10 Jake Haning & Kara Frenzel
11 Ben McHenry & Cameo Cross
12 Kristopher Swearingen & Rebecca Ludwick
San Diego weather is GEEE-ORGY-USSSS so lotsa people came in early for the beaches, multiple pools and hot-tubs on the grounds nestled in amongst lavish rose bushes and perennials, the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park (our friends saw a hilarious play there Thursday evening and say the female lead is me and Shoshi Kushnir combined (not sure Shoshi thinks that’s a compliment,) Lego Land, golf (the 27-hole championship Riverwalk Golf Club is on the grounds,) or wine tours. Friday morning we bumped into Alexis Pero and her mom (Alexis brought her mother AND her aunt in from Chicago to celebrate Mothers Day at SwingDiego! Isn’t that great?) – we instantly fell in love with Alexis’ enthusiastic mom with her great big laugh. She said what fun they had on the wine tour. “Did you get drunk?” we asked. “Oh no of course not. But we did get a little WET! HAHAHAHA.”
We like the hotel cause, well … Okay maybe we just like the weather. The hotel is okaaay. Sort of. The staff is okay sometimes. The place is understaffed so you don’t always get a response, or a polite response, or anything but a busy signal at the front desk. Security is a little on the psychotic side but that’s maybe understandable – two years ago they told us there’d been a series of incidents close enough to the resort (which backs up to a big mall – oooh we lerv this mall! – clothes, makeup, food) close enough to worry them so they’re trying to be careful to protect hotel guests. The hotel grounds are beautiful. We love our room with its two sinks (I get both – GB gets a 2″ strip of counter along the wall,) its Creepy-Staring-Girl (GB walked into the room and immediately hung a towel over her face,), tons of mirrors, and private balcony overlooking the pool. But we’ve always stayed in the Palm Tower and have heard the Regency Tower is not only a bit of a walk from the ballroom but the rooms are smallish, dingy-ish and motel-ish. There are also “bungalows” (we’d call them “garden apartments”) which we’ve been told are beautiful. These can be a walk from the ballroom but hey, you’re strolling down fragrant paths adorned with flowers big as elephants, in San Diego sunshine, so really what’s not to like about a little walk? Our friends say these bungalows are awesome if you don’t like people because you don’t have to see any all weekend.
I’ve written about the breakfast buffet before – it’s pretty bad. Okay it’s really bad. Overpriced and under-fooded. You get to eat outside on the terrace, though, which is beautiful. And of course you don’t have to do the buffet – you can order from the menu if you prefer, and the food is fine. There’s also a sit-down restaurant behind the main pool – fancy, but more expensive. We went Saturday night and they had a live lounge band and couples dancing on a small marble floor! Old couples. Really old. So old I’m not sure they were still alive. There’s also a smaller sports-bar-kind-of-place for burgers, also a steak-house famous in the area. And the mall I mentioned – “Fashion Mall” – has a food court and other restaurants. So there are plenty of options besides the breakfast buffet. And if you’re hungry during the competitions Parker and Earl provide a hot food bar right there in the ballroom so if you’re about to pass out from hunger you can crawl back there and revive yourself with a plateful of hot Chinese food. There’s a Whole Foods two miles away to which the hotel provides a free shuttle. So lots of food options.
Speaking of food, Patrick Dickerson has a brilliant system which he told me about at Capital (when I was complaining about the lack of food options there) and I’ve been meaning to mention it since. It is genius. Here’s what he does: He gets to the event, checks in, throws his luggage into his room, goes to the nearest Target and buys a $20 rice-maker and a Styrofoam ice chest. Then he goes to Whole Foods (cause he’s a health nut but you could go to any grocery store) and buys some chicken breasts, pieces of salmon, bag of rice, some fresh vegetables, maybe some oatmeal. Takes it back to the room, stores it all in the ice chest packed in ice from the hotel ice-machine. For dinner he throws some rice, a chicken breast and a vegetable in the rice-maker, gets in the shower and when he gets out his dinner is all done, machine turns itself off automatically when done. For breakfasts he has oatmeal and some fruit. He keeps the receipt for the rice-maker and when he checks out of the room leaves the machine with the receipt inside for housekeeping to either take home or return to Target for a refund. Healthy eating all weekend, clean, convenient, and inexpensive! I love it! By the way, Patrick has recently lost about 582 pounds – such an accomplishment! Almost nothing harder than losing weight. As we all know too well. Congratulations to Patrick!
Live music Friday (Danny Maika) and Sunday (Leify Greene) both nights at 2am … cool idea as long as it’s kept short, danceable, and is actual music as opposed to talking about your next gig, your evolution as a musician and your pet’s mother’s favorite maiden name.
Awesome lighting all weekend! The backdrop at SwingDiego can’t be beat – a work of art in itself in addition to providing a classy, elegant, moody, atmosphere for the room and a gorgeous background for videos and photography. Fiery red with silhouettes of dancers as if they’re dancing against the horizon in front of a setting sun. All the lighting all weekend was terrific. And wait till you hear about lighting for the Champion Jack and Jill final! OMG SUCH a cool idea AUGHGHGHGH!!!
Champion Strictly Final – the last comp on Friday night. Leaders picked a genre out of the basket.
1. Maxence and Tatiana picked “sweet soul” so their song was “Sittin’ On The Dock of The Bay”
2. Ben and Sarah (genre: “fresh off the charts”) danced to “Me You and The Music” – Ben as a very funny frantic robot
3. Sean and Torri (“formerly known as contemporary”) – “Pump It Up”
4. Jordan and Virginie (genre: “sin city hip hop”) – “What’s My Name”
5. Brennar and Alyssa (genre: “balls-to-the-wall blues”) – “Drinkin’ Wine Spody Ody”
6. Kyle and Jessica (genre: “slap yo mamma blues”) – “The Sky Is Crying” (so sexy every person in the ballroom had a cigarette afterwards)
7. Deborah and Scott (genre: “old skool with a k”) – “Shake Your Groove Thing”
8. Kielbasa and Rutz (genre: “rock it out”) – “Another One Bites The Dust”
9. Robert Royston and Brandi (genre: “slow groovin”) – “I’m Calling You” absolutely gorgeous dancing, mesmerizing, perfect
10. Brent and Kellese (genre: “moon walking”) – “Pretty Young Thing”
11. Sharlot and Michael Norris (genre: “country”) to “Honky Tonk Women” (The Rolling Stones a country band! Who knew!) Michael led a whip-tunnel and cowboy side-kicks complete with whoops and hollers. Spurs and boots were the only things missing from this dance. Felt almost like a waste of two formidable talents but funny and fun to watch nonetheless.
12. Pete and Courtney (genre: “classic swing”) – “Fly Me To The Moon”
And the final All-Skate to Pitbull’s “Back In Time” (genre: “Children’s Rhyming Songs.”) No just kidding.
I learned a lot during this division! I had no idea “hip-hop” means R&B, “blues” means beach music, and “classic swing” means Frank Sinatra. Cute idea though, and a great show. These people could do west-coast to a Johann Strauss Viennese waltz in “genre: rap music” and they’d be fantastic.
And the placements were:
1 Kyle Redd & Jessica Cox
2 Michael Kielbasa & Melissa Rutz
3 Ben Morris & Sarah Vann Drake
4 Maxence Martin & Tatiana Mollmann
5 Jordan Frisbee & Virginie Gronbin
6 Brennar Goree & Alyssa Glanville
7 Robert Royston & Brandi Tobias
8 Sean Mckeever & Torri Smith
9 Brent Key & Kellese Key
10 Scott Stuart & Deborah Székely
11 Michael Norris & Sharlot Bott
12 Pete Green & Courtney Adair
There were 27 couples earlier in the night in the Champion Strictly prelim – you can imagine what a show that was!
Oh and I forgot to mention: Open Strictly: 83 couples! Advanced/Allstar JJ Prelim: 69 followers, 62 leaders!
Total weekend registrations: 1,580 (or 1,581 depending on whether you talk to Parker or Earl.)
One word: Abso [insert favorite expletive here] Lutely [insert expletive again] Awesome. No time to write all weekend cause Holy [insert expletive again] Shamoly – the schedule was packed with [expletive] awesomeness from the minute we arrived Thursday morning till the last minute we reluctantly dragged ourselves to the airport Monday morning, choked up with goodbye tears that it had to come to an end, still in a dance-all-night daze, heads still thumping with the vision of that burning red backdrop with “SwingDiego” slashed across in beautiful script, silhouettes of dancers sliding and turning and twisting in front ,,, like a farewell sunset … hating to see it end … what a weekend, what an amazing, amazing weekend!
Tons of pictures to upload to Facebook, suitcases to unpack, and a comp update to write so I can describe how moving and incredible the event was. Wow, just wow. SwingDiego! – best event of the year, no question. Nothing else quite like it, all year long.
Can’t wait to tell you all about it! But first I gotta get me some sleep. I’m wiped!
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:
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 …