Now that everyone’s settled into their usual routines, it seems like the perfect time to recap Seaside Stomp. For anyone who may have missed it, Seaside Stomp was a Lindy Hop exchange in Pensacola, FL during Memorial Day weekend. A weekend full of beach bums and dancing. If you did miss it, however, no need to worry. There are plenty of exchanges coming up in the near future.
As a newbie in the swing scene, the anticipation of my first out-of-town event was weighing heavy on my anxious car ride toward the Pensacola beach. Now, let me just say, that though I am a fairly new dancer (about three months shy of my first year), I’ve had the advantage of being from New Orleans. So while this was my first exchange I’d traveled to, I’m thankful for the fact that many before had traveled to me. So I wasn’t surprised to meet people from across the country, and some from outside of it.
The weekend started with a Friday evening dance led by New Orleans’ own Shake Em’ Up Jazz Band. Dancers got a chance to warm up their legs straight off the drive from their local swing community. Shortly after midnight most of the crowd began to head toward the late night dance, grabbing a bite to eat and having a chat with unacquainted dancers on the way. The late night dance had a plethora of studios from which to choose, for whatever might tickle your dancing fancy. The blues room was lit up to set the tone as slow blues played in the background, the Lindy Hop room jumped with people dancing to old time Swing, and the Balboa room stood just across the hall.
The next day was filled with four hours of classes at the UWF recreation center. Taking lessons for hours straight may not sound like the most enjoyable way to spend one’s day, but multitudes of people, ranging from recent beginners all the way to tenured dancers with years of experience under their belts, showed up for lessons to tighten their technique. The classes covered everything from fast and slow dancing to body awareness and fancy footwork.
On Saturday night, Moonshine Rhythm Club played their hearts out in a huge gymnasium-like room on a chilly night in Pensacola. Though I may be biased, this night was probably my favorite as it included a performance by the Nola Chorus Girls and Crescent City Swing Jazz Squares, as well as a Mix & Match competition in which four New Orleans dancers made it to the final round. It was amazing to see so many great dancers performing next to each other. And it’s safe to say that New Orleans definitely showed out on Saturday night. It’s also safe to say we had no problem tooting our own horn, chanting “Nola! Nola!” any and every chance we got. At midnight the band took its final bow and music from the speakers took over for dancers who weren’t tired out yet. Being among the many who weren’t tired enough to quit, I continued to have one of my best nights of dancing (dancing at exchanges is always better, for some reason). And I was even able to pick up on some moves I learned earlier in class. It was for this reason I succeeded in convincing myself it’d be alright to play hooky from classes the next day to go to the beach.
I love dancing, though another four hours in constant movement would have been too much. I’d barely recovered from classes, let alone dancing until 3 am! The beach sounded a contrary use of time spent. So I put away my dancing shoes for the day and slipped on some sandals. The next few hours were spent accidentally swallowing salt water, napping on the sand, and reading Spanish poetry with friends. After a much needed rest on the Pensacola seaside, we all gathered our things and started to get ready for yet another night of dancing.
Avery & the Beards took the stage Sunday night at the Voices of Pensacola Multicultural Center. This was a change from traditional jazz as the room grooved to upbeat rockabilly and slow blues all night. Now as a listener, I love blues. It was one of my favorite genres growing up and I can still jam out to Stevie Ray Vaughan any given day of the week. But as a dancer, I despise it. Catch me at any slow blues gathering with my hands in my pockets praying someone doesn’t ask me to dance (I’m only a little serious). I’ve begun to love and trust the foundational steps of Lindy Hop. Faced with a dance that has less structure than what I’m used to, it’s only natural I’d hate it with a burning passion. But alas, I gritted my teeth and made the best of what I had to work with. And it wasn’t so bad after all. Because at the end of the day that’s what all of this is about. No one’s asking you to be Susie Q or Shorty George. Though, certainly no one is keeping you from being them either.
For me, the last night of Seaside Stomp ended on a pitch black beach enthralled in lighthearted conversation, listening to the waves ride to and fro, reflecting on the weekend. The first out-of-town exchange was a success, and the group was already beginning to plan the next. Wherever it may be, I’m down.
For any of you who missed out, worry not! I’ve done some research on upcoming exchanges nearby:
- Balast Off: A Balboa exchange in Huntsville, AL for those who are interested in Balboa, have just started, or have been doing it for years. Aug. 4-6
- KLX: Lindy Hop exchange in Knoxville, TN. Sep. 8-10
- Lindy Hop on the Plains: A Lindy Hop exchange in Auburn, AL. This will be located inside the Auburn University campus. Sep. 22-24
- New Orleans Swing Dance Festival: The 9th Annual New Orleans Lindy Hop exchange. Sep. 28-Oct. 2.
Ian Monroe is a contributing writer for Crescent City Swing, community member, and friend.