The festival is upon us! Every October hundreds of people from around the world come to town for a celebration of dance, music, and all things swing. This year, we want to introduce you to the director of the festival and a major behind-the-scenes creative force in our city: Amy Johnson.
How long have you been swing dancing? Where did you start?
I have been swing dancing almost 20 years now. Its actually a bit of a mind trip to think about that. I started in the Twin Cities in 1998 right at the height of neo-swing popularity. I would be lying if I said that things like the Gap swing commercial and the movie Swing Kids didn't give me encouragement to start. But I had been a fan of old movies and swing music long before that.
How old is the swing dance festival?
The New Orleans Swing Dance Festival is turning 9 this year. It started in 2008 when I moved The Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown to New Orleans from Minneapolis. The Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown would be turning 16 this year of it wasn't taking a much needed break.
What's your vision for this year's event?
The vision for this year is all about exploring the variety of styles of dance and music under the umbrella swing. There are so many that we can't even feature during the weekend because there just isn't enough time. And as usual we have classes with live music. There is nothing more valuable than hearing the perspective of the people playing the music you dance to.
What are you up to when you're not organizing this crazy thing?
I also run a summer camp for adults called Welbourne Jazz Camp on a farm in Middleburg, Virginia. Its for people of all ability levels who want to learn to play jazz and also study lindy hop, tap, and jazz. Its the most fun thing I do all year. I love it so much.
Throughout the year I also run The Chorus Girl Project and The NOLA Chorus Girls with another local dancer, Laura Manning. We do our own original choreographies to all local band recordings. We also do parades but thats not the main thing we do. We mostly focus on performing in local jazz clubs. The Chorus Girls are super fun because it's ladies of all ages from all over the city coming together to dance and break away from their normal life.
What's your favorite place to dance in town?
Naming my favorite place to dance is a hard one. When it comes down to it, I love to dance anywhere there is music that is really really good. I am very much partial to dancing to bands my friends are in. They just happen to also be the best around.
What are you going to be for Halloween?
Not sure yet. My 6 year old nephew thinks I should be a Minion like him.
Where can I find the best Thai Iced Tea in New Orleans?
The best thai tea? Hmm. Well, I drink the most at The Orange Couch because I basically live there when I'm working. Sukho Thai is good too. But the best Thai tea I've ever had was in Middleburg (where Welbourne Jazz Camp is) at Best Thai. :)
Check out The New Orleans Swing Dance Festival website for details about schedule and ticketing. We, your friendly neighborhood Crescent City Swingers will be there too, teaching the Beginner Lindy Hop classes and hosting the festival's community ambassador program. Find our table at the event!