Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Passing the torch and Rocky Mountain Balboa Blow Out 2012

Mind blown, as expected. My mind is always blown after attending a balboa event. I guess that sort of thing happens when you have only attended a few bal events and those few are spread out by years. Okay, so, should you spend the time and money to attend this event in the future? The answer is yes and here is the list of reasons why:

1)      A very well thought out and organized event (Cheers to Sheri this year as the event manager)
2)      Top rate instructors (Mickey Fortanasce, Kelly Arsenault, David Rehm, Bobby White, Kate Hedin, Laura Keat, Jeremy Otth, Heather Ballew, Sylvia Sykes, Denise Phelan, Nick Williams, Shana Worel and Jason Swihart)
3)      Great band
4)      Beautiful dance hall, floor
5)      Inspiring dancers travel this event
6)      Class tracks- kudos for them including a beginning track for advanced dancers(a great way to get non bal dancers to a bal event)
7)      Lunch time discussion

I know that some people might complain about number six, but you know what, tracks are fantastic. They are great for the teachers and student alike because it cuts down on the amount of complaints. This year, for the first time (apparently), they did a level “check” instead of an audition. Basically, if your technique was not up to par in the track that you placed yourself in, they would ask you to move. Instructors don’t place you in a lower level to be mean, they do it because it cuts down your frustration and of those you might partner with. You should trust the instructors; they have many more years of experience as teachers and dancers than you probably do. This IS their job afterall.

Speaking of professionals and our dance culture- I am always impressed with the passion and knowledge that these instructors have for our dance, whether that is lindy hop, balboa or whatever.  These are intelligent people that really, pardon the vernacular, know their shit.  The professional instructors for our dance culture are doing their best to pass on the knowledge so that we, as dancers, can understand our heritage and honor that heritage.  

I see many new dancers get a brief taste of our culture and really not understand anything about it, nor do they seek it. It’s reflected in their attitudes and their dancing skills. It makes my heart weep thinking about it. So, bless the instructors at this event for doing that.  It’s not like there is a class you can take on it, you just need be around to absorb the information. If you have no idea what the hell I am talking about, go and do some research about the history of our dance. Right now. Serious, do it.

I have to say, that as far as learning about our cultural heritage, I am glad that it is coming from the instructors, real dancers that are active in our community, and not from a stuffy professor that has only observed our culture from an “outsider’s” perspective (ha, that is as soap boxy as I am going to get about the evils of academia).  

I was honored to see Denise Phelan and Sylvia Sykes pay homage to Hal Takier(an original balboa dancer) at the Saturday night dance. While talking about Hal, Denise could barely hold it together, she considered him family. It was touching to see and even though I am not as educated on Bal history, I started to get misty eyed myself. There, at this event, were people who knew and cared about the history of balboa and were telling awesome stories about the old timers.

Now Sylvia and Denise are filling the old timer shoes now and are beautifully taking up the torch (and have been for quite awhile now),  passing along the knowledge they have acquired over the years. There was a particular moment during Sylvia’s talk that really struck me (pardon me, this is a bit paraphrased): –“If the old timers were ever to come back, I want them to still be able to recognize the dance” and “that it was important that we preserve the spirit of the dance itself”. That could spark a whole other conversation, but let’s save that for later.

Sylvia and Denise also articulated that balboa was not a dance where you can outwardly see the “coolness” of it. The best part of balboa is interplay between you and your partner; it is all about how it feels. That being said, they also pointed out that if you can do your basics really fucking well it would be impressive, even to non dancers (then Sylvia proceeded to tell us that she worked on it for thirty years). Well, of course crappy basics are boring to watch, especially for an outsider.

Anyway, in the spirit of Sylvia’s soap boxy rants (Hey, her words, not mine) keep the spirit of balboa going and take the time to really understand it- oh, be floaty J

I normally end my blogs with “Swing out and prosper”, but I think it would be appropriate to say in this case:

Toss out and prosper


PS I was damn inspired by all of the wonderful dancers at this event and I can’t wait to get out on the bal floor and dance again! 

1 comment:

Tam Francis said...

I feel the same way about Balboa. I haven't been to this event, but have attended many Bal Rendezvous and it is always amazing. I too write about dance, but vintage stuff too? Maybe we can exchange links? Great pix and links on your site BTW!