Canberrang 2013 – the Sunday

Baby, it sure was cold outside.

Sunday started off with lindybombing the pants off of Old Bus Depot Markets in Kingston. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and it was probably the most fun I’ve had dancing on concrete. Public displays like that are great – they serve as wonderful advertisements for the dance. The DJs know this, meaning a whole range of songs get showcased – hard to find an hour of dancing as varied as this.

Then… the winery! The beautiful views of lovely outdoors were hampered by an icy wind that cut right through you. Luckily inside had a fire going (lovely!), not to mention the multitude of dancers. Lake George Winery is a nice venue, made all the more so by the availability of wine.

Dinner and dancing at Digress, my favourite place to go out to in Canberra, rounded off the extended weekend. The final social of Canberrang were broken up by a DJ battle and the Swing Olympics, a series of events too surreal to do justice on paper. All I can say is, watching the creative way that a certain team managed to cheat (*cough* China *cough*) at relay, ice skating and tobogganing made my day.

And with that, my Canberrang experience is done for the year. Already I’m counting down the days til my favourite lindy exchange returns to this beautiful city of ours, and when it does I’ll be right here transcribing each day, typing through the pain and fighting off sleep for just another few moments.

Until then, I’ll take some well-earned rest. I hope my fellow dancers are able to do the same.

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Canberrang 2013 – the Saturday

The weekend! A chance to relax and unwind.

Haha! As if.

Waking up this morning at the unreasonable hour of 10 am wasn’t as rough as it could have been, but it was no picnic. But it was worth it. A special hi to anyone who came to saw us dance at Garema Place in the middle of Canberra’s central shopping district – if you’re interested, I recommend signing up for lessons. It’s pretty much always like that for swing socials. Well okay, the awesome live band is usually a DJ. But not always!

Afternoon dancing at Australian National University House was the point during the day when I realised I’m going to be hungry and thirsty no matter what I do. It’s a strange sensation to be full yet aching for more food, or dehydrated despite drinking constantly.

And come Monday, I’ll likely sleep all day and still feel tired. There’s nothing like constant exercise to make you feel like you’re breaking the rules of biology.

The evening event was held at Albert Hall, one of my favourite venues. Its large dance floor struggles under the number of dancers the socials there attract, but the genuine old-time feel of the place gives it a great atmosphere. There’s a balcony, too, that lets you get away from it all while giving you a perfect view. I can say from experience, though – if you’re up in the balcony and there’s a Shim Sham, by the time you get down there it’ll be up to the full break. Ah well.

Then there was the afterparty. As usual, it was a blur of great food, sore legs and really bizarre dancing. One of the most fun things you can be doing at 1:30am… that’s right, I stand by that.

Canberrang 2013 – the Friday

Dancing in a wintery wonderland.

Tonight was held at the Italo-Australian club, a nice venue with spacious dance floors and great pizzas. Seriously – the cost-to-dancing-energy ratio on those things was very low, and it tasted great to boot. People really got into the theme of mountain gear, surprisingly so given that it’s impossible to dance in any such attire.

Then came the after party. All I remember from this is a sensational hot chocolate and a 3am shim sham – not my best, but certainly not my worst.

One thing that’s becoming clear is that my fast dancing is getting better. I’m keeping up with songs that as little as a month ago would have had me flailing around like a fish with arthritis. Nothing like endless social dancing to really test your abilities.

Words are coming difficultly to me. My shower and bed beckon, my body all too aware that dancing at Garema place is less than eight hours away. Lindybombing the middle of Canberra, with a live band – I can’t wait, yet I’m going to hate my alarm when it goes off.

Canberrang 2013!

Oh boy, is it that time of year already?

The event that launched this blog is back – Canberrang 2013 is officially underway. Like last year the Thursday night was at the wonderful Kurrajong Hotel. DJs kept the pace low (thank goodness!), giving us humble dancers the chance for our legs to warm up.

One event down, a mere ten to go. I’m buzzing. I’m feeling tired, sweaty and hungry. It’s going to be a great weekend.

The 10 Commandments of the Social Dance Floor

If I blog for 100 years, I hope to one day write something as awesome as this

The Jazz Monkey

Dance etiquette isn’t exactly rocket science, but a surprising number of dancers seem to have the memory of a starfish for it.

(Contrary to popular belief, goldfish do have a pretty decent memory, as proven by the Norse gods of myth busting. So if this article sucks, you can at least tell yourself you learnt something today. But I digress.)

Without further ado, here they are: the Jazz Monkey’s Ten Commandments of the social dance floor.

10- Thou shalt learn the rules

Every floor has its own set of rules.

Progressive dances – tango or fox-trot, for example – have what we call a line of dance which runs counter-clockwise around the edge of the floor – sometimes there’s even “lanes” for fast-moving and slow-moving couples. If you’re a Lindy Hopper amongst ballroom dancers, and a jazzy quickstep comes on, be sure to “make the Lindy” (as swing dancers say) in…

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A comparison, in which Lindy Hop beats the traditional options

I have an idea. Now now, don’t look at me like that. You’ll like this one, I promise. If implemented correctly is has the potential to lead to higher than ever interest in Lindy Hop, social dancing all night and every night, even government investment in the dance. Oh, and it might just save civilisation as we know it.

Anyone who has been to a lesson or social dance will tell you that the room gets hot. I mean, really hot. Jokes about dancers being hot people aside, the combined heat output of even a sparse dancefloor is phenomenal. And yet, all that heat is wasted.

You know where I’m going with this. In our energy-hungry world, don’t you think we should be tapping into this power source? As far as electricity generation goes, it stands up fairly well:

Fuel Source

Forget fossil fuels, nuclear, wind or the sun. With obesity set to become the greatest health concern of our time, Lindy Hoppers will produce energy while lowering the nation’s health costs. No other power source is so socially friendly.

Pollution

None. Well, quite a bit of noise pollution. And occasionally some outfits create visual pollution.

Peak Output Times

Lindy Hoppers are famously nocturnal. As a power source, it compliments solar perfectly.

Infrastructure

It takes minutes to set up, minutes to take down. Requiring little more than a laptop and speakers, it’s also one of the cheaper and more mobile options.

Coolant

Nuclear power plants require so much coolant that they tend to be built next to lakes. Lindy Hoppers require about a litre of water per dancer per hour, with the occasional Powerade and beer thrown in.

Output (Gigawatts)

I don’t know the numbers off the top of my head, but they must be huge. Consider these photos snapped during Melbourne Swing Festival last weekend:

Meat Market

Meat Market
Melbourne Town Hall

Melbourne Town Hall

Despite being in a Melbourne winter, these large, cavernous, high-ceilinged venues took very little time before they started to warm up. In the case of the meat market venue, the temperature gradient from one end to the open air was more than just noticeable; it was downright shocking. Seems like we could have powered the whole city… or at the very least, the sound system. Who knows, carbon neutral lindy exchanges may be just around the corner…

Feet

Everything in my life comes back to swing dancing.

I’m a fan of self-improvement, of the steady quest to make yourself better. A series of small and achievable goals can, over the course of years, lead you live a much more fulfilling life. It can make you healthier, more knowledgeable, more in control of your own affairs. More importantly, it makes you interesting. Unusual but meaningful targets for improvement are wonderful things to find.

A classic example is this post about how giving up shoes can improve your life. As someone who is physically active (obviously I dance, but that’s not all I do) I’m interested in looking after my joints, but what I found really captivating was the description of how much stronger and freer going shoeless made him feel. It was exactly the sort of change for the better I like – easy to try, dramatic results… and kinda quirky.

I was apprehensive at the start. Reading through the rest of the site, there were a few parts that jumped out at me like:

The easiest place to start is in your house, it is a safe and comfortable environment. For the first little while, as your muscles develop, you will probably feel soreness and stiffness in the feet and calves. This is normal and will subside as the muscles rise to the occasion. The important thing is to take it slow, listening to the body, and not over-doing it.

And this was coming from a very physically active guy. Even for all his jogging and bike riding, it was still painful and difficult at first. And it wasn’t just a change of muscle strength I would be facing, but also one of technique – the forefoot should be making contact with the ground first, not the heel. With all this in mind I slipped off my shoes and started walking around my house…

… and I was walking exactly as described in the blog. It required no effort on my part to land on my forefoot. What’s more, I wasn’t feeling it. I could have kept it up all day.

The answer was, of course, in swing dancing. Try rock-stepping, or triple-stepping, or kick-lands. Try any piece of footwork you can think of. Chances are you aren’t landing on your heel first. Doing so would probably feel unnatural, not to mention stress your joints. So the technique of this style of walking was already embedded in me. What’s more, the relevant muscles were already built up in a way that no amount of jogging, cycling or bushwalking could.

The wonderful Ramona likes to say that if you can walk, you can dance. I guess in this case, the reverse is also true.