The original impetus for our trip to Seattle was the opportunity to attend Camp Jitterbug. Earlier this year, Yair and I had seen a host of YouTube videos showcasing some of the more awesome CJ lindy hop dancing, and our experience with the real deal this weekend did not disappoint.
Six hours of classes (divided by level) and eight hours of social dancing to live big band music were offered each day in gorgeous event halls. By the end of the weekend, our calves were totally dead and we were exhausted from the go-go-go schedule (and the crazy speedy dancing!), but it was well worth it. Though Yair doesn’t seem too interested in further advancing his dancing, he nailed some basics and I learned a bunch.
In addition to the classes, there was a lunchtime lecture each day with surprise guests. One of the very famous dancers in the movie Hellzapoppin‘ is now a senior and spent the weekend with the group. Over and over again, she implored the audience to involve black kids in jitterbug. In her words: “Swing at the Savoy used to be for blacks, Jews and Italians. It’d bring everyone together. These days, black kids like hip hop and rap and think that swing is a white people thing. It’s up to each of you to change that. I need you because I can’t do it anymore. I live in a white neighborhood.” At this point, the room began to chuckle while hopefully also heeding her message.
I don’t normally care about clothing, but the fashion at the event was incredible. The vintage ’40s dresses, hair and makeup combined with the old school music and venues felt like they were nostalgically pulling us back toward a time we almost knew. I learned that many serious lindy dancers spend their summer in Herräng (Sweden) at an intensive lindy hop dance camp. Part of me wants to be spontaneous and just decide to spend the summer in Sweden, but we have our parks plans and I have some Faces of Israel gigs at camps. Practically, I would learn the most from dancing with some good and patient leads and taking lessons locally and not just going to Sweden, because the hardest part is learning to be a good follow.
A note on accommodations: Our weekend accommodations were arranged through Camp Jitterbug and were an experience to say the least. Our host had a heart of gold and even made us pancakes for breakfast in the morning, but he had offered his one-bedroom to both us and another couple meaning that we had to bring sleeping bags, sleeping pads and sleep side by side on the floor next to him each night. This wouldn’t have been so crazy, except that there were only two keys between the five of us, so someone was always being woken up to let someone else in and our host owned two temperamental cats that would puke and pee on anything that they didn’t like, so Yair and I had to pack up our stuff and put it in a corner each morning in order to protect it. Not to mention that Yair is pretty allergic to cats, which is the one comment we put on the housing form. An experience. I could go on, but I won’t.
Instead, I’ll bring you up to date with our second community hosts – a wonderful couple named Ron and Rob who were very welcoming and whose accommodations were “luxury plus”. (We had our own bedroom and bathroom with access to a washing machine, the kitchen and a car.) Ron and Rob are a lovely and interesting couple who are very active in their local Conservative shul and have been together for 20 years. What took me a moment to realize when I first received their names and information by e-mail is that they are a same-sex couple.
In my mind, gay marital rights are a given, we have many gay friends, and Yair and I are both very liberal on social issues. But it threw me for a moment that the Jewish community and the Jewish federation who hosted us and arranged accommodations would house us with a gay couple and also not even mention it as a heads up. On reflection, I think it’s kind of great that it was such a “duh, non-issue” that it wasn’t even mentioned in advance. But it also reminds me of the background, perspective and assumptions that I bring to my life experiences… because if the Orthodox community was hosting me, we would definitely not be housed with a same-sex couple or – if we were – the accommodations would definitely be mentioned and cleared beforehand.
On an unrelated yet interesting note, all four of our wonderful community hosts were Jews by choice. An odd coincidence and each one had a fascinating story to share. Here are a handful of short videos from the weekend:
To end this thought-mash of an entry, I would like to let our New York area readers know about an awesome upcoming event in their area. Figment NYC is an incredible celebration of art, culture and creativity and is taking place this year on June 10-12th. The event is totally free and worth exploring. Check it out!
posted by ayo