PAULthinksmusings by a feminist
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Today is Sunday, the last official day of Showdown.  I’ve got to try to get myself going so that I don’t miss any of the competitions this afternoon: Teams and choreographed Couples are supposed to start at 3pm and I already feel late.  Fortunately, this is a fasting day so I’ve already tossed back 15 calories worth of Airborne and Crystal Light to get started (3 drinks worth), and I’ll just need to buy a lot of low-cal, electrolyte filled liquid goodness throughout the day to keep me going.  I don’t know about the After Hours Soul party.  Since I actually have my own transportation this year, I think I will give it a shot for once.  I’ll check in after the afternoon events…

When I arrived at the Cinema Ballroom, it was around 3:30pm, half-an-hour after the Teams were “scheduled” to start, and the line of people outside the door was just marching in.  So I don’t think I missed anything.  I climbed up the stairs to my usual 2nd floor vantage point and saw that on the ground floor, all the spectators were not facing the bandstand as usual but rather the mirrored side wall with a large space cleared on the floor in front of those mirrors.  I walked up to DJ Larkin and peered over his shoulder to see a bunch of people apparently watching… nothing.  When I asked DJ, “What’s everybody looking at?”, he quite intelligently informed me, “The floor.”

After a few minutes, during which Sean thanked everyone for watching themselves in the mirror, he came out to the center of the cleared space to introduce the Team competition.  Apparently, there were only two entries.  He played it up well, though: “Last night, there were 16 teams!  These are the two finalists!”

I was in a poor position to see and hear but the first team came out in black and blue outfits and I think they were from the west coast.  They put on a fun, decently choreographed routine with a few “ooooh” segments.   They looked nervous as heck and who could blame ’em?  The second team was Hot Rhythm Rising from the ATL.  Joanna Lucero was on the team and the choreography was great.  There was a good spread of effects, there was good use of the space and plenty of teamwork.  The reverse was gimmicky but fun.  I know that lots of the top-level competitions use jam-style format for non-choreographed divisions, so we see a lot of it, but I do wish one of the teams had included a spotlight section of some type.  I like to see the interplay between the individual couples (you know what I mean) and the team as a whole, and the spotlights are great for that.  I can’t say that these were the best teams I’ve ever seen.  The first team seemed very nervous and a little unsteady on their feet.  The second team was very solidly put together but didn’t have any “wow” moments for me.  I wonder why there weren’t more teams?  Because of ILHC?  ALHC?  Economy?

There was a short break where I social danced a little bit and then we were called to attention by Sean for hands-down the COOLEST format for a showcase division (choreographed couple) I’ve ever seen.   I had known about this in passing but hadn’t really contemplated the implications until it was right in front of me.  As usual, the couples would choose their own piece of music to choreograph and would practice to that until they came to the competition.  Normally, the couples just submit their CD to the event DJ so that their song can be played at the appropriate time.  In this case, the couples had to submit their songs’ arrangements to the event in advance so that the Live Bands could learn the songs and play LIVE during the contest.  Holy Freaking Awesome.  I think the couples had to practice to the live bands in advance this morning.  If they didn’t, then what happened seems miraculous.

The first couple were Oscar and Mikhaila (sp?) and they really planned this out well.  The Hot Swing Combo played for them and it was so amazing I could barely stand it!  Lots of cool breaks in the music where the couple pulled terrific accent moves, plenty of variation in the feeling of the song to give the couple more chance to play, and at least one “wow” aerial, all of which happened in time to the LIVE BAND!

The second couple were Mike and Laura and every time I’ve seen them do a couple’s choreographed routine, they always dress up in 20’s Ritz style.  Today was no exception.  They got to dance to Loose Marbles playing their song, with singing by the mesmerizing female singer.  Oh man, so good.  This couple had their own style very distinct from Oscar and Mikhaila’s, but they seemed to have planned out their performance just as well and had the same great characteristics.  I’m embarassed to say that I keep wanting to prefer Mike and Laura’s routine in part because of the great job done by Loose Marbles!  But since that doesn’t make sense, I think Oscar and Mikhaila get my vote.

Somewhere in the middle of the showcase couples, Sean had to draw out a few minutes WHILE THE LIVE BANDS SWAPPED PLACES (I can’t get over that).   He therefore orchestrated a silly contest: whomever could eat a Chipotle’s burrito the fastest, would win a coupon for 5 more for free!  Cole Allen and Andrew Thigpen competed in a slow but funny contest that Andrew ultimately won.  Still, Cole hadn’t had a chance to eat yet, so in a way she won, too.

Then came the third couple, Hannah and her partner whose name I forget.  They danced to Hot Swing Combo.  Unfortunately, they somewhat lessened the impact of their routine because throughout the other divisions this weekend, they’d already shown off some of their moves.  Like when Hannah is held at waist height by her partner and pretends to fly/swim.  It would have been cooler if I hadn’t just seen it last night.  Overall, it was a good routine, but didn’t move me as much as the previous two.

After the last couple, before he broke up the crowd for social dancing, Sean held another novelty contest, this time for free admission to… an event whose name I forget.  But the point was the contest.  Five contestants had to drop to the push up position and then on “go”, had to prop themselves up into a one-arm plank position, with the opposite arm held pointed toward the sky.  It was amusing.  Particularly with the semi-trash talking.

And last but not least, Sean also conducted a “mental” contest, again for an event whose name I fail to recall.  This consisted of asking five contestants to explain the reason for the current economic crisis.  Julius was funny, the Asian guy at the other end was just a Bush-basher, and the white guy at that end had nothing useful to contribute.  But the second fellow and Jason Niesz had useful and intelligent analyses of the situation, so they both won.

Then came more social dancing to the Hot Swing Combo.  They were great as usual but for some reason had taken to playing really long songs that were either fast or slow with little in-between.  After they broke for the afternoon, there also came some nice DJ-ed music.

I danced with Tracy Kerchkof, Eli from Norway, Katie from MN , the Girl named Mike, Cole from Seattle, Anderson (Andi?) from Seattle, Gina from Seattle… I think I have a Lindy Crush on Seattle.  I may have danced with another follow or two, but sadly, I don’t recall.  Still, since I left around 5:30, that means that in two hours I witnessed two competitions, three novelty contests, one cause advertisement, and also danced with at least seven follows.  That’s better than I’ve done in any other two hours in months.

By the time the contests were all over and I’d danced a few songs, I was sweating like nobody’s business and was feeling a bit lightheaded.  I needed to eat something.  So, I swung by the SuperAmerica and picked up a few vitamin waters and some zero calorie PowerAdes.  The two vitamin waters added up to 125 calories and 100 calories.  Then, when I returned to my hotel room, I finished off the Thai food: tofu + vegetables + noodles = not fasting.  But I think it was a good idea.  Okay, I also had the 53 calorie (it was printed on the wrapper) fortune cookie that I had left.  But from this point forth, I shall again try not to ingest anything but fluids.  We’ll see.  More after the night’s dancing…

I got back to the ballroom by around 9:15 and the awards had not yet been given out.  It’s amazing how much the crowd had thinned out, but I guess many dancers don’t have Columbus Day off?  At least the Loose Marbles’ dog had space to hang out.

So, a good chunk of the time prior to midnight was spent on the awards ceremony.  You can look elsewhere to find the placements.  Other awards ceremonies are boring and should be skipped unless you have a vested interest, but I’ve found that Showdown always has a good awards show.  Mostly because of the funny contests that the organizers and MC devise and which Sean delivers in a side-splitting deadpan.  First came the prison pushups challenge which led into a pushup-hold challenge wherein we all learned that Anna curses under pressure and Eric is not quite as formidable as he appears.

Then a variation on the old dizzybat challenge: spin in a circle and then lindy hop!  Everybody did pretty well.  Which makes me think they should have to spin in more circles next time.  Still, very funny to watch.

The next contest was a catwalk contest, in the vein of a fashion show.  Adam Boehmer kicked it off in uproarious style, followed by many impressive contenders.  Tena had a lot going for her, but Peter’s over-the-top performance was the obvious standout.  You had to see it.  It was funnier than I can describe.

And then the last novelty contest I remember of the night was essentially “stupid human tricks”, consisting of: a girl doing “the matrix” limbo pose, a fellow busting out some old school break dancing in true white boy style, a very flexible woman showing off how long her lines can be, an awesome use of Adam Boehmer for a Wookie imitation, and then Hannah doing the impossible: licking her own elbow.  This was some messed up fun.  Great!

Sometime during the second band set, the Solo Charleston contest was held.  I thought some people should have been tapped out sooner, and I was surprised that Joanna got tapped out because she looked terrific.  The standouts for me were definitely Hurley and Mikhaila (sp?) though, so I’m glad there was a King and Queen for this award because they really brought it to the contest.

It was sad when Sean announced the end of the final contest of the weekend.  That’s always a bit sad, like during a great dream when you can tell you’re going to wake up soon but you really don’t want to leave the fantasy world just yet.  It was sad again in the 1am-2am hour when Loose Marbles announced they would play their last song… and then after that song when they really played their last song.  Still, it’s become a tradition that I really like and that outsiders may not get, to break away from your own dancing and cheer for the band for the end of their last song.  I like that it happened again at ULHS.  My people!

And that was it for the official events of ULHS 2008.  I didn’t spend a lot of blog time dwelling on individual dances or individual encounters with people, but I’ll try to touch on some highlights.  The Michigan crew of dancers were fun to hang around because they really brought back to me that slightly scared, slightly excited, slightly confused joy that I had when I was just beginning to dance and would attend a big event.  My DC friends were in strong force both in socializing and impressing the heck out of other attendees on the dance floor.  Not to mention the great non-choreographed showings by people I often see on a weekly basis.  On a more personal level, DJ and Meg always seem to be the couple in the know who are nice to me, their backwards cousin, and I appreciate them for it.  Soo and Alicia have filled that space in my life where I really needed friends to help me heckle–and I’m so glad.  I had some great fast dances, but my favorites (though there weren’t enough) were probably with Carolyn from Seattle.  I also had some great slow dances, and my favorites were definitely with Cole from Seattle.  Seattle, I think I heart you.

For my final dance card wrapup, tonight, I danced with Cole from Seattle, Carolyn from Seattle, Deen from NY, Angie from MN, Laney from MN, Lauren from MN, Lucy Dunne, Kelly Arsenault, Alicia Mazzara, probably others that my tired mind cannot recall.  I had one or two awkward dances but not a single bad dance all weekend.  Whether I listed you or not, know that I was thrilled to dance with you, and thank you!

I got back to the hotel around 3:30am, local time.  This is it for the official Showdown related part of my Traveblogue, but I’ll write an epilogue tomorrow, maybe, on my thoughts on other aspects of my weekend.  Overall, this event was great fun.  I danced a lot, I watched some really enjoyable events, I connected with people on the dance floor and off.  I’ve already begun sending off “friend” requests to various people to try to stay in touch.  We’ll see how that goes.  I think I feel inspired enough to try to get back to more dancing in my home area.  I definitely want to go to next year’s Showdown in New Orleans.  Maybe I’ve been feeling burned out lately because I kept seeing the same people at the same venues dancing to the same music.  Perhaps that’s another reason why I should make the effort to do more trips in a year than just one: Camp Jitterbug,  you’re on notice!

About Paul Roth

A vegetarian, agnostic, lindy-hopping, dog-loving tv-watcher who likes to read his own words.
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