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Swingin’ at Swingesota

So, full disclosure: I had never really attended an actual workshop weekend prior to Swingesota. Every weekend event that I had gone to so far has been a competition with WSDC points. Being a college student, you’re put in a position in which you have to think of every investment from an economic standpoint. Exactly how much do I get back from an event if I pay x amount and do/don’t get to compete? How much social dancing will I get at a workshop weekend compared to a comp? Are there going to be more or less workshops than at a comp? All of these questions were a concern to me when it came to workshop weekends, so naturally, I gravitated more towards comp weekends that seemed to offer more.

So how did I end up going to Swingesota? Almost two months before Swingesota, I attended Jack and Jill O’rama (there’s a blogpost on this event too if you’re curious about it :P). During Sunday night dinner with some friends, Tracy introduced to me to Hieu Le, the event director for Swingesota. The three of us chatted a little (predominantly Tracy being a dance mom), and Hieu offered me a pass to go to Swingesota. Tracy remarked that it was her favorite event of the year, and I was quickly convinced that it was going to be awesome.

Fast forward to the end of July, and I was on a plane to Minnesota! The first awesome thing that happened was that, despite the fact that I arrived mid-competition, Chris Kempainen, a Minnesotan dancer, picked me up from the airport to give me a ride to Friday night’s dance. It was incredibly kind of him to go out of his way to pick someone he didn’t know up. The next awesome thing about that night was seeing a couple of friends I met earlier in the summer; I was thrilled to see Danika, a fellow college student dancer, who I met at Wild Wild Westie (she is amazing by the way), and Nina, who I also met the same night I met Hieu (and has the cutest smile). Though there were many unfamiliar faces, being away from Texas, I felt happy because everyone was very friendly. The same night, the Jill and Jill + Jack and Jack competitions took place, which were extremely fun to watch. I’ve never seen anything like it before (the most I’ve seen is reverse role), and it was an absolute joy to watch. Props to Shanna and Marguerite for an awesome dance!

The next morning (more like noon), I was prepared for a day full of learning. After getting to the dance studio, I ferociously scarfed down the donuts that Tracy had bought the previous night in effort to start my brain. Robert started his workshop. And let me tell you, it was very insightful. In the past when I attended a workshop taught by a very scientific, I didn’t understand everything. And I certainly did not this time around either. However, out of the many topics that Robert talked about, one thing in particular stood out to me and stayed with me: peck flexing. What?!?!?! You heard me!!! What I mean by this is, Robert mentioned that many people falsely “engage their lats” by squeezing their back muscles as hard as they can, when in reality, your peck should be involved as well. We tried out peck flexing on our partners and got positive feedback. It’s not something I am able to implement in my dancing but I’m going to continue working on it!

The next big thing that happened that day was the Advanced/All-Star Prelims. I wasn’t hoping to make finals due to the number of All-Stars present at the event, so I was able to focus on having fun during my prelim dances. However, much to my surprise (and horror) I made finals. Why horror? Well, all of the dancers who made finals were absolutely amazing and I was really new to Advanced. Also, I had never done a true spotlight up until that point. I had a feeling that I was going to draw a really good lead and make the dance boring or mess up. After long and stressful seat warming, I drew Conor McClure, an All-Star dancer. To say I was nervous was an understatement. The music started – we got a fast blues song, and I knew it was over for me (I’m terrible at blues, let alone fast blues HA!). Luckily, Conor was very friendly and made the dance really fun. We built off of each other’s comedic energy and got cheers from the audience. I’m not going to lie – I was pretty proud of myself.

The next day had another set of awesome workshops taught by John, Alyssa, and Robert. However, the most memorable part of the day was lounging at a restaurant near the docks. To think I wanted to take a nap during that time! I’m so glad that I didn’t. According to Tracy, it was a tradition that happened at the end of every Swingesota weekend. There, I got to chat with and meet so many new people that I didn’t get to meet throughout the weekend. I was excited that I got to chat with Elizabeth (Lizzie) because she, as John Kirkconnell pointed out, radiated so much positivity when she danced that it reminded us why we love dancing. At the end of the night, I got to say hi to Robert. What really made my weekend was that he told me I was awesome. Because really. How can you top that?

My views on workshop weekends have definitely changed. The amount of community, creativity, and positivity that Swingesota brought to the table is what makes it better than any out-of-state competition that I have gone to. Because the focus was not on competing, I got to see each and every person’s passion to just simply dance. And that is freaking awesome.

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