This years ALHC was held in the Westin hotel in Stamford, CT this past weekend. Unlike ULHS, ALHC prohibits the use of outside cameras to record footage of competitions and performances so there will unfortunately not be any video footage available until the DVD comes out. Alain has posted up a few bits which showcase some of the performances from ALHC though, including a video of myself with Joanna Lucero in the Strictly Lindy.
It was the 10th year of ALHC and so it was billed as a special event with Frankie Manning attending, a special performance by Minnie’s Moochers in honor of their groundbreaking routine to “Love Me or Leave Me”, and a bit of hype. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to live up to its full potential. There were no ceremonies honoring Frankie Manning, Norma Miller or Dawn Hampton (who were all in attendance) or a talk which I would have found fascinating (unless I missed it somehow). Additionally I heard a slew of complaints regarding the hotel service, which was unfortunate since the hotel seemed quite nice.
On to the event. I arrived Friday midday so that I could have some time to prepare for both team and a couples choreography, as well as volunteer for the weekend. It was nice to greet people as they came in, help them register for those competitions which were still open (very few were sadly) , and see some of the classes which were held in the main ballroom. Friday night there were six competitions (quite a lot) of which three I was participating in (it would have been four, but we opted to shift from the classic division to open showcase to give us more time to practice). The prelims for Adv. Jack & Jill, Strictly Lindy, and Solo Charleston happened back to back followed by the Classic division. By the end of the classic division I was wiped from a long day of travel and competition and crashed. Unfortunately I ended up missing George Gee’s band which I had enjoyed previously at the Albany Exchange.
Saturday I was up bright and early at 7:15am for team practice which lasted till 9am when I had to switch to volunteer duty. Volunteering was a good option to pay for the event despite being highly disorganized on friday but improved steadily throughout the weekend. I happily got to sit through two of Frankie’s classes held in the main ballroom, my favorite being his Big Apple class, since I’ve never been in a class with Frankie and it was very enjoyable. Check out some clips of Frankie both new and old and an interview with him.
The cabaret division had a couple good entries in it, the most spectacular being a three person flash-dance styled routine with Nathan Bugh, Mike Jagger, and Evita Arce. It was reminiscent of groups like the Berry Brothers (including their famous flying lock) and other dance acts from the 30′s and 40′s. Also the blues division had some spectacular routines (last minute entries) including an homage to Dirty Dancing by Peter Strom and Carla Heiney, a wonderful vintage routine a la Spirit Moves with Eden Atencio and Mike Lenneville, and the winning number by Evita Arce and Jeramie Anderson.
Being ill-prepared for the Classic division, Caro and I opted for Open Showcase and re-added the one aerial we had. It was a frightening experience to perform an aerial that we had successfully passed only a couple of times in front of an entire room (and it didn’t go as well as we had planned but still went off). The rest of the routine however went exceptionally well, although it didn’t feel as good as some other runs it appeared to be our best run yet. We placed third, a bit unexpectedly, Alain Wong and Melanie Huot-Lavoie placed second with the routine they performed at ULHS, and Max and Annie placed first with a new routine despite a fumble at the end showing just how exceptional their routine was.
Team division sported quite a number of entries, however there was a great deal of controversy in the placings. Due to time violations ranging in only the seconds both the Silver Shadows and the SAF team were dropped down in placing and a team from California placed first. This surprised me since the winning routine had two stumbles during aerial landings and were not nearly as difficult as either of the other two routines. Whether a small time violation should count as enough of a penalty as to contradict very clear placing (the silver shadows were placed 1st by four of the five judges and second by the fifth) was a sure fire way to create controversy. While the team from California took the first place prize, the Silver Shadows and SAF were definitely recognized as both superior routines and superior dancing. You can judge for yourself, the SuperCaliLindyLicious has posted their team routine on youtube and you can compare it to the Silver Shadows performance at ULHS from one of my earlier posts. Other routines in the contest included Portoswing, SwingConnexion and SwingoutDayton.
The Cat’s Corner division kicked off the late night to the sounds of the Boilermaker Jazz Band. The energy a live band brings to a competition is showcased exceptionally well with events like ULHS and Rhythmic Arts Festival and it was no exception in the Cat’s Corner this year. Marty Klempner and Nina Gilkenson won first place, followed by Todd Yannacone and Frida Segerdahl, and Kevin St-Laurent with Alice Mei in third. However from the floor it was an exceptionally tight competition all-around and probably one of the harder competitions to have judged.
I ended up missing most of the band, for good reason however, as two of my close friends from Montreal got engaged that evening and we spent a good portion of the night celebrating. I returned for the end of the bands last set and the floor was hot and the band even hotter. Naomi Uyama was singing with the band jumping behind her, and people were going nuts on the floor. The last two songs everyone crowded up with the band clapping and hollering and a small jam broke out for a bit. It was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend. Check out a clip of Naomi singing “Anything but Love” with the Boilermaker’s at Jam Cellar.
As the band went off Peter Strom’s late night party kicked off. If you’ve never experienced one of his parties go to Swing and Soul in Atlanta, GA for a full weekend of it. Alongside Naomi, they spun great tunes and everyone was on the floor having a good time. This year at ALHC was the first year that I’ve been where there hasn’t been a second room of DJ’d music while the band played and I believe it was a good move. It brings the dancers all together and keeps a room from running dry and emptying out too early. By about 4:30am I crashed, even though the floor was still packed.
Sunday had the following events, Jack and Jill finals both open and advanced, Masters, Juniors, and the American Showcase fast round. The finals were first. The finals for the Advanced were hot, it had six or seven couples and I was paired up with Ann Mony (also from Montreal). We had three songs of all skates and then on the fourth song we formed a jam right up by the audience which was definitely more fun than previous years (where there was no jam except for the Champions divisions). It’s becoming a solid trend now for competitions to hold the finals in a jam format and I believe it brings much more energy to the floor than just all skates ever could. At the end of the jam the entire line swung out together which has such power on a crowd.
I was attempting to get lunch during the Masters and Juniors division which was unfortunate as I was hoping to see the Juniors division. The Juniors division is a great place to showcase the young dancers who are the next generation of lindy hoppers and I was very happy to have two of my friends Ellie Hanus and Ian Herrick in the division.
The American Showcase division is the two part division which you have to qualify for in regionals around the country. It has both a slow and a fast round. The slow round is social with an all skate and I believe spotlights while the fast round is usually choreographed couples pieces. The winners of this years American Showcase were Kevin St-Laurent and Emily Hoffberg and their spectacular Flying Lotus (I think) aerial. Todd and Naomi placed second and had an exceptional routine sans aerials basically with some really hot footwork. The third place finisher was Marty Klempner and Teni Lopez-Cardenas.
With the competitions out of the way and the awards ceremony closing out the event people packed their things and headed out. All in all ALHC this year was good, although with some odd points (team division), bad hotel service, and some exceptional high points: the Boilermakers, some of the routines both showcase, classic and team, and, to me, most importantly the engagement of two of my close friends. Congratulations to Eric Bertrand and Caroline Rossi.