Every year since I started dancing I have returned to Rochester, NY, where it all began for me, for one event: Steven & Virginie. This year marked the 10th year that Steven has been brought to Rochester and I believe the 7th that Virginie has been with him; I have been there for the past five of them. Every year it has been like returning home, like going to church. A place to be filled with respect and admiration for the dance that we love, to touch base with a mentor, and to have an all-out party.
Esther and Richard have done a great job with the Rochester Swing Dance Network bringing them back year and again, helping out students who couldn’t afford the full price (me many times), and delivering a community. This year was their last year organizing this event and they have handed it off to Groove Juice Swing, a collection of dancers who taught me the swing out and a persistent passion for the dance.
This year was no exception with some additional highlights. I arrived in Rochester the Monday before the event and got to hang out with my friends, teach a class at Groove Juice and at Penfield High School, DJ at Lindy Jam, and go for dinner with Steven, Virginie, Esther, Richard and Mike on Thursday night. Friday night kicked off the weekend officially with the John Cole Blues Band playing after a blues class and then a small late night party at the Lindy Compound (which has been a home to dance parties for years). Saturday morning I arrived in time for Virginie’s movement class, although I sat at the door and volunteered, it sounded like a good time and from what I heard a good workout as always. Lunch. Then two more classes. The highlight of Saturday however was Steven’s talk (which he began doing two years ago) which was accompanied by videos. The videos included not only two popular clips which he remembers seeing when he first began dancing and inspired him (Hellzapoppin’ and Day at the Races) but also some old footage of Steven that no one has really seen. He talked about his own development as a dancer alongside the dance scene using the videos to demonstrate. The footage was fascinating, sometimes funny, but most importantly it showed the potential this dance has to shape us as people.
Saturday night the band was kicking, a collection of musicians from New York including Jon Sieger, George Reed, Gordon Webster, and two other cats. The band was hot and they played hard for the dancers. My one complaint, it ended too early. Following the regular dance the real party kicked off at the Lindy Compound and it was packed. Dancers crammed the dance floor, folks hung out on the couches, played old school video games on the home built arcade console, ate pizza, drank a bit and some of us DJ’d. These parties have been a highlight of dance events in Rochester for years (at least eight) and have been host to Moochers and dancers from across the globe. The party was inestimably driven to new heights two years ago when, during the first talk with Steven, he was asked what the dance scene needed the most and he replied “it needed to have a party”. That year still stands out and we hope to one day top it. Events like Swing and Soul are born out of this mentality.
Sunday classes featured the band for two of the classes, emphasizing musicality and interpretation of the music in the first and a sit down Q/A and jam with the band during the last class. It really is great to be able to work so closely with musicians in a learning context, just like within a competition context, it drives things to a much higher level. Wrapping up the weekend with a customary group photo, goodbyes were said, and people departed for their drive home with next year in their thoughts.
All in all, an excellent weekend spent with close friends, excellent music and dancers and two teachers who have mentored me and watched me grow into the dancer I am today. I recommend anyone who has it in their heart to improve as dancers to get out and work with Steven and Virginie; even if their style isn’t winning competitions, it has raised a generation of lindy hoppers who push the envelope and do. They are a part of our contemporary history and a link to our past. They push dancers to go beyond what is expected in the scene and find how each one dances this dance in their own way.