Wow, what do Midwest hospitality, beautiful architecture, dedicated volunteers and burgers from the dead all have in common? Well, to put it bluntly, my new top 3 swing events I’ve attended in the Midwest. Heartland Swing Festival!Janie Austin and I arrived at the airport, and were picked up by Larry Mullica, who happened to be the guitar player for the band the opening night. The dance was filled with beginner dancers, and I had the chance to dance with all but 6 of them. He drove us to the home of our host Larry and Sandy.
Larry and Sandy are to two great volunteers. In spite of not having all the details regarding all the dancers arriving at their home to crash on beds and floors, they remained open, positive and supportive in contributing to the Lindy hop legacy in ways most people would over look. I also learned that Sandy is from the town that filmed one of my top ten movies of all time, Groundhog Day. They even have a spot the marks where Bill Murray repeatedly steps in the same puddle of water every day.
The first evening Janie and I were taken to the Greek restaurant called Olympic Flame. I ordered the delicious fried squid, and Janie had a Greek sandwich. If one is looking for Greek in Des Moines, this place cannot be overlooked.
Upon arriving at the “Temple”, ones eyes are treated with beautiful vintage architecture with ivory pillars cream walls and a giant balcony overlooking the dance floor.
The majority of dancers were friendly and open to dance with anybody, any level. This social affection reminds me of the dancing in Oklahoma. The band was simplistic in instruments, yet was clear and energetic the first night, a great opener for the evening.
All of the teachers were treated to a room on the second floor filled with refreshments and food.
We had wonderful people to assist us with our needs throughout the weekend, making it easier to focuses on our classes, relax about our transportation to and from teaching venues, and filling in the informational gaps we needed when we didn’t know where to go.
The class sizes were large for the intermediate to advanced courses. Most of the dancers were respectful with questions and maintained a positive learning environment. The beginner classes were much smaller.
I thoroughly enjoyed teaching the newbies and inspiring them to embrace the journey. Most of the students were eager to learn and listened and watched patiently to gain answers to many of their questions during the class sessions.
The late night session on Saturday went all the way till 5 in the morning. Many classic soul and r&b songs were played contrasting the jazz we danced to all night with slower groovy rhythms. Most of us were exhausted and suddenly gained a second wind during the evening due to the late night snacks served by the volunteers and staff.
There were multiple performances during the Saturday evening dance that were phenomenal. Dance team after dance team upped the level of entertainment. The African drummers were especially amazing and a must see next year.
The competitions were equally as compelling, and entertaining as any other major national event. Many couples battled it out on the dance floor upping the ante one after another. One of the most entertaining couple of the evening were Christian and Jenny, from St Louis. They are the ambassadors of the St Louis Shag, great dancers and preservationist of the culture represented in St. Louis.
The jam circle is my most favorite moment of every event. I have a soft spot for this exciting moment because of its power to capture the essence of the energy and synergy between the spectator, band, and dancers. In fact, the jam is what inspired my journey in lindy Hop. Thank you Laura Glaess:)
All together this is a great event to attend. There was a perfect balance of competitions, social dancing, and performances without uneven pacing. There is a definite culture of reaching out to the next generation of dancers. Most of the room had beginner/intermediate dancers as an average. In my opinion this event is great for the scene as a whole, and highlights many things that other events should also begin to focus on more. Next year will definitely need a bigger venue or a larger wood floor to facilitate more attendees. (Which I think is a good problem to have :).
Overall I rate this event 4.3 out of 5 shoes!