By far, TUX (the Toronto University Exchange) encapsulates the spirit and randomness of lindy hop the most in all of the events in Toronto. Heads and shoulders above every other event and all run by students!
Even though I feel that I’m in the old farts demographic of this event (most of the participants are new university dancers), I cannot help feel nostalgic every time go to TUX and see the smiley awkward faces (but determined and having a blast) of university dancers haha! Like most lindy hoppers, I too started at a university swing club and will always fondly remember the crazy times of learning new dance moves and meeting new soon-to-be friends all because we all shared the same excitement of running around and jumping. I mean, it’s still like that for me today but not with the same hazy feeling of careless abandonment if you know what I mean.
Running the photobooth at TUX is like herding cats. From my experience, putting a camera in front of people’s faces in a dance setting usually results in two reactions: fear/apprehension or crazy excitement. The latter usually results in dancers forgetting how to walk in a humanlike manner or remember that photos are actually still shots – meaning that they don’t need to act out what they want their picture to be like. There were many times that dancers ran into the lights or almost tripped on the cords just because they forgot they were there (but how? it’s like 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide!). Even with Alex L. and I sandbagging the lights down (with kitty litter!) and taping the cords on the floor, I think I need to come up with a different strategy for big events in terms of setup because a misplaced step could equate to a long process with the insurance company. I’m getting better at directing people though – I made an “x” marks the spot on the ground for people to stand on but sometimes people getting photographed will do whatever they want haha.
All in all though, I had a great time and I always look forward to the craziness of TUX. Turlough of Montréal and I had a selfie tour extravaganza which was full of lawls and everything I had to do work-wise went well so it was a productive$ weekend all around.
Sitting here on the train back to Montreal after a great weekend at MezzJelly at my old stomping grounds of Toronto and pondering the meaning of life, love, and dance.
Haha, just joking… but whenever I’m on the train, I seem to always be contemplating whether I should be productive and write or just chill and play Football Manager for six hours straight. Today I think I will be productive…
four days later…
Okay so I wasn’t very productive at all but teaching at MezzJelly was a special experience for me because the last MezzJelly event in Canada was also my first ever blues event. Circle of life or something like that eh?
For the event, I was hired to teach two solo dance classes – a “guys routine” and a fun “urban/hip hop” routine.
For the “urban” dance routine (hehe), I choreographed it to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, which is charting at #1 in most billboards around the country right now. I chose that song mainly for the cheesy but infectious rhythm and mind numbing hook. Since the song itself is pretty party-time silly, I figured it would work well for MezzJelly. If you know the song, you might be thinking to yourself, “hey, that’s not a blues song at all”. Why yes you are right. That’s why the class title was called “urban dance” class. Whatever that means. Lawlsies. Anyhoo, the class was right after lunch so students were a bit slow coming in but as soon as the warm-up was over, the class was pretty packed. I don’t really remember much of the class besides getting everyone to do body rolls but I do remember leaving the class very happy that most people had a bumping time.
The second class I taught was a “dude’s routine” to a soul song (Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”) which focused a lot more on grooving and body movement. What was interesting for me as a teacher for this class was that there were multiple people just filming the entire class. At the time I thought it was a bit sketch as I can’t imagine filming an entire class being a kosher thing to do during a workshop but someone did put together this video of various runs we did:
There were a few things I could have probably done a bit better for the second class such as having a bit more time for practicing for the moves and going a bit more in-depth on the techniques. Admittedly I still have some teaching methodologies to work on when completely mixed group of dancers and I do have a tendency to just assume that most dancers are fairly experienced in solo dancing. Will work on it, promise.
All in all, I was pretty happy to be part of the event and also see so many of my friends come together for a great party. It was also awesome to be paid to just do my thanggg. See you guys at the next Toronto event :)
I took off from Montreal during an inhumane -30’ish Celsius morning to only end up in Toronto’s version of a snowpocalypse. Luckily I was already in the city when the snow started to fall but all my dance friends coming in for the TUX exchange from Montréal were pretty much SOL on friday evening. I heard that the drive from Montreal to Toronto took about ten hours with the multi-car pileup on the highway east of the city. Ouch.
I have come to the conclusion throughout the many years of being a vagabond that traveling sucks in just about every aspect.
Things that don’t suck about traveling:
Free booze from Porter Airlines.
Saying the same joke at every airline check-in counter. “Where would you like to sit sir?”; “Next to the hottest lady ma’am”.
I can catch up on my emails playing Football Manager.
The moment when you realize that no one is sitting in your aisle besides you.
Gamjatang in Toronto; Plus Alpha in Vancouver; Coffee in Seattle.
That’s about it. Everything else about traveling sucks. Anyone who says they enjoy traveling for work is flat out lying or hasn’t done it long enough.
Unfortunately, as any independent freelancer knows, money and gigs aren’t just going to be dropped off in front of your doorstep. So we endure long lines at airports/stations/highways, sleeping in every conceivable type of housing, and forgoing any semblance of a regular sleeping schedule. While it is never about the money, when I hear about eighty car pile-ups, I can’t help but wonder… “maybe I should increase my rates?”.
Didn’t bring extra flashes or umbrellas this time around as I was in Toronto predominantly for work and had to pack accordingly. I stuck with a fairly light setup of one SB900 with flash bounce card and rented a canvas stand and “vintage” backdrop from Vistek. Putting it all together was a breeze, maybe five minutes tops with some help from two tall peeps (curse of a filipino) to raise the stands as high as it can go. There were a few close calls with the backdrop falling on people but that was because they stepped backwards onto the stands hehe.
An interesting situation happened – my two flash cards were nearing maximum capacity about half way throughout the night. I had to switch from camera RAW files to FINE JPG to squeeze out the last fifty or so photos. I’m not sure what the arguments are for having the photos compress directly to JPG but I was unimpressed with the results. It looks just a bit more washed than I would have liked but I will have to re-test for my next event so I know it’s not actually my post-processing that’s affecting the quality. Still, it was a great option to fall back to when the only alternative was to pack it in.
If there is an important lesson that I learned this year from being a quasi dance organizer is to accept that shit will always hit the fan. Once you accept this fact, it really is quite endearing – like a really bad joke that you haven’t heard in while being used an exactly the right moment that it’s instantly hilarious again.
Here is a really great quote by Carl Beuchner that I have been using for inspiration for the last few months for the Toronto Blues Dances, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This year I really worked on not worrying about things that doesn’t effect the overall awesomeness of your dance. Obviously you always want to learn from those mistakes but it’s not the end of the world if it does happen. What I did work on however is making sure that everybody who comes through the door feels welcomed (and that it’s great to see them again!), the volunteers who help out know they are making the event possible and are actually appreciated instead of being looked on as FREELOADERS, and that the DJs and the musicians who entertain the dancers get positive feedback throughout the night from community.
You would be surprised by how something as easy as telling your friends that if they really liked the music that night to let the people responsible know, can have a profound impact on the rest of the night. Second and third sets immediately have that much more OOMPH to it. Your DJs suddenly feel like they are doing more than just hitting play on their laptop and your musicians really start feeding off the energy of the room.
The same thing goes for your door shift volunteers. Some dances that I have door-shifted for have made me feel like I should be grateful that I’m coming to the dance for free and therefore I should be indebted until my shift is over. That is totally the wrong way to approach any volunteers because they are your first point of contact with dancers coming into your venue. They are the ones who are greeting new dancers to your community, the new dancers who will hopefully continue to come to your venue for years to come. Why treat your most enthusiastic and fanatic community members like a cheap work force?
An event you organize is really an extension of who you are as a person. If you genuinely are passionate about dancing and really care about your community, it will shine through at your dance. You might not open the venue on time and have everyone waiting outside in the freezing cold but I promise you they will walk away telling their friends what a great place it is to dance.