(Note: Ramona Staffeld & Todd Yannacone’s 1st Place Pro Classic performance at The International Lindy Hop Championships was the most shared video off of the Wandering & Pondering FB page. It also happens to be one of my favorites of this year. Not long after that, Ramona contacted me to continue with her series here on this blog, but rather than go back, I convinced her to write about her most recent performance. She enthusiastically agreed, but I failed at life by losing track of the post she sent to me. I remembered it while prepping this year’s round up and rather than blathering on about it myself, I present to you Ramona Staffeld in her own words.)
Well, that’s just it right there. Who it is you are dancing with is one of the key ingredients when making and performing a piece. Off and on the dance floor, Todd and I have respect, friendship, and a sense of humor towards each other. It is the people parts that give a good foundation to work and learn. Fun and silly are priorities, and most of all, being authentic.
Our creative process was a shared dialogue of ideas and excitement. Nothing was too outrageous or unworthy of the time it took to give it a try and then make a decision. Open mind, open heart. Having a shared aesthetic and general taste made for a smooth flow, too.
Most of the piece was made in Herrang. Coordinating schedules was no doubt our biggest challenge. At the same time, that wonderful place is the perfect setting to dive in and commit. It is a well-known fact that Herrang Dance Camp is a truly magical place, and we are so grateful to have had the opportunities and time to put some of our ideas together. The infrastructure and organization of the camp provides a framework for creativity. It’s there for everyone involved.
Many times over I have been asked about who came up with the idea for the elephant. The answer is simple, the music. In the very beginning, we spent a good few hours listening to songs, weeding out the ones we weren’t too sure about. Making decisions! Ahhhh! Maybe that was the second hardest thing, choosing a song. Anyway, I seem to recall that even from the start we said that part sounds like a bunch of elephants going crazy. Months later in Herrang when we arrived at that exact spot in the music, Todd said, “All I can think about is an elephant.” We just could not get it out of our heads.
That was my biggest personal lesson from this whole experience: Follow your heart. Be yourself and you can’t lose. We never set out to win. In fact, we were sure that we wouldn’t based on how different our piece was, and what was prioritized. We didn’t care. What we cared about was putting our perspective out into the world. In a way, our dancing said more than words could ever express. Our bodies did the talking. That was my prize; an affirmation that I can carry through my future actions.
Interestingly enough, some of our favorite changes came during the week leading up to ILHC in Baltimore. We had the luxury of time and space and got very detail oriented. We tried some things ten different ways before coming up with the one we liked best. If one or both of us wasn’t convinced about a head or an arm, then hey, we tried something new! There was a lot of running back and forth between the ipad, pressing play and stop; watching, laughing, doing it again. We have some sweet bloopers footage, maybe not saved, but at least in our heads.
Performance is a privilege. Having an audience give you their full attention, wanting to be there, is the greatest gift. The response we received really touched me. I have so much love to give; the audience embraced that, and gave it back in return.
Whether you were there in person or watching through the tubes, thank you for enjoying our offering. An audience influences the chemistry of the moment, and in that way, we could not have done it without each and every one of you. We make history together. Thank you.