ULHS is Dead! Long Live ULHS!

The Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown has been the standard bearer and trend setter for the Lindy Hop community ever since it started in 2002.  This weekend’s 8th annual ULHS marks the event’s debut in New Orleans, LA as well as its first major format restructuring since 2003.

This year, ULHS is breaking away from the phrase jam for the finals that it helped to pioneer.   Instead, event promoter Amy Johnson is instituting tournament style, head to head battles for the formerly known “Liberation” division to determine which two couples will dance against each other in the final  . . . wait for it . . . Showdown.

I won’t be down there this weekend, but it sounds like it’ll be the start of an exciting new era for ULHS.  I’m pretty excited to hear and see how it turns out.  Until then, let’s take a look back at ghosts of Liberation divisions past.

First a couple of interesting odds & ends.

Most Wins: Nina Gilkenson & Matt Smiley who won the first two.

Most finals appearances: Four each for

Ria DiBiase (2004-06 with Nick Williams and in 2007 with Minn Vo)

Nick Williams (2003 with Naomi Uyama and 2004-06 with Ria).

Naomi Uyama (2003 w/ Nick and 2004-05 with Todd) and Todd Yannacone (2004-05 with Naomi and 2006 with Frida Segerdahl) are next with three each.

Fastest year: ULHS 2003 at about 330 bpm.

Slowest year: ULHS 2007 at around 268 bpm.

(For reference: The original Count Basie “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” is about 240 bpm, and the original Hellzapoppin routine is around 320 bpm)

ULHS 2002

(Pardon the terrible video editing.  That’s my fault as I just crammed all the clips I originally found separately and put them all together for this post.  I’m obviously no video editor)

Band: Josh Collazo & His Feet Warmers

Beats per minute: 276

Dancers in order of appearance:

  1. Jen Lau (formerly Jen Urich) & Marty Lau
  2. Christy Vasilaukas & Ryan Mascaro
  3. Emily Lim & Brent Keane
  4. Maren Perry & Chris Chapman
  5. Nina Gilkenson & Matt Smiley
  6. Giselle Anguizola & Peter Strom

Winners: Nina Gilkenson & Matt Smiley

Notes: This is the first one and its pretty bare bones.  It took place in the Mall of America, and there’s no real dance floor.  It’s also not a phrase battle, so people are dancing one minute spotlights announced in by Mike Faltesek.  If band leader Josh Collazo’s name sounds familiar it’s probably because you’ve heard him play drums for Jonathan Stout.

ULHS 2003


Band: Josh Collazo & His Feet Warmers

Beats per minute: 330

Dancers in order of appearance:

  1. Lorraine O’Neal & Michael Seguin
  2. Tonya Surface (now Tonya Morris) & Sean Morris
  3. Naomi Uyama & Nick Williams
  4. Nina Gilkenson & Matt Smiley
  5. Danielle Eley & Stephen Jean

1st Nina Gilkenson & Matt Smiley
2nd Danielle Eley & Stephen Jean
3rd Tonya Morris & Sean Morris

Notes: First use of the phrase battle format.  You can see Reuben Brown counting down 8’s to Mike Faltesek.  According to the Yehoodi thread, they ended the main round with a Big Apple.  Tonya also confesses that they weren’t expecting to make the finals so they had to be called from the bar.   I haven’t seen complete footage of this, so if anyone has video of the whole thing I’d encourage you to upload it.

ULHS 2004

Band: The Wolverines Big Band

Beats per minute: 310

Dancers in order of appearance:

  1. Naomi Uyama & Todd Yannacone
  2. Corina Acosta & Minn Vo
  3. Robin Nunnally & Michael Seguin
  4. Danielle Eley & Stephen Jean
  5. Ria Dibiase & Nick Williams


1st Corina Acosta & Minn Vo
2nd Naomi Uyama & Todd Yannacone
3rd Ria Dibiase & Nick Williams

Notes: First appearance of the band most commonly identified with ULHS, the Wolverines Big Band.  Before this year, people approached ULHS as a big party with some hard core comps, but this is the year people started taking it seriously.  It marked the debut of the partnerships of Naomi & Todd and Ria & Nick.  Plus when Minn & Corina showed up for a dance contest back then, you knew it was game on.

ULHS 2005

Click here to see the contest from a different angle.

Click here to see the encore at a different angle.

Band: The Wolverines Big Band

Beats per minute: 320

Dancers in order of appearance:

  1. Ria Dibiase & Nick Williams
  2. Tiffiny Wine & Dan Newsome
  3. Lorraine O’Neil & Marty Klempner
  4. Naomi Uyama & Todd Yannacone
  5. Laura Keat & Phil Onochie


1st Naomi Uyama & Todd Yannacone

2nd Ria Dibiase & Nick Williams
3rd Lorraine O’Neil & Marty Klempner

Notes: ULHS moved to the Varsity Theater which was the perfect venue for the event particularly in terms of staging and lighting for the competitions.  It’s funny to watch Naomi have a little bit of a panic attack at the very beginning during that crazy drum intro, and then see her and Todd go on to kill that song dead with their footwork.  Sean Morris also makes his debut as the event MC.

ULHS 2006

Band: The Bellagala Big Band

Beats per minute: 284

Dancers in order of appearance:

  1. Frida Segerdahl & Todd Yannacone
  2. Ria Dibiase & Nick Williams
  3. Alice Mei & Max Pitruzzella
  4. Nelle Hatley & Joe DeMers
  5. Tiffiny Wine & Dan Newsome


1st: Ria Dibiase & Nick Williams
2nd: Frida Segerdahl & Todd Yannacone
3rd: Max Pitruzella & Alice Mei

Notes: Who hasn’t seen this video?  Probably the modern Lindy community’s most iconic video, various versions of it have been seen by over 3 million people on YouTube alone.  For good reason, as all the dancers were on fire that night.  The music is fast enough to be super challenging without killing everyone.  The Bellagala Big Band was a last minute replacement for the Wolverines who were double booked that weekend.  Bellagala apparently learned a bunch of new charts just for this event, but had some trouble with the earlier contests that evening.  However, they were able to come through in a big way for this main event.

ULHS 2007

Band: The Wolverines Big Band

Beats per minute: 268

Dancers in order of appearance:

  1. Ria DeBiase & Minn Vo
  2. Frida Segerdahl & Sakarias Larsson,
  3. Annie Trudeau & Max Pitruzzella,
  4. Hannah Zetterman & Mattias Lundmark
  5. Laura Keat & Jeremy Otth
  6. Joanna Eriksson & Henric Stillman


1st: Annie Trudeau & Max Pitruzella
2nd: Sakarias Larsson & Frida Segerdahl
3rd: Mattias Lundmark & Hannah Zetterman

Notes: This is the first time since the first ULHS that there are more than five couples.  You can tell here how much ULHS became a truly international event with three couples from Sweden and another from France/Canada in the finals alone.  No Americans even make the top three.

ULHS 2008

Band: Loose Marbles

Beats per minute: 327

Dancers in order of appearance:

  1. Andreas Olsson & Hanna Sigurdh
  2. Nelle Hatley & Joe DeMers
  3. Alice Mei & Dax Hock
  4. Karen Turman & Andrew Thigpen
  5. Mikaela Hellsten & Oskar  Markusson
  6. Laura Glaess & Jonathan Jow
  7. Isabella Gregorio & Vincenzo Fesi


1st Alice Mei & Dax Hock
2nd Mikaela Hellsten & Oskar  Markusson
3rd Isabella Gregorio & Vincenzo Fesi

Notes: The last ULHS using the phrase jam battle with several couples is also the last one in Minnesota.  It’s also the biggest final with seven couples.  The top three come from Italy, Sweden, and France with one American, Dax Hock.  Loose Marbles is the first smaller jazz combo since the 2003 finals.

Thus ends our trip down ULHS memory lane.  Good luck to everyone competing and partying down in New Orleans this weekend!


  1. Sandy said,

    October 6, 2009 at 11:06 am

    The title of this post is amazing.

  2. Byron said,

    September 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    As I recall, in 2005 they clocked the last song for the fast prelims at 340bpm. I remember them saying that the band would try to match that for the finals… I guess it wasn’t quite that fast. But definitely the contest was much better at lower speeds where people could really dance.

  3. Phil said,

    August 2, 2012 at 9:54 am

    You know, Laura and I weren’t expecting to make the finals in ’05. As a matter of fact, I was chatting at the bar with Carla H., when I heard what I thought to be my name. I had to find somebody to hold my drink while I made it through the crowd. Since Laura and I hadn’t even rehearsed anything anything, we just decided to be safe–swingout!

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