This is the first of hopefully many installments of a special feature that I’m doing with Ramona Staffeld. We’re going to be looking at some very old school clips of her past performances and getting her reactions. Like a DVD director’s commentary except for Lindy Hop clips. The first one is from the 1998 American Lindy Hop Championships. Everything after the video below is written by her with a few hopefully helpful edits from me. Enjoy!
Wow! The first thing that came into my mind was how young we were. We were just babies! Even though we were extremely proud of our work and confident in each other, we were most of the youngest dancers at the very first ALHC in 1998. You know how everything seems bigger when you were smaller? Well remembering that time is something like that. Entering our first competition was a BIG deal. We took it seriously; we cared deeply about what we were doing. We loved to dance. We just could not get enough swing. Our team spirit was our friendship, passion, and raw excitement for the lindy hop. And most importantly, we did not expect to win. At least that’s what I remember. Now I have to be honest, I always have a glimmer of hope and expectation for my personal best, but I got a great surprise when we won. To me that’s the beauty of it all. We practiced and prepared because we wanted to. Not out of fear of losing, or someone telling us we should. That first time, the doing was the thing. That was enough.
Looking at the dancing, we really had some unity going on! The height of our jumps, the angles of our legs. We worked hard on the picture we created as a whole. It was the energy of the group that mattered. As you may have noticed, I partnered with Susan Wolf, and she was so much fun! I don’t remember feeling upset about having a girl for a lead; we had a blast together. We found a groove together, as the other couples did too. The last thing I’d like to point out is our rhythm. If you watch the piece with a soft eye, you can see that our timing was almost entirely together. It was right there in the music; we were a team. Rhythm was the golden thread that connected our dancing. That is one of the most satisfying things to see when I watch any piece.
I had seen footage of the American Swing Dance Championships, also known as ASDC. I remember watching clips of Ryan and Jenny when they won. I can’t remember what year that was, maybe 1996 or 1997. [ed note: 1997] Most of us had also seen clips from the World Lindy Hop Championships in Norway, when David [Dalmo]and Anna [Sandesjö] won. They were so big to me. I idolized them in many ways, and looked to the World Championships as the ultimate. It was a bit of a dream come true when Skye and I won in 2002.
Why did we decide to compete at ALHC in 1998? Well, I’m pretty sure it was the talk of the town. I know Bill Borgida kept us in formed–although at the time we put together Minnie’s Moocher’s, we were completely independent of him. There were also so many other dancers in the scene who were traveling for events; everyone was lindy crazed.
How did we decide to compete in the team division? My memory is not the greatest on this, but I’m pretty sure we were hungry to put something out there, and work on our first group piece. I do remember when we set the goal of competing at ALHC that it gave us focus and form. Our group process started to gel; everything from Kate doing the choreography to Lucy and I going down to Body Gear (the local dance shop) to check out our options for costumes. We had to special order our skirts and tops, which I think fit our style perfectly at the time. I can’t stress more how exciting it was, and it was so special because we were doing it on our own. Although, I must give credit to our parents for being so supportive and amazing. Without them, transportation would have been a major issue.
In terms of our individual choices to compete in other divisions, I think we had a fearlessness about us. Why not? What did we have to loose? Also, I know Skye and Lucy had been practicing together; that partnership had already been in the works. Fin and I loved dancing together, and working hard. I know that was one reason why it worked so well for us. Finian played sports, and applied that same work ethic to his dancing. Actually, I had that same kind of experience through figure skating, so we really fit when it came down to practicing and presenting choreography. For Robin and Caitlin (also competing in the junior division) I think one of them must has asked the other. Again, we were going, so why not?
What did we expect out of the event, being the first competition we ever attended? Not much more than a chance to dance, dance, dance! We knew we were going to meet other dancers from around the country, but I think there was a sense of freshness in everyone that came out. For us youngsters, it was the perfect first event. I remember meeting dancers that Bill had told me about, like Paul [Overton]and Sharon [Ashe], and even Marcus and Bärbl (who I had seen on Herrang videos). Meeting Norma Miller was a huge event; we had learned about her work through watching videos and hearing stories from Frankie and other dancers; it was a thrill. Something I didn’t really expect was meeting other young dancers in our age group. When I met Nina and Naomi, I instantly felt connected to them on the basis of a shared experience. I think we all gained inspiration, confidence, and support from each other. I think if we expected anything out of the event it was a chance to compete, social dance, and meet other lindy hop dancers. Having that as our intention, I think we had a weekend that changed us forever.
Thanks to my fellow Moochers, you are with my every step!