For instructors, Nevermore brought in several great pairs including Kim Cleaver and David Frutos, Michael (Falty) Faltesec and Casey Scheinder, Mia Goldsmith and Andy Reid, Shannon Varner and Mark Calkins teaching the beginner track, and John Bedrosian and Jenny Shirar teaching St. Louis shag. Besides the beginner track, most of the classes were at the intermediate level and focused on musicality and creativity. For the most part I didn’t feel like I was in intermediate classes and was quite impressed with the skill level of the people I danced. Most (though not all) had pretty solid swingouts. During my last class I even found myself marveling at how comfortable my own swingouts were feeling. This was especially exciting for me since I’ve only become comfortable with the momentum and connection needed for a swingout within the last 3 or 4 months. This gives me hope that someday I’ll even be able to dance confidently to fast songs without having to rely solely on Charleston or single-time six-count swing!This past weekend I got to experience the fantastic Nevermore Jazz Ball in St. Louis for the first time. At Nevermore you have your typical evening and late-night dances, competitions during the dances, and classes during the day. One of the things that distinguishes Nevermore from other events is the fact that you get more of a taste of the city compared to other events I’ve been to (excluding the Arctic Lindy Exchange). Each dance was in a different venue, all of which had their own unique vibe. During the Saturday lunch break, Nevermore also put on the Cherokee Street Jazz Crawl, a 3-hour long event in which jazz musicians played in local business on Cherokee Street (bars, restaurants, bakeries, vintage clothing stores, etc). The live music throughout the weekend was excellent and definitely showed off the talent of many St. Louis musicians.
The only negative thing I have to say about Nevermore is that it was very follow-heavy, at least at most of the dances. I danced maybe four dances on Friday night. However, the floor was rather sticky and I had to fight it during faster songs so perhaps it’s for the best that I didn’t dance too much that night. The Saturday night dance at the Casa Loma Ballroom had a much better lead-follow balance and I spent the majority of the evening dancing (how does a 3 hour dance go by so quickly??). The floor was perfectly slick, making it much easier to dance to faster music. The late night dance on Saturday was similar to the Friday night dances with far too many follows and not enough leads. You had to ambush a lead as soon as the song was done in order to get a dance. The floor was also super crowded since it was a much smaller venue. I was exhausted at this point (late nights are not my thing) so I mostly just watched other dancers before calling it a night at 2:30am. While I would have loved to dance more, the main dance on Saturday satisfied my craving for dancing and I did not leave Nevermore feeling jilted.
Cherokee Street Jazz Crawl in Pictures
Organizing a group of dancers for travel
I think Nevermore will always be special to me, not only because it’s a wonderful event, but also because it was the first event our club has gone to as a large group since I joined (we took 15 people!). In addition, I was the primary person in charge of organizing everyone in the months leading up to the event. Trying to organize a group of dancers for travel can be a bit like herding cats. However, the payoff is definitely worth it. I loved seeing our newer dancers at their first festival as they truly fell in love with Lindy Hop. So here’s a bit of advice for anyone else who ever needs to organize people for a trip in hopes that it will make your planning go smoothly.
1) Start advertising early– like 3 months before the event. This gives people time to decide if they want to go and it makes it less likely that tickets will sell-out before everyone registers.
2) Know how many people you can take with you. If you have funding for a hotel/ gas money (we did) you’ll need to know how many rooms you can get without going over budget. If everyone is paying their own way then you don’t really have to limit the number of people going. However, you do have to make sure you have a deadline for collecting money from them so you can get everyone registered.
3) Contact the hotel ASAP– If you have a rough estimate of how many people will be going, some hotels will let you reserve rooms at a fixed price without making you commit 100% to staying with them. They’ll ask for a credit card authorization form but they won’t charge you until days before your check-in. They’ll then set a deadline for rooming assignments.
4) Set deadlines– make sure to set deadlines for when people need to tell you they’re going on the trip, when they need to register, when they need to figure out roommates/ carpools, etc.
5) Be patient- It is highly unlikely that everyone will read your emails all the way through. Even if you bold the important information, some people will still miss it. If someone asks you a question that you’ve answered multiple times before, take a breath, let go of your annoyance, and simply give them the information they need. You can tell them you’ve already provided it in hopes that they’ll learn to read your emails, but do so as kindly and patiently as possible.
6) Be flexible– If people are late on the deadlines, step back from the situation, clear your head, and then decide whether there are still spots available for them in the hotel/ in someone’s car. You don’t need to give them an immediate answer, but do think about whether you can still make things work-out for them.
7) Remember- you are not their mother/ father!- After you’ve figured out hotels, helped people find carpools, etc then you are free to cut them loose and let them take care of themselves. You’re no longer the person “in charge,” but rather one of their friends/ fellow dancers. This will make the actual event much more enjoyable and you won’t have to worry about whether you’re micromanaging your group.
I’m sure there are other things people can do to make organizing a group for a swing event go smoothly. These were just some of the things I did and I don’t think we ran into an disasters. I think I only had one night where I freaked out (in a fairly quiet-and-internal-sort-of-way), and that was because I had just gotten back from my brother’s wedding and my brain was filled to the brim with details. Number 7 especially helped me because then I was able to enjoy Nevermore simply as a dancer and not as a chaperone (not that people who are college-aged and older need a chaperone but sometimes when you organize something you still feel responsible for everyone’s happiness).