Last year I went to Nottingjam and it was the first swing dance weekend I’d ever been to. It was so much fun and I learnt so much and you can read all about it here. There’s something magical about swing weekends, and I am so grateful that from the 4th to the 7th March I got to be at Nottingjam 2016.
I was so excited by the prospect of Nottingjam that I booked both the Friday and the Monday off work so I could spend as much time as possible dancing. As it turns out, my trains were delayed and when I turned up to my hotel, the fire alarm was going off. Not the most auspicious start. But any reservations that were starting to form melted away when I headed to the first social of the weekend.
Held at the Belgrave Rooms in Nottingham city centre, the opening social was a chance for a) people to arrive in Nottingham, b) people to ease into dancing and c) old friends to catch up. Since graduating and moving to Birmingham, I’ve seen less of my swing friends than I’d like and I spent a lot of the Friday social catching up. There was some dancing too – despite my new year’s resolution I’ve only been to two swing lessons this year, and it was good to start the weekend nice and gently.
There was both toast and jam.
Saturday classes started at 10am which meant plenty of time to wake up and wander down to The Canal House, where the Level 2 lindy stream classes were taking place. Nottingjam had 3 lindy streams and 2 solo jazz streams. I signed up as a level 2 follow, and it was great.
Simon Robyn at the European Swing Dance Championships 2015
Our first class was with Simon Bressanelli and Robyn Larsen. To begin with they talked about communication during dance, which included an exercise where you had to look your partner in the eyes the entire time you were dancing. As someone who is very guilty of not making eye contact with partners, it was really useful to be reminded of the need to check in while dancing. The second half of the lesson they taught us how to learn steps from Youtube by simulating a Youtube video. I’m not gonna lie to you, I thought it would be really difficult to figure out a move just from watching it, but it turns out that with a willing partner, it’s really fun to experiment and even if you don’t quite get the move you were aiming for, there’ll be some cool moves you hit on accidentally along the way.
Scott Cupit and Jenny Thomas at Hullzapoppin’ 2015
Second lesson was with Scott Cupit and Jenny Thomas, the latter of whom choreographs swing routines for Strictly Come Dancing. So you know, no pressure there. With Scott and Jenny we focused on swing outs, particular ones where follows are sent out facing front. They’re really good for performances because it means the follows are facing the audience, and there was no better demonstration for that than the all skate in the Open Jack and Jill competition that night. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We also learnt some footwork variations for front facing swing outs, which I could do by myself but then could *not * get the hang of when dancing with a partner. I’ll work on it. And by the end we’d covered a few different types of swing out, two of which I’d never done before.
Our final lesson of the day was with Lisa Bradley and Bob Grasse. We covered different ways to build lateral and rotational momentum, including a version of lindy circle where we covered so much ground so quickly, I’m pretty sure that with one lead, my feet didn’t touch the ground.
Finally it was time for the Saturday social. Held at the Britannia Hotel, the theme was blue and everyone looked fantastic. With two live bands (House of the Black Gardenia and Swing Gitan) it was a truly swinging evening. As I mentioned earlier, there were some competitions. A beginners Jack and Jill, an open Jack and Jill and an open Solo Jazz. Last year I explained what a Jack and Jill is, but in case you’re new or you’ve forgotten since the first Nottingjam, I’ll go over it again.
“In between sets there was a Jack and Jill competition, which was great to watch. So a Jack and Jill competition is where the partners are randomly assigned. So you could be dancing with a stranger or your best friend – it’s just luck of the draw.” – Taken from my blog post about Late Night Lindy. And if you want to watch the finals from Nottingjam, there’s a Youtube playlist here.
And, like I mentioned earlier, when the all skate in the Open Jack and Jill happened, it was magical. Everyone did a front facing swingout perfectly on time and it was glorious.
Open Jack and Jill final – Nottingjam 201 6
After many hours of dancing, the night turned into the after party at a nearby club. Fantastic evening culminating in getting to bed at 5am. Just in time for the fire alarm to go off at 7am. Thankfully it stopped and I got to go back to bed straight away.
Sunday brought taster session, none of which I went to because I was asleep. Then we had some more classes. Lisa and Bob taught us how to incorporate Savoy Kicks into swing outs, which took a lot of energy that I didn’t really have. Simon and Robyn taught us to twenties Charleston, which was so much fun. So much. And finally Nancy Hitzig and Scott taught us a small routine that had lots of spins and swing outs, which was a really great way to end the weekend.
Though it wasn’t over yet. There was one final social, a tea dance. It was lovely and I had so many great dances. I really was sad to leave and to say bye to everyone I’d hung out with over the weekend.
Nottingjam 2 was an amazing weekend and I’m so glad that I got to be a part of it. The only thing I would change is where I stayed, and that is all on me. So if next year Nottingjam 3 gets mentioned to you, you should go. Because it’s a great weekend in a great city.