Tag Archives: Lindy Hop

SWING DANCING IN CATALINA’S CASINO BALLROOM

23 Jul

Catalina Casino Ballroom

The “Big Band” wails swing music in the sybaritic art-deco Casino Ballroom in Avalon on Catalina Island. Dancers of all ages dressed in their ’40s finest triple-step, lindy, glide, and even perform aerials to the rhythmic, revved-up sounds of the Second World War. The Catalina Swing Dance Festival occurs annually in November (this year November 8-10.) During the day, a variety of  classes are available including the Charleston, Lindy Hop, Collegiate Shag, 1950s Teen Swing, the Balboa, and more. The Balboa dance uses small, close dance steps which were developed to cope with California’s Balboa Peninsula’s crowded dance floors in the 1920s. Instructors at the swing dance festival are enthusiastic, renowned professional performers and teachers. One needn’t have a dance partner to participate in the dance workshops or even be a dancer to enjoy this lively, nostalgic festival.

Swing Dancing in Casino Ballroom

Swing Dancing in Casino Ballroom

On Saturday evening, even non-dancers can enjoy the live big bands and decked-out dancers in against the backdrop of the largest circular ballroom in the world. When it was built in 1929 it became the tallest building in Los Angeles. In it early heyday, thousands of dancers would arrive by steamship for the privilege and pleasure of dancing in the historic ballroom, which can accommodate over 6000 dancers!  Built with dancers in mind, the ramps to the top floor ballroom facilitate relatively quick access to the dance floor and were also designed to prevent injuries or fatigue that could be caused by stairs. In addition, the hardwood floor was constructed over layers of foam, pine and cork, which are suspended over five feet.

Besides the Casino Ballroom events, there is après-festival karaoke at El Galleon Restaurant, as well as midnight swing dancing at Antonio’s. In addition, there are both planned and spontaneous swing dance demonstrations on Crescent Avenue, the main tourist walkway. For people who wish only to make a day trip, there is typically a special 12:45 a.m. return ferry to Long Beach.

Descanso Beach Club

Descanso Beach Club

Non-dancers and dancers can enjoy the island’s many land, air and water activities. Too numerous to mention them all, some of the land highlights include Wrigley Gardens, interior tours, golf, walking tours, bike rentals, and ghost tours. Scuba, snorkeling and “snuba” are available, which will require donning a wetsuit due to the cold water this time of year. Although the Descanso Beach Club, on one of precious few sandy beach spots on the island, is scheduled to be closed from mid-October until mid-April for low season, they sometimes open for out-of season warm weather weekends. They have cocktails, beach chair rentals, and snorkeling. For the adventurous, there is a nearby zip line eco tour. Information about Catalina Island activities is available at: www.catalinachamber.com/island/activities.

The vibrantly painted Lobster Trap emphasizes fresh, tasty seafood in a casual and sometimes raucous atmosphere with friendly service at reasonable prices. Memorable appetizers include “monkey balls” (ahi-stuffed mushroom tempura), a variety of fresh fish with a choice of seven delectable sauces, as well as a good selection of chicken, beef and other land animals. A full bar, live weekend entertainment, and televised sporting events make this a fun and popular spot..

Inn on Mt. Ada

Inn on Mt. Ada

For a memorable lunch, head up to the Inn on Mt. Ada, the former Wrigley Mansion, perched atop a hill overlooking Avalon and its harbor. The highlight is spending several hours at the Inn with a lunch that includes unlimited beverages (wine, sodas, coffee and tea) and an extensive menu of salads, sandwiches, burgers, and the daily Mexican special. Even after finishing lunch, guests are free to roam the main floor of the Inn which houses the den, sun porch, living room, formal dining room, and the terrace, which reveals a spectacular view of Avalon, the harbor and beyond. The Inn is the premier place to stay on Catalina. Reservations required.

For a central hotel location with easy harbor and beach access, the newly-remodeled, mid-century style Pavilion Hotel is ideal for both couples and families. Amenities include continental breakfast, afternoon wine and cheese social, tranquil lounge areas, a cozy fire pit, and bright, airy rooms. The hotel is perfect for both families and couples. Luxurious accommodations are available at The Inn on Mt. Ada, but due to its location at the top of the hill, transportation is needed to get to the Inn and back to Avalon. Camping is another option for the adventurous or budget-minded.

Book the hotel, festival and ferry early and pack as lightly as possible due to the necessity of carting luggage from the car to the ferry, the hotel and then back. Round-trip ferries on Catalina Express to Avalon leave from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point. The length of the boat ride depends on the route and type of boat, so carefully consider all options. The other transportation options are helicopter, or private plane which lands on the perilous-looking runway high on the island.

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LET’S DANCE!

23 Jul
Linda Drake

Linda Drake

San Luis Obispo (SLO) County, in the beautiful Central Coast of California, is home to one of the premier social dance scenes in the United States. Social dance is a category of dance styles which can be performed with a variety of partners in a relaxed, social setting. While many people think this type of dancing if primarily for competition, locally less than 5% of the dancers are competing; the rest of the dancers are doing it simply for fun. Some of the dances taught here on the Central Coast include East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Argentine tango, foxtrot, rumba, salsa, waltz, cha cha, nightclub, the hustle, two-step, country and western, ballroom and more. While many people feel intimidated at the prospect of what sounds like complicated dances, the reality is learning these dances are readily attainable.

Some of the best local dance classes are offered by the fun and nimble-footed Linda Drake through SLO Dance. Linda offers over 20 years of local professional dance teaching experience. Linda and the other dance teachers include a number of nationally-recognized award-winners.  There are classes of all levels, including many beginning classes. She and her other SLO Dance teachers provide skills, patience in a friendly, fun atmosphere which makes it possible for anyone to learn to dance. Linda shared her oldest student was at least 84 and her youngest age 12. Many of the skilled dancers at such public venues as concerts in Mission Plaza, Templeton Park, Paso Robles Park, and Arroyo Grande Park have taken dance lessons from SLO Dance or other local dance teachers.

Linda started dancing with her high school drill team. She entered and did well at the Miss Dance Competition, even though she had no formal dance training. At age 18, she was hired to teach at an Arthur Murray Dance studio.  While teaching there, Linda received the coveted Top Female Instructor in the Nation award. She has also been awarded Top Professional Instructor by the World Dance-O-Rama. In order to compete professionally, she had to leave Arthur Murray, which was a difficult decision. Her decision was rewarded when her professional dance career got off to a stellar start when she became the National East Coast Swing, Jack and Jill Champion in 1984. Throughout the 1990s, she was consistently ranked in the top six female competitors in West Coast Swing. She also had the honor of choreographing several PBS dance specials including Dancing through the Decades. She also opened her own business teaching dance in Southern California, and in 1993, twenty years ago, she started teaching in San Luis Obispo.  Linda continues to participate in some dance competitions, as do a number of her teachers.

Lessons through SLO Dance occur weekly on Wednesday and Thursday evenings at the Oddfellows’ Hall near downtown San Luis Obispo. Classes are offered either in a series of successive classes, or tailored to be a “drop in class.” Generally, two different classes are offered at the same time, but in different rooms, with a total of six classes offered each evening. SLO Dance also hosts monthly themed dance parties at the Oddfellows’ Hall. Linda has been doing local monthly “Dance Invasions” with her students at such dance-friendly venues as The Madonna Inn and Big Chill Night.  On a designated Friday or Saturday, people initially meet for a dance class, such as East Coast Swing or foxtrot, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and then Linda and the dancers venture as a group to the planned Dance Invasion site. This is a way for dancers to try their new dance skills in the reassuring company of their dance classmates. In addition, SLO Dance offers free dance lessons a half hour prior to the start of the monthly Saturday SLO Blues Society concerts, which gives the person a chance to practice the new steps learned.

Kaye Bohler

Kaye Bohler

Linda especially enjoys opportunities for her students to dance to live music. She likes to schedule Dance Invasions with live bands which play danceable music. To that end, on May 11, 2013 she scheduled a Dance Invasion is scheduled for the dynamic, sassy blue’s performance of Kaye Bohler at the May SLO Blues Society concert. Kaye sings “blues-flavored soul and R&B reminiscent of Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner.” Kaye’s 2011 CD Like a Flower was named one of the best by Downbeat Magazine. When interviewed prior to the concert, Kaye stated she was eagerly looking forward to returning to play in San Luis Obispo County where she previously lived and performed. Her upcoming performance starts at 8:00 p.m. at the SLO Vets Hall in San Luis Obispo. Kaye also performs throughout California and other West Coast locales.

Cal Poly Sport Dance Team at Madonna Inn

Cal Poly Sport Dance Team at Madonna Inn

Cal Poly (California Polytechnic State University) in San Luis Obispo also has an active dance teaching and performance community. About ten years ago, Chris Ellwood started out taking lessons at Cal Poly, then became the President and eventually started a dance competition team. Even though he is no longer a student, he is the Director of the Cal Poly Ballroom Dance Club and Sports Team.  They provide weekly lessons at the Architecture Building for all ages; Chris noted that they have retirees who regularly take lessons. A variety of classes are taught including samba, waltz, paso doble, salsa, mambo, nightclub two-step, rumba, East and West Coast Swing, foxtrot, cha cha, and American and Argentine tango. Every February, Cal Poly Ballroom Dance Club offers an annual competition which attracts approximately 300 dancers. More info is available at  www.cpdancesport.org/comp. SLO Swing, also consisting of Cal Poly students, features Lindy Hop, which is sometimes referred to as the original swing dance. Lindy Hop started in Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s, which evolved from jazz into a fusion of dance mainly based on jazz, tap, breakaway, and Charleston. They sponsor a number of workshops and events including the Lindy Exchange.

Argentine Tango

Argentine Tango

Argentine tango is a sensual partner dance originated in the 1890s along the Rio de la Plata, the river separating Argentina and Uruguay.  It has become a popular dance worldwide. Laura Andes invites people to “come and share in my enthusiasm and passion for this spectacular and magical gift called Tango!” She noted that for a community this size that there is a very active tango community, typically with five or six tango events per week, including lessons, practicas, and more. Laura’s dedication to authentic Argentine tango led her to immerse herself in tango dance and culture by spending four weeks in Buenos Aires in 2009 and six weeks in 2011. By doing this, she became recognized as a regular at the Buenos Aires milongas, which allowed her to learn by dancing with true experts. She also enjoyed the opportunity to sample the incredibly bountiful selection of specialty tango shoes. Laura offers a class for students of all levels “by donation” the third Tuesday of each month.

Courtesy: www.slocoastjournal.com