Dancing

Vaudevillain Revue presents “Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder,” May 11, 2012

It’s time for another production of North Carolina’s best cabaret show! Here’s the scoop:

The fiendish folks at The VaudeVillain Revue are back! And with more burlesque, vaudeville antics, smokin’ live music, circus and sideshow acts, and magic than ever before! Inspired by turn-of-the-century Paris, the Moulin Rouge, vintage dance halls and cancan dancers, all as seen through a glass of absinthe! Featuring some of your favorite VaudeVillains: Curtis Eller, Porcelain, Meka la Creme, Kegan Dean Rushing, the Amazing Leoni, Lady Gatita, and more! With special guests Onca O’Leary and The Mezmer Society!

For the first time ever, we are offering TWO SHOWTIMES – 7:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. – with guaranteed seating for all ticket holders! First three rows $15 per person, general seating $12.00 Special party booths are available for up to 8 guests with table service and VIP gift bags awaiting you at your table! Only 2 available at each show…$150! Contact Virginia Scare to purchase – message via Facebook, email drsketchyraleigh@gmail.com, or call 919 454 3914.

Still very excited to be a part of this group – I will be singing in this show and dancing in two of the ensembles. If you haven’t been to one of the Vaudevillain Revue shows, you are definitely missing out!

Click here to purchase tickets.

7:00 p.m. early show

10:30 p.m. late show

Southland Ballroom
614 North West Street
Raleigh, NC

Hawkeye Swing Festival 2012

I’m going to use this opportunity to give a shout out to my husband, trombone player Lucian Cobb, who will be featured in the Hawkeye Swing Festival‘s all-star lineup of musicians for the April 13-15 weekend! He’ll be performing with some old tour buddies (Solomon Douglas, Patrick Breiner, Mike Cemprola) and some new acquaintances (Bria Skonberg, Mike Faltesek, Paul Lines, et al).

While I didn’t win the Hawkeye Swing Festival’s choreography competition, I’m still tagging along to Iowa City for dancing, competing, and hopefully some vintage shopping for a Lindy Shopper report. This will be my first mid-west Lindy Hop event and it will be good to experience that new dynamic, as well as take a mini-work/vacay with Lucian. 🙂

Vaudevillain Revue presents “The Bootlegger’s Ball” – February 10, 2012

Looking forward to making my second appearance as a Vaudevillain, this time in a 1920’s/1930’s themed show, which is definitely up my alley. I’ll be lending my dancing, vocal, and choreography talents to this show – very excited!

Here’s the skinny:

The VaudeVillain Revue
is back with their biggest, most ambitious show yet – The Bootlegger’s Ball!! We’ll take you back to the Roaring 20s and into the 30s, with flappers, gangsters, big bands, and jazz. The cast for this show is fantastic, including aerialists, hoopers, pole athletes, burlesque dancers, jazz dancers, and the mentalist and magician, The Amazing Leoni. Guest performers include the banjo-player extraordinaire Curtis Eller, darkly beautiful belly dancer, Amelia Mourningstar, and a visit from NYC’s tapper, flapper, and gal-about-town, Kristen Minksy (one half of the NYC duo, The Minsky Sisters). This is not a show to be missed!

Doors open at 9:00 p.m., show starts at 10:00 p.m.. $15 at the door, $12 in advance. Vintage or costume attire desired, but not required. There will be prizes from our sponsors, Galaxy Cinema and Aradia Fitness, and a new seating plan to better accommodate our guests!

Advance tickets available here. We will sell out, so make sure to get your tickets ahead of time and get in line early to make sure you get a good seat!

Vote for Laura Windley in the Hawkeye Swing Festival’s Choreography Contest!

I’ve entered the Hawkeye Swing Festival’s Choreography Contest and I’d love to have your vote! If you’d like to vote for my routine or any of the other routines, please fill out this survey at Survey Monkey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/hsfchoreocomp

For more information on the competition, please visit the Hawkeye Swing Festival’s website. The winner will be decided by popular vote and you can only vote once. Voting ends December 31, 2011.

Here are the entry videos, going in the order in which they appeared on the Hawkeye Swing Festival’s Facebook page:

Laura Windley

Katibeth Lee

Jerry Foote and Robin Carlson

Serge Nika Berg and Sarah Relander

Gabriella Cook

Michael Brafford and Dee Daniels Locke

Stacia Martin and Jeremy Fischer

Vaudevillain Revue: We’re All Mad

The Vaudevillain Revue, Raleigh’s premiere vaudeville-inspired cabaret and burlesque troupe, makes its debut at the Southland Ballroom this Friday, November 25, 2011 – prepare yourself for an evening of live music, dancing girls, vaudeville comedy, burlesque beauties, circus arts performances, a little magic, and live music by A Tin Djinn!

I have been invited to join this troupe of Vaudevillain performers and will be debuting my solo jazz routine that I created for the Hawkeye Swing Festival’s choreography competition.

Southland Ballroom
614 N. West Street
Raleigh, NC

Doors open at 9:00 p.m., show starts at 10:00 p.m.

$10 tickets available at the door.

For more information on the show and the troupe, visit http://www.vaudevillainrevue.com.

For the Facebook event invite, see http://www.facebook.com/events/294159463929072/.

Looking Good But Feeling Bad: The Choreography Begins

On October 27, 2011, I will begin teaching a four part workshop series for Hot Club of Durham of a routine I choreographed to Fats Waller’s “Looking Good But Feeling Bad.” I created this routine as a submission for the 2012 Hawkeye Swing Festival’s choreography contest and hope to submit a video of the class doing the routine in time for the December 15 deadline to enter the contest. Please join me, this routine is going to be super fun!

Dates for the workshop series:

October 27
November 10
November 17
December 1

All classes will run from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Trotter Building, 410 W. Geer St., Durham, NC. The cost is $40 for all classes and $32 for students; otherwise, $12 per drop-in or $8 for students. The price includes admission to the Thursday night Hot Club dance.

RSVP to the Facebook invite at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=182285021853650

Pink Renaissance: A Jazz Affair

This Friday, September 23, 2011, I will be performing with the Al Strong Quartet +1 as a dancer at Pink Renaissance: A Jazz Affair. This concert is a fundraiser sponsored by the Kappa Alpha Alpha Sorority and the money raised will go to scholarships. The concert will feature some early jazz tunes, to fit the Harlem Renaissance theme, and will feature the dancing of local swing dancers, including myself, performing Lindy Hop, Balboa, Charleston, and Blues dancing to the music performed by the band.

The event runs from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and will also feature heavy hors d’oeuvres and an amazing cake created by Gregory Bingham of The Art of Cake.

UNC- Chapel Hill, Sonja Haynes Stone Center Theater
150 South Road
Chapel Hill, NC

For more information visit the Kappa Alpha Alpha web site.

Balboa Jack and Jill Finals at ILHC 2011

This past weekend I attended the International Lindy Hop Championships, held just outside of Washington, D.C. in Alexandria, Virginia. Top swing dancers from all over the globe descended on the Westin Alexandria to compete in couples competitions, Jack and Jills, showcase, teams, and solo Charleston. I signed up for the Balboa Jack and Jill, where you are paired randomly with another leader, and, with the help of some amazing leads in the prelims, managed to secure a spot in the finals! Leaders drew their followers names from a hat for the finals and my name was drawn by Mikey Pedroza from Mission Viejo, California. Having never danced with Mikey before, this was what we call a “true Jack and Jill.” You can see our spotlight and the final all-skate in the videos below. We didn’t win, but it certainly felt like winning to have made the finals!

Jazz Age Lawn Party 2011

Two weekends ago flew to New York City to attend the Jazz Age Lawn Party, bandleader Michael Arenella‘s 1920’s themed event held on August 20 and 21, which is a rare opportunity for dancers to spend the day dancing entirely to 1920’s music, while picnicing on the picturesque Governor’s Island. The dance floor was crowded, but I managed to get some dancing in, per the video below and this Flickr video. I also had the pleasure of being photographed by DNAInfo.com and by Bill Cunningham of the New York Times!

Reminiscing About Swing: How I Started Swing Dancing

I occasionally get asked the question, “How did you start swing dancing? What’s your story?” Everyone has a story about how they came to this subculture and, if you’ve been dancing for over a decade, that story must be like ancient history to the new generation of dancers. Prompted by both the Wandering and Pondering and ‘Taint What You Do blogs, I’ve put my story into words.

My story begins with a love affair with jazz music. In 1996/1997 I was in the 10th grade at Davie County High School, the only high school in a very rural North Carolina county. I was heavily influenced by the music on an alternative rock radio station based out of Winston-Salem, NC, but I can’t remember the call letters and I’m not sure they even exist anymore. I would listen to their music getting ready for school in the morning and it was through this radio station that I was exposed to North Carolina’s own Squirrel Nut Zippers. I loved the sound, bought the CD, immersed myself in it, and shared it with others. I developed a curiosity for this music and began to seek out other artists in this vein, but this was before widespread internet use so my resources were limited. At the end of 11th grade I did a project for my U.S. History class on my grandfather’s adventures as a Merchant Mariner during WWII and used SNZ’s “Good Enough for Grandad” as the background music for my video montage of photos. My grandfather would frequently talk about jazz and musicians from the 1930’s and 1940’s, as well as play music from this era on his turntables, and I slowly began putting all the pieces together in a historical context, where SNZ got their inspiration. This was just before all hell broke loose.

I remember riding around the next summer in my 1990 Honda Civic DX with my best friend Caroline, squealing whenever we heard the Brian Setzer Orchestra or Cherry Poppin’ Daddies on the radio – “Turn it up! We have to get this CD!” Somewhere in this time frame of 1998, the GAP debuted its “Khakis Swing” commercial and I was completely smitten, bitten, and infected with the jitterbug. There was a dance I could learn that went with all this great music? I had to do it, right then. But how? I was 17, living in rural North Carolina with overprotective parents, where was I going to find someone to teach me?

The ever resourceful Caroline had the idea that we would host our own swing dance at our high school. After a little digging, we discovered that we could use the gym after a football game for about an hour and that the high school band director did ballroom dancing with his wife and would be willing to teach an East Coast Swing lesson. We befriended the A/V guys who put together mini-commercials for the dance that aired during morning announcements, using dance clips from A League of Their Own and Swingers. I put together a set of my swing music (my first DJ gig!) and with a boom box we were set. Caroline and I donned our GAP khakis, took the basic lesson, did dangerous aerials with our friends, and left with a feeling of accomplishment – we learned how to swing dance!

Winston-Salem's Millennium Center, the site of my first real swing dance

I forget how the word trickled down to me, but a few weeks later I learned that the Millennium Center in Winston-Salem had swing dances. I rounded up a group of my friends to head into “the city” to attend a Supermurgatroid Productions dance at this wonderful venue, an old post office converted into an event space with miles of wood floors. I took another beginner lesson, this time with Joel Domoe and Salima Owen, and I was bursting with excitement. I’d get to dance with REAL swing dancers, not just the boys at my high school. I was in heaven. After the lesson, my friends were not as into it as I was and I remember leaving the dance earlier than I wanted, but I did manage to sneak in a few dances with more experienced dancers.

I continued to watch the swing craze play itself out over television, catching broadcasts of the Brian Setzer Orchestra and other neo-swing bands that may have appeared on shows (see video above from 1998 MTV Music Awards, dancers enter around 5:20 – do you know any of the dancers? Do they still dance?) and on late night TV. I remember seeing dancers in these productions, with brightly colored outfits, flipping and turning with gusto. I remember reading articles about the swing dance and vintage culture in Los Angeles, California, seeing photographs of men in zoot suits or three piece suits and women in beautiful vintage dresses and accessories. I watched Swing Kids and started collecting a few traditional swing and jazz CDs, in addition to neo-swing.

I didn’t return to swing dancing until after golf season and a bout with mono, but as I headed to my freshman year of college at East Carolina University, I sought out swing dance lessons on campus and discovered that the campus Methodist minister taught weekly lessons at the Methodist student center. The response for these lessons was overwhelming and we all packed into the tiny auditorium at the student center to get our weekly dose of East Coast Swing. There were only a handful of actual social dances at the student center, in spite of the amazing turnout, and some of us wanted more. Two Air Force pilots from Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro who commuted to the weekly swing dance lessons at ECU told some of the dancers about a weekly dance in Raleigh they had been commuting to, where all the best dancers in the state would come and dance every week. It was at a place called The Warehouse. I’d only been to Raleigh a handful of times in my life and I was dying to see people dance like the GAP ads. I was in.

Lindy Shopper storytelling shopping detour: I couldn’t show up to a big dance in Raleigh wearing just anything, especially after seeing the L.A. women in their beautiful dresses. Surely, the sophisticated dancers in Raleigh would all be wearing vintage! On a trip home to visit my parents, my mother took me to Winston-Salem to a vintage store called, I believe, Hello Betty. I had no idea what to look for, but my mother did, thanks to her sewing experience, her penchant for historical costumes, and her childhood during the 1950’s. Looking back, we actually found two really great dresses – the first was a pale pink late 1940’s rayon dress with mother of pearl buttons on the the bodice and black stitching detail (lost to moths a few years ago, tears ensued); the second was an early 1960’s black cocktail dress from Montaldo’s, which we later discovered (after ripping out the lining to tailor the dress) was a Ferdinando Sarmi design.

When we made it to the Warehouse, late on a school night, I was overwhelmed by what I saw. It wasn’t the GAP ad, but, in my opinion at the time, it was real swing dancing. Being around these dancers was intimidating, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the dance floor. I danced with the guys who came with us and maybe one other person, but kept to the side of the dance floor. I think one person commented on my vintage dress. I was the only person wearing vintage and stuck out like a sore thumb. Some things never change around here. 😉 I went to the Warehouse one other time before the flyboys were transferred to another Air Force base.

Guzzo and I at our GAP khakis best

During the second semester of my sophomore year of college, the campus Methodist minister started teaching us Lindy Hop, based on the Frankie Manning videos. A small group of us struggled to get the steps right, and it slowly began to make sense. At the end of the semester the minister sat us down and told us he had taught us everything he knew and that he wouldn’t be able to teach next year because of his duties. Would a couple of us be willing to take over the lessons? Somehow, the torch was handed to me and my dorm-mate of the past two years, Mike Guzzo, to take over the East Coast Swing lessons.

Mike and I started the semester with that same packed auditorium, but by the end of the semester it had dwindled down to a core group that would eventually become the ECU Swing Dance Club. It was about this time that I met Dave Fillmore at a local dance, who had a profound influence on my Lindy Hop. Dave spent a few months out of every year living in San Francisco, dancing and taking lessons from Paul Overton and Sharon Ashe (who, ironically, now live in the same town as I do). Dave took me under his wing, taught me some proper technique, turned me on to what the national DJs were playing at the time, and, most importantly, got me traveling to dance. We would ride together to the weekly dances in Raleigh, which had moved to a restaurant/brewery called Greenshields, and I slowly overcame my awe of the dancing there and joined in. We’d commute to the Triangle Swing Dance Society dances at the Durham Armory. In 2003, I attended my first Lindy exchange, DCLX. The rest, as they say, is history. In 2005, I moved from Greenville to the Triangle and I’ve been an active member of the swing dance community here for years and continue to travel to swing dance events all over the United States.

An early photo, with Dave Fillmore at right, from the rained out U.S.S. North Carolina swing dance in Wilmington, circa 2001/2002. Sharpie tattoos courtesy of my neighbors, Cape Fear Tattoo.