Lindy & Blues Weekend with Lisa y Fabien review
Place and date: Porto (Portugal) 15-17 February 2019
Organizer: Hop Dance Studio https://www.facebook.com/pg/hopdancestudio
Organizer presentation: Lindy & Blues Weekend with the amazing Lisa and Fabien. 3 parties (2 with live band). 2 days of workshops. 2 levels (intermediate and advanced) 10 hours of classes.
Web of the festival: https://www.facebook.com/events/271254276916535/
Warning: The evaluation is done exclusively from the technical point of view of a swing dancer. They do not consider subjective, emotional, or imponderable criteria, such as fun or mood that is experienced individually. This series of criticisms only deals with technical, formal and logistical aspects, and they will not necessarily relate to your subjective experience of the event. Check here our criteria
If you have had a lot of fun and nothing has bothered you, give the event the highest score and do not keep reading.
The criticism corresponds only to the «Lindy Pass» that includes the parties and all Lindy Hop classes of the program (intermediate and advanced). The event included Blues and Slow Lindy classes that will not be taken into account.
21:00 – 22:00 – Lindy Hop Beginners
22:00 – 23:00 – Blues Beginners
23:00 – 3:00 – Party at Clube Feniano
The management of the inscriptions, payments and transfers was correct and effective. The inscriptions were made through a web form that detailed the different options and possible combinations, as well as the prices. The responses via e-mail and the management of the bank transfers and the subsequent acknowledgment of receipt were accurate and diligent.
It also offered the possibility of being hosted by native dancers, a very appreciable detail, as well as discounts for groups going over to Portugal.
Regarding level management, each dancer was allowed to act in conscience choosing between the «intermediate» and «advanced» levels, according to the description that represented him, namely:
- LINDY HOP Intermediate: You feel comfortable with the basic patterns of Lindy Hop (swing out, lindy circle, tuck turn, charleston ), you take regular classes and dance socially as much as you can. You are learning variations for your dance and you have a good connection with your partner.
- LINDY HOP Advanced: This is when everything begins to get harder. You’ve been dancing for at least a couple of years. You can handle different tempos, variations and difficult movements and you can make everything work with the music. You like to be challenged, you are passionate about Lindy Hop and your life is full of practices, classes, workshops and parties.
Following the level descriptions, we can say that at international level these levels come to correspond to an «intermediate-low» (improvers) and «intermediate-high» level. But logically, each city and school have different references. An «advanced» of a city could be an «intermediate» in cities with a greater swing tradition, or even in a different school.
As we have pointed out in previous reviews, the antediluvian practice of classical auditions imposes a significant loss of time and energy on the visitor. On top of the fatigue of the trip and the preparations, the physical and psychological wear of playing in a lottery can ruin the whole experience.
No teacher, no matter how learned, can evaluate dozens of people, their different baggage and learning models in just a few seconds. And less when the audited employ tricks such as the previous pact of a couple, the rotation between friends, promotion by organizers and acquaintances, and other tricks that we have contemplated frequently. Classical auditions not only do not ensure a homogeneous level, but make it impossible. If you want to do a level test, more advanced models should be adopted, such as peer-audition or mixed peer-audition .
We have observed that people tend to be responsible when a detailed level description is offered, which induces a process of reflection on one’s own abilities in those circumstances. Nobody wants to be overcome by lessons on a level that is not theirs. But also not sparring dancers of a lower level. Detailed level descriptions mitigate the Dunning-Kruger effect.
In the case at hand, the Hop Dance Studio school had the good sense to delegate the self-evaluation of the participants. In the case of dancers with advanced and intermediate level, there are enough tools available to evaluate the level with perspective. The cognitive bias of the Dunning-Kruger syndrome diminishes as our ability improves, since having a formal knowledge base allows us to more accurately identify our current level of competence.
The registration of visitors, delivery of identification bracelets and other organizational tasks were agile and careful.
In summary, an irreproachable and accurate performance in all organizational aspects. Larger communities could learn from the level of excellence that a school with its own independence and criteria can achieve.
All the activities were carried out in «Clube Fenianos Portuenses» except the party on Sunday, which took place in «Radio Bar». Both of Oporto’s enclaves were central and close to each other. In this section we do not yet qualify aspects such as comfort or other technical elements that affect the dance, only the historical, artistic or touristic interest of the enclaves.
Clube Fenianos Portuenses
Clube Fenianos was created in 1904, as a result of the industrialization and modernization of Porto, which led to the emergence of the first cultural associations. This association was born with the desire to evoke the carnival activities of Brazil or Venice, combining the cultural and artistic. At present, it shelters solidarity and philanthropic activities, from magic to dance.
Spacious rooms and wooden floors in a historic building over 100 years old. Wooden steps, concierge, carpets and high ceilings. This space enhanced the atmosphere of the event and provided all the necessary services, bar and toilets. Large windows provided access to balconies with magnificent views of Avenida dos Aliados. One of the most diaphanous rooms gave shelter to the workshops, while the most decorated room, housed the main parties and concerts.
This space hosted the farewell party, and although it lacked the glamor of Clube Fenianos, it had its own personality. Old building, with three main spaces, the bar and two dancing rooms. It owes its name to a curious permanent exhibition of old radios, located in one of the chill out rooms. At the party on Sunday a room hosted the appropriate musical themes for Lindy , Shag and the like, while the smaller room did the same with the Slow Lindy and the Blues.
It should be noted that the smaller room had an irregular floor, and that it was the room initially planned for the fast swing. However, after warning the organization of the convenience of switching the spaces for a better experience, they applied our recommendation almost immediately. Another point in favor of the organization, which was receptive and intelligent.
The city: Porto
A true journey is one in which the returning traveler is not the same as the one who left. Like Ulysses or Jason, the heroes return transformed by their journey. The least was destiny, but experience. We can say that Porto has this effect on the traveler; all of it is an experience that does not invite haste. Walk the labyrinth of its intricate streets, feel the fleeting freshness of the shadow projected by the flight of seagulls, participate in the kiss of the Duero with the Atlantic, contemplate the damp facades of time and beauty. We are protagonists of a poem that we must finish writing with our steps.
Torre dos Clerigos and the magical staircase of the Lello bookstore, the Monastery of Serra do Pilar or the Cathedral, are simple excuses to let yourself be seduced by a city that, despite tourism, has not surrendered its traditional charm.
Considering the enormous cultural interest of the city of Porto and of the enclaves chosen for the event, this section receives the highest score.
Regarding the musical section, approximately half of the repertoire of the festival was composed of slow themes appropriate for slow Lindy and Blues. In this sense, both the musical bands and the DJs honored the mixed character of the festival, since both styles of dance and musical genres shared protagonism. It is possible that there was a greater preponderance of slow issues at the end of the Saturday party, when the ratio high / low tempos was tilted in favor of the Blues.
The invited bands were 24 Robbers Swing Band and The Bouncing Brothers, formations both Portuguese, that consummated very remarkable performances. It is noteworthy that they scored at the level of Anglo-Saxon bands of greater renown, and that they executed jazz and blues structure themes with a very successful swing. The vocalists of both groups contributed the necessary texture and nuances to the themes, becoming an instrument that added color and richness to the atmosphere created. It should be noted the excellent fusion of voices and instruments in both formations, which combined without difficulty or shrillness.
The alternation of tempos, the duration of the themes, the use of the rhythm section, and other variables that are important for the dancers were appropriate when not excellent. It is possible that some Blues songs were too long, being able to prolong more than four minutes, something not at all desirable in a social dance in which it is about dancing with the maximum possible number of couples.
The DJs Bernardo Barra and Paulo Azevedo also offered a solid and varied selection of themes, which clearly shows a good knowledge of their craft and how a musical list should be made for Blues and Lindy Hop dancers.
In our critiques we focus on the technical sections of the festivals. Many times the best thing that can be said about a technical section is that it has gone unnoticed. That there has been natural correspondence between what is expected and what has been found. That a reflection caused by the negligence or bad management of the organizers has not been necessary. And in this case, the musical section has been solid and round.
Instead of dancing despite the music (something we see with mediocre groups or DJs who do not know how to play for dancers) we have been able to dance better thanks to music. And this is the greatest compliment that can be done to both musicians and DJs.
The two main enclaves had natural wood flooring. Natural wood, if possible parquet, is the ideal surface for swing dance, since it combines optimal sliding properties and impact absorption. As we always remember, the floor is the third person with whom we dance, and its nature can profoundly affect both the expression of our dance and joint health.
Clube Fenianos Portuenses
The floor of two rooms is distinguished, namely, the celebration of the workshops and the celebration of the party. The floor on which the workshops were held was made of natural wood, without discontinuities or fissures, with excellent sliding properties. This facilitated the execution of turns and pivots, and permitted the concentration on the technique. The floor of the room enabled for the night party possessed somewhat inferior qualities, while still being optimal. The friction was a little higher and at the end of the room there were irregularities between the slats, with some unevenness with which it was possible to trip or curb the footwork. This minor defect was avoided by dancing in the proscenium, and did not affect the entire room.
The usual condensation in spaces devoid of air extraction or other elements of air conditioning, were reducing the qualities of the track as the evening progressed, although this section will be dealt with in the following section. Here we evaluate only the soil per se.
It is noteworthy that the bar of rigor had its own space after walking a few meters down the corridor, so that the problem of spilling drinks on the floor or of attendees bringing their drinks to it, something always inadvisable, was avoided.
This space hosted the Sunday party. The room with the largest surface had a wooden laminated floor with characteristics similar to those of Clube Fenianos, while the smaller room had natural stained wood. The floor of this smaller room was not properly leveled, and suffered from different irregularities and projections that made the dance difficult. Fortunately, and following our recommendation, this room was dedicated to slower subjects, where the effect of a mediocre floor was minimized. The bar also had its own space, although drinks were allowed to move inside the dance halls, where we observed liquid spillage.
The section of technical factors of the ground, a first-order element for a serious dancer, is settled with a high score despite the small defects observed, which only had a superficial influence on the evolution of the activities.
Both Clube Fenianos and Radio Bar exhibited similar characteristics in terms of air conditioning, so we will deal with this factor as a whole. In general, the atmosphere warmed up as the festivities progressed, with the subsequent condensation. This reduced the optimal properties of the floors and reduced the comfort of the attendees. If there was appropriate technology for air extraction and / or optimal air conditioning, it was not used. Given the time of year, with a minimum temperature of 5-7 ° C at night outside, the temperature was bearable, although extra measures would have been appreciated to maintain the cooling of a space saturated with dancers.
High ceilings favor the dissipation of hot air towards the heights, although they do not completely mitigate the calorific effect caused by a large group of people performing physical activity. A single individual involved in intense physical activity can radiate from 200 to 300W in the form of heat energy, something that engineers consider when installing an efficient HVAC system. Unfortunately, there have been few exceptions, in our experience, in which this type of system has been set up or activated.
This section, without being regrettable, is the weak point of the festival, given that neither did it have drinking water or fruit during the celebration of the workshops. This is a common practice that increases comfort and promotes the hydration and replacement of electrolytes of the dancers. Instead of providing these elements for free, these functions were delegated to the bar. Although it constitutes a negative point, given the low cost of the festival we will not penalize this point as severely as in similar festivals that double the price. It may be reasonable that for the sake of cheapening the full pass they dispensed with some extras.
Finally, in the comfort section we can include the lighting comfort. When the lighting goes unnoticed it is because the correct atmosphere has been created. At the party on Saturday, however, we were surprised by the excess of lighting and the misuse of it to create an atmosphere. Particularly if we talk about an event where the Blues, and its somewhat intimate character, recommended the complicity of a softer and chiaroscuro lighting. The line of lights was also located at a height not much higher than the average height, and caused discomfort to be directly observed. We believe that greater control over this section would have enhanced the atmosphere and aesthetics of the experience.
Consequently, and as is usual in most festivals, a section that suffers maintaining an acceptable level.
The advantage of attending a festival without expectations or previous references is that you can experience everything for the first time without the bias of emotional ties. Many people confuse the value of an experience with what they feel in a particular company. With the right people all the experiences can be wonderful, but as we have stated many times in these critiques, we try to separate the emotional from the technical when making our analyses. It is easy and tempting to get carried away by nostalgia and memories, and the many endearing dancers we met in Porto.
However, we must stand firm, and distinguish the objective value of the experience from what we have been able to experience in the secret space of our hearts. We try to elaborate our criticisms so that they are as universal as possible, and offer the most relevant information for anyone who proposes a similar trip.
In this section, strictly speaking, what we judge is the mood of the community that receives us, its level of hospitality, the attitude in the social dance and the type of stratification during it. We can say that the Portuense community is one of the warmest and most endearing we have ever met. This is probably a reflection of their own internal unity, since the human group seems harmoniously united without the isolated or pretentious groups that exist elsewhere. We did not perceive a marked stratification in the social dance, according to which the tendency to dance with acquaintances or people of the same level would predominate, and it seemed to us that this community likes to integrate and share. The monkey effect of Kilimanjaro was reduced to the natural minimum, and we did not detect snobbery.
In addition to Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French and Ukrainian dancers, among others, all participated in the healthy social atmosphere created during the event. This section receives an outstanding rating for the warmth, kindness and inclusive nature of this community.
In this section, only the personal nature of the invited professors, their openness and generosity towards the community they visit and their quality as dancers are judged, without entering into the content of the workshops or their pedagogical value.
Both together and separately they have competed internationally and achieved numerous awards. Their quality and versatility as dancers is well proven, but they have also demonstrated their virtues for teaching. Their ability to supply top-level material and transmit it in the short space of a workshop is unparalleled in our experience. Other «fashionable» dancers, whose names we reserve, have not survived their fame after receiving a workshop from them. We find many first-class dancers who do second or third class workshops, with steamy concepts and an ineffective teaching system.
We should not assume that an excellent dancer will also be an excellent transmitter of quality material. It is necessary to foster the critical spirit and differentiate between good or famous dancers and good teachers. They do not always coincide. Lisa and Fabien stand in their own right as possessors of these two attributes. Magnificent dancers of Lindy Hop and Blues, they also display a rigorous didactic that is rare.
Along with the usual exhibitions at night parties, they got involved with the community to the point of participating as one more in the social dance . They were seen requesting dances and enjoying the event in a genuine way, with the same smile and enthusiasm that we could share the night in their company. This proves that, beyond the professional, his passion for dancing is an inextinguishable flame. It also proves that like us they are, above all, social dancers who enjoy the magic of falling in love with anyone for two and a half minutes. Or four, if it’s a Blues!
Totally irreproachable, and even exceeding our critical standards, we cannot stop qualifying this couple, for the third time, with an outstanding.
We evaluate the workshops considering the quality of the teaching given, its adaptation to the general level of the class, the clarity of the explanations, the progression of difficulty, and the pedagogical value of the teachers.
We have considered the experience of the intermediate and advanced levels of Lindy Hop, which are the two levels that we attended, and that have allowed us to contrast the different materials selected by Lisa and Fabien for each level, and their adaptation to them.
Intermediate level workshops
- Saturday. Different variations of barrel roll after a send out, using different rhythms. Options that converted the 6-count pattern into one of 8 were illustrated, as well as a break, a syncopated rhythm change and a change of cadence.
- Sunday. We worked on a variation that supposed that the leader changed a front step for a syncopated step, which made it possible to start a yo-yo pattern with a later step game. Part of the swing out technique was also analyzed and an original tandem start was taught.
Advanced level workshops
- Saturday. On the basis of a swing out a static rock & go was incorporated. Subsequently, the options that began at time 6 of the swingout were evolved, and they allowed modifying the inertia to create additional turns. In these variants the dominance of the Lindy Hop base technique was of capital importance, since these mechanics only worked if the follower respected the » flow and momentum» or if the leader provided the correct frame at the key moments.
- Sunday. This was the most technical workshop and rich in technical details, a sort of final test. Starting from a basic with front step and ball change in which it was again essential to understand the inertia and the frame , progressed to more complex variations that included an unexpected syncopation and a curious variation in which the leader had to execute from the opposite side. We can say that with this workshop they put a finishing touch to their teaching.
Brief fragments of the four workshops are presented
In all cases Lisa and Fabien supplied detailed explanations that could be recorded on video at the end of each workshop. This is the preferred option to remember and practice the material shown. Although they did not offer a demo with music, this type of recording far exceeds the simplicity of a demo, in which the fine details are lost. The maximum use of the workshops is only possible when teachers summarize and illustrate, before the camera, the movements taught.
Considering the large amount of content provided, the quality of it, and the personal involvement of Fabien and Lisa when providing corrections and individual advice, these workshops receive the highest rating. We do not conceive how the time of a workshop could be better modulated, with a perfect balance between global and personal teaching, and all without giving up delivering committed and top-level material.
Remember in the first place that in this section we do not think about if the festival is expensive or cheap. This is subjective. What we evaluate is whether there is an effective correspondence between the value of the experience and the amount paid. Or, in other words, if the value of the offered exceeds, equals or remains below the price paid.
There were several options according to whether we enrolled in Lindy Hop classes, Blues or a combination of both. The price for two levels of Lindy Hop, which included 5h of class in addition to the 3 parties, amounted to €90. We therefore speak of an excellent quality-price ratio. Considering all the previous sections, locations, music, floor, content and pedagogy of the workshops, social aspects, community and degree of involvement of the teachers, the amount paid is really modest.
If we add to this that the city of Porto is reason enough for a visit, we will no longer have an excuse to live a full experience as dancers as well as travelers. There the blue sky mixes with the green Douro, and the streets are filled with stories and mysteries. As we indicated at the beginning of this criticism, the true traveler never returns from his trip, not completely. Leave something, and bring something new. This is one of those trips that makes the bell of the heart ring, the one that awakens us from routine and boredom.
This encounter with Lisa and Fabien, masterfully managed by Hop Dance Studio, has shone with its own light. A craft festival, with the charm of small formats and the intimate warmth of the Porto community. And we must not forget the city that frames these virtues, Porto, which satisfies the gaze of the curious traveler, eager for inspiration and dreams.