This is a unique year for gift giving – what do you buy the Lindy Hopper in your life when there’s no (or almost no) Lindy Hop because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Maybe you’re hopeful that we’ll get back to this soon and that pair of dance shoes is still on your wishlist. Maybe you’ve taken up a new/old hobby and you want things for that. Maybe you’re in need of any sort of injection of joy in your life. Maybe you need to get your booty moving in 2021, with or without this pandemic. Whatever your desires, I present some swing-related suggestions that may bring you joy and, perhaps, help others and bring joy to the community:
In my experience, the pandemic has made people more accessible than ever before, with potentially more flexible/free time to spend teaching via Zoom or other digital platforms to connect. The sky (or perhaps time zones?) is the limit! How fun/funny would it be to wrap up a photo of an instructor or set of instructors and have someone open this package on Christmas Day? As someone who has received private lessons as gift before, I promise it is a welcome gift at any stage in your dancing. Also, to connect with someone…anyone…Bueller?
SWING DANCE SHOES
We aren’t wearing out our shoes, but maybe this will give you time to break them in at your house and avoid those first dance blisters, troubleshoot any insoles you may need, or just wear them because you feel good in them. Some dance shoes are also great street shoes; for those that aren’t, you’ve got more time to wear them around your house. Need some ideas? There’s a search by category function on this blog – select “shoes” – I’ve written a decade’s worth of blog posts about all (am I missing any??) the swing dance shoe brands you may patronize this holiday season.
This one is obviously near and dear to me in many respects. I am both a producer of music and an avid music collector. I usually have both going on at the same time! For those of us who aren’t able to dance with a partner during the pandemic, getting new music has been a lifeline, a way to keep things fresh, inspiring, and joyful. I like mixing things up, something old, something new – consider a Mosaic Records box set (because there was a time when this company was in danger of folding) with its impeccable liner notes (a book, really – check out eBay for out of print sets, too!) or dig into some modern swing bands who definitely could use some holiday music sales to brighten their season, as well. ILHC made it easy for me by compiling a list of modern swing bands, which provided all the music for Virtual ILHC 2020, and I believe it doubles handily as a holiday wishlist and beyond for adding new music to a loved one’s (or, let’s be real, your) music collection.
Go to Etsy and search for “Lindy Hop” and see what comes up – there’s a wealth of artists and craftspeople who are inspired by this dance and create wonderful gifts that are personalized to our niche hobby/lifestyle/obsession. I usually do this for my gift giving guide every year and pick out a handful of things to share and it’s one of my favorite things to blog about. Our community is so creative, we love this dance and the love comes through in both our movement and other creative endeavors, visual artists, and even face masks.
When I was in grad school I would always ask for Lindy Focus as my Christmas present. It was a lot of change to drop for someone subsisting on student loans and I never regretted that decision or felt like I was missing anything – if anything, the Lindy Focus FOMO would have been intense! There are some wonderful virtual events that have happened over the course of this pandemic, some of which have also doubled as fundraisers. Consider buying an event pass for your loved one, maybe watch it together, and as a bonus give a donation in someone’s name to an organization that is putting resources in the hands of people in our community who need it most.
Along those lines, you could literally buy a song for your favorite Lindy Hopper – the California Balboa Classic is funding recordings of brand new swing music as part of their event and efforts to keep musicians employed. You could have the gratitude of so many people and bring joy to others, while having your name associated with a song forever. Check out this great list of tunes – one of these could be a gift for an individual, or maybe your community can come together and sponsor a song, a gift to the event, the musicians, and some community togetherness and love.
Cheers and happy holidays – see you on the other side!
I attended my very first California Balboa Classic – aka Cal Bal – last month and I’d say I don’t know what took me so long, but I have another hobby that managed to conflict with this event year after year. I made the decision to choose Cal Bal this year and Cal Bal did such a great job welcoming me with open arms that I didn’t want to leave. It’s also the first event I’ve attended in several years that I was not hired as a musician, so there was ample time for dancing between DJ shifts, which I have sorely missed and desperately needed.
To set the vendor scene, you need to understand the layout of the hotel – this is a hotel event, but this is not your typical hotel. The Hyatt Regency Newport Beach is more of a complex, with lovely outdoor spaces connecting separate buildings, taking advantage of what are usually mild temperatures in southern California. The ballroom was a separate building within the hotel complex and to enter the ballroom, one had to walk down a little path and through a large covered-but-open-to-the-air space. It was a bit chilly at night, so the covered outdoor space had some temporary walls and heaters, as well as couches for sitting (basking) under said heaters, a snack station, a cash bar, and all the vendors for the event. Had the temps at night been a little warmer, the vendor location would have been truly ideal – during the day it was lovely.
Cal Bal had some great merch this year – you’ve already seen my post about the Kendra Dandy designed scarves and pocket squares, and there were also pins, bags, and tee shirt designs (one even featuring the Rendezvous Ballroom). I was elated to see a green tee shirt with musicians on it, so that came home with me! If you aren’t sure how to style your large Kendra Dandy Cal Bal scarf, Cleveland dancer and instructor Alexis Davila posted an awesome/adorable/creative video on Facebook of several different ways to wear it on your head – I believe you can still order one, it looks they are up on the Cal Bal web store.
At this point, I’m blessed that Re-mix Vintage Shoes owner Philip Heath knows me by sight and always gives me a little tidbit to keep me coming back for more. This year, the buzz was the production of a gold Opera model, which had previously been relegated to suede (which I don’t prefer to try to maintain) – since metallics are my go-to neutral, this was a delightful new development and I was excited that this particular model fit my particular feet, having never previously tried on any Opera model.
I didn’t notice the new addition to the men’s shoes (maybe a Fairway or a variation thereof? I’m not seeing it on the website) until Nicholas Centino posted the photo below of their gloriousness, but there’s a new two tone brown oxford with perforations that is so subtle and lovely. I’m also not seeing them on the Re-mix website, so pick up that phone…
Next stop in the circle of vendors was the new-to-me Swankys Vintage, who appeared to have mostly menswear and some women’s items, with a mix of Swankys reproductions and vintage clothing, with a very 1940’s/50’s California aesthetic in terms of styling and color palette. The reproductions were almost seamless with the vintage at first glance, the textures, fabrics, and colors were so spot on. Lots of clothing that evoked comfort, ease, and fun, as well as some really nice looking classics, like tweed trousers with a buckle back. It was so nice to see more of a focus on menswear, which tends to be minimal to non-existent in terms of vending at events.
I’ll also give an honorable mention to the gent who set up a mostly vintage men’s shop for Saturday night, who I asked for a business card and he said this was his last vending spot ever and that he was liquidating his collection and selling it to another vintage seller. It is hard work running these vendor spots/booths at events, carting around inventory, being present to run the shop, paying vendor fees and for hotel rooms, so my hat’s off to all the vendors – whether you’re still in the game or getting out, this is an important part of events and I’m appreciative of everyone who shows up.
I’m always excited to see Jenna Applegarth‘s Applejacks shoes at events, as I’ve probably learned more from her than anyone about the extensive and often frustrating process of designing, producing, and shipping dance shoes – I’m completely invested in this storyline and here for all subsequent chapters. Remember that this is a labor of love each time you buy a dance shoe made by swing dancers for swing dancers! I know several of us are eagerly anticipating the new models (I swear I saw green on Instagram), but the models out right now are particularly well-suited to Balboa. One of my friends noted that she didn’t necessarily know what she’d wear with the rose gold shoes, but that they felt so good on her feet that it didn’t matter. Good thing metallics are neutrals!
Next up in our tour of vendors was Swingbird Fashions, who I have previously blogged about in terms of an Etsy shop, but since that post this brand has expanded greatly and wonderfully. I am terribly sad that I was not able to meet the creator of these garments, Leea Kuronen from Denver, Colorado (it’s hard to be at your booth at every minute of the day, I completely understand) because I was smitten with everything – the colors, the fabric selection, and all the lovely details. There’s this one green dress with white soutache detail that is absolutely to-die-for – I saw both Teni Lopez-Cardenas and Heather Ballew had purchased one of these dresses and wore them in competitions that very weekend. It’s an I NEED TO WEAR THIS NOW kind of dress! Lovely trousers, skirts, blouses, and dresses all around – this corner of the room made me smile.
Across the room Loco Lindo represented with their line of crepe printed dresses, blouses, skirts, pants, and, of utmost importance, their Venice Beach clip dress, recreated from the one worn by Genevieve Grazis in said clip, she of the many gored twirly skirt. It’s honestly super gratifying to see a whole line of them on a rack, knowing the history behind the dress and the process of getting this dress reproduced – get your twirl on and your shuffle on, let’s do this! On a related note, I’m sad I missed the crunchy sound of shuffling on sand the Monday of Cal Bal where everyone met on the beach near the site of the former Rendezvous Ballroom – living that beach clip dream…
Sharing the space with Loco Lindo was Jen Gomez of Bandini St., who typically also shares a space at Camp Hollywood. It’s a great idea, to share space, share labor, and have that symbiotic relationship of pairing dresses with hair accoutrements immediately. This is probably going to be super personal to my preferences, but I was particularly happy to see pairs of hair flowers that were an ideal size (Goldilocks here, not too big, not too small…), flat – but with enough texture to be interesting, and a color gradient so that it goes with various shades of whatever color it represents. VERY SPECIFIC. I need to go through my closet to see what I might need, as these are available on the Bandini St. Etsy shop in several colors.
Finally, we’ve reached the lovely Saint Savoy booth at Cal Bal, with a candy colored array of heels and flats. While their Riviera model remains the most popular and is available in a wide array of colors, I heard lots of talk about their oxfords for women being particularly comfortable. A few other notes: 1) I’m pretty sure their Grace shoe in Neptune is one of the most beautiful dance shoes ever made. I own a pair and I only wear them for singing because I would Gollum-style freak out if anything ever happened to them; 2) I’m having feelings about their The Whip oxford in Mulled Wine because I had a pair of Doc Martens in high school with a similar color gradient and broguing (a whole different level of nostalgia); and 3) it was nice to see their Grand Prix t-strap dance flat in person – loving all the variety in heel heights, thank you, more of this from dance shoe makers, please. 🙂
And that’s a wrap – I hope I haven’t missed anyone! I loved all the vendors, thank you again for your time and energies in attending Cal Bal and creating products with the swing dance community in mind.
Maybe you haven’t met Kendra Dandy at a swing dance event, maybe you’ve seen her – she likes to dance near the band and has mad solo jazz skills, is usually carrying a fan emblazoned with the word SHADE and has loads of style to match. I watched her from the stage at a few events and figured that she must be the coolest person in the room. When she accepted my friend request and I began seeing her posts in my feed, that suspicion was confirmed – she’s got the sharpest memes, excellent taste in cocktails, and is an incredible graphic designer who has teamed up with companies like Vans, Anthropologie, Estee Lauder, Coach, and companies selling products in Australia and South Korea that my grabby little American hands can’t reach.
This week the California Balboa Classic made the announcement that is has teamed up with Kendra for a very special project – from Cal Bal’s Facebook post:
“The community of dancers who come to CalBal represent an incredible range of talents from fiction authors, to medical professionals, to mechanical engineers. One of those people is Kendra Dandy . Even if you don’t know her name, you’ve probably seen her at a swing dance event, and it turns out that Kendra is a successful illustrator and designer with a career designing surfaces for international brands and her own shop at https://theebouffants.com/.
We want CalBal to be a showcase for talent in the Balboa community, and we love her work, so we asked Kendra if she would be willing to design something for CalBal2020. And she agreed!
We will have other merchandise, too, but the CalBal2020 scarf is an opportunity to take home a unique work of art to remind you of your time at CalBal2020.”
I was excited to see this partnership, as I love supporting visual artists in our community, and I also love the addition of this luxe merchandise item that is still practical within our community. A silk kerchief could be tied around the neck, worn in the hair, or worn as a pocket square; that 32 inch scarf opens up even more options, perhaps a belt or head wrap (to cover a wet set or not). Maybe you blot your sweat with silk kerchiefs, no judgment here!
This product release coincides with my very first Cal Bal, I’ll be attending as a DJ in 2020 – looking forward to that California vibe Kendra depicted in her scarf design, warmth, sun, palm trees, dancing shoes, and some cocktails!