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  • Writer's pictureAbigail Haresign

World Lindy Hop Day Weekend at Camp Jitterbug

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

The Century Ballroom, Photo by Danny Ngan

While celebrating World Lindy Hop Day on the third anniversary of George Floyd's death inside the lines of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest and self declared autonomous zone it was clear that radical inclusivity and peace were at the heart of this event. Three years ago the protests started out in response to Floyd's death and developed into a community organized space that included gardens, medical stations, food and water, donations for those in need, covid tests, spaces for free speech and civil discourse, and screenings of movies about Black and Indigenous experiences at the Decolonization Conversation Cafe. The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone cycled through a few names one of which included the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, until it was noted that the United States Government was already occupying the land that belongs to Indigenous peoples. Clashes between the police and the protesters led to the police leaving the East Precinct building which the protesters later renamed the 'Seattle People's department' during the organized protest. A block long Black Lives Matter mural was painted on the street directly outside the historic Century Ballroom where Camp Jitterbug is held. The mural has been protected by barriers and is now a designated pedestrian zone. It is beautiful.

The weather was wonderful and the windows on the second story ballroom were wide open. Capitol Hill from what I observed, is a diverse and bustling neighborhood buzzing with life. Walking down the street I smelled warm waffle cones from the ice cream shop below the ballroom, and felt the joy of the groups of friends sitting on the turf field in Cal Anderson Park, while I listened to the sounds of skaters wiping out mixed with the jazz that poured out of the windows above. On the street some dancers pulled out some small horns and other instruments and jammed on the sidewalk while pedestrians and street traffic hummed harmoniously. Yellow chalk on the street corners shared messages, many focusing on supporting the houseless population in the city. "Build community, abolish the police" immediately following that, you walk on a rainbow street crossing. The area was busy and life felt full.

Camp Jitterbug was so joyful and radically inclusive. I went to a lunch time panel talk about ways to build sustainable dance communities and they told powerful stories about ways people were able to come out of survival mode and thrive after connecting with the Lindy Hop community. They provided resources for successful grant writing as well as ways to make sure people felt welcome. One suggestion they gave was called "Dance taxi" where safe community members volunteer to wear glow sticks and are available to dance with anyone who asks. They talked about building bridges with other communities through free dances in the park, intentionally sending people to try new dances, fundraising for various communities, scholarships, crowd funding, and flyers, flyers, flyers. They asked and answered questions like, "What are you doing to foster relationships and build trust amongst community?" They reminded us that inclusivity isn't just inviting people to sit at the table, it requires you to listen to what they bring to the conversation without interrupting or dismissing. They spoke about finding sustainable ways to provide price equity and spoke about some of the issues associated with volunteering in exchange for entry. Some suggestions they gave were comping volunteers for totally separate events so people can enjoy a full event without having to work, paying what you can, and creating a culture where people feel safe to ask for support, they work hard to ensure that nobody is turned away. They reminded the audience to dance with Black Femmes. It was evident that Black Lindy Hop Matters in Seattle.

Capitol Hill is known for it's counter culture communities and vibrant night life. There are not a lot of places where lindyhop is so closely blended with the rest of the bustling city in this way. Some Seattle dancers Lou and Chris were celebrating their one year danceiversary and they have a podcast called Jazz Babies--- they produced an excellent episode about Camp Jitterbug called, "Camp Jitterbug Part 1: So it's your first time?" An excellent quote from the episode is, "You don't learn to swim from outside the water, you have to jump right in." Interviewing new dancers as new dancers is such an awesome way to include people in culture and conversation. They also were able to catch up with some more seasoned dancers to learn some Camp Jitterbug history. One of my favorite pieces of Camp Jitterbug content was this Camp Jitterbug Wes Anderson crossover episode for volunteers. It dropped mid weekend and it was incredible, Nice Job Lou! The classes and the contests were awesome, thank you so much Elaine for putting together the comps. One really special award given out was the Spirit of Lindy Hop Award. The Pacific Norwest is a special place to dance and I am looking forward to returning. Keep your calendar open for The Track Throwdown this fall in Eugene, Oregon.

Here are some scenes from the Century Ballroom and Cal Anderson park.

Danny Ngan Photography

Danny Ngan Photography

Solo Jazz finals, Photo by Marc Dodobara

Solo Jazz finals, Photo by Marc Dodobara

Thanks for reading! How did you celebrate World Lindy Hop Day Weekend?

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