Lindy Hop Exchange Survival Guide

Photo by Julian Ehrlich

Top 5 Tips For Going to a Swing Dance Exchange

For those of you who don’t know me very well, and may be new to this blog, I have a lot of interests–writing, music, baking, vintage hair and makeup, crafts, and of course dancing! This blog may turn into a conglomeration of my interests, but I do want to start blogging more about the swing dance community.

I have been swing dancing for five years now, yet I had never gone to a Lindy Hop Exchange. Well my boyfriend Andy and I recently took a nice long vacation to Denver, Colorado this past summer and attended Lindy on the Rocks 2015. I’ve been meaning to do a review on my experience, but first I’d like to write a dance exchange survival guide for beginners, and even veterans who have been going for years. This weekend many of my friends will be going to The Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, so I thought it would be timely to do a post. Here are my top 5 tips on how to survive a weekend of non-stop dancing.

1.Pack Smart

For my first exchange, I brought day outfits and evening outfits. I figured I would be sweaty from lessons and even sweatier from the dances and that proved to be true. The key is bringing enough clothes to bring a different look to each dance but not so much that you have to check 5 bags at the airport. Try to bring pieces that you can incorporate into multiple outfits, and if you are staying in a place with a washer and dryer, that will make your life even easier. For the ladies who want to show off some vintage hairstyles, bring only the essentials and plan out some styles in advance that won’t make you sit in front of the mirror for hours. I watched a hair tutorial by my favorite Youtube retro star Cherry Dollface on how to use your Wet Set for 3 Days in 3 Ways. Unfortunately my wet set was an epic fail and my flight pretty much ruined my curls, but my snood came in handy as a back-up. So for exchanges, simple is better. There are ways to look amazing and not waste time perfecting your victory rolls. And of course, bring good shoes! With all the dancing you are going to do, you must bring comfortable dance shoes. I’d recommend keds or flats during the day and then sport some evening dance heels for the special swanky events.

2. Bring Water and Food With You EVERYWHERE

Going to a Lindy Hop Exchange is kind of like going to boot camp. You are constantly in training and performing for your instructors or in competitions. Depending on the event, they may not give you many breaks or any at all. When Andy and I went to Lindy on the Rocks, there weren’t any lunch breaks, and the “water breaks” were about 5 minutes long between classes. That’s barely enough time to go to the restroom. We ended up skipping a lesson because we were so hungry. It’s always a good idea to keep a protein bar and a water bottle at your side during the event. No one wants you to pass out on the dance floor from lack of nourishment and dehydration, and that would spoil all your fun anyway right? So put some snacks and water bottle in your bag…oh and some advil too. You may be hurting after day 1. I was.

3. Listen to Your Body

If you are like me, the excitement of being in a new city at an epic exchange can cause you to forget about everything else. “Woohoo! This is awesome!” And then you quickly forget to eat, drink, and not even notice that your feet have fallen off and now you are at the hospital on life support. OK, yes that’s the extreme, but listen to your body and take a break if you need it. The venue of Lindy on the Rocks was at a very high altitude, which can cause dizziness and faintness for those who are not acclimated. During a swing out lesson, I started to feel very dizzy and sick, but I kept going because I didn’t want to miss out. Eventually I got so sick I had to sit down–and that’s OK. Just tell your partner for the lesson, “hey sorry, I need to sit this one out.” And no one will see you poorly for it. Of course you want to get the most out of the experience and go to everything, but it’s OK if you can’t. Your health is more important than perfecting that swivel.

4. Dance With Everyone

Exchanges bring all kinds of dancers from around the world–that is why there is so much benefit to going. You get exposed to all kinds of styles and all kinds of dancers. Keep an open mind and dance with everyone. Don’t be a snob and refuse to dance with a beginner. You could end up being the jerk who gives that newbie a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to swing and then they never come back. Everyone is there to learn and to have a good time. One of my regrets from Denver is not dancing with more of my teachers. I was so star-struck and intimidated that I didn’t ask. Be bold and ask anyone and everyone–that way you won’t have any regrets and you’ll be a better dancer in the end.

5. Keep Your Ego in Check

Exchanges have a way of making you feel like you are a minnow in a shark tank, especially if you are coming from a small swing scene. There are so many incredible dancers that you may end up feeling like a complete amateur, when back in your hometown you are the bees knees. Going to a big dance event is humbling because you realize that everyone has room for improvement. If you are an experienced dancer, keep that ego in check and remember that there is always something new to learn. If you are fairly new to the swing community, don’t feel like you are a horrible dancer. Even the pros were where you are now. Stay confident in what you do know and be persistent in perfecting your craft. If you are there to learn, learn; if you are there to just dance, dance; if you’re end game is to win competitions give it all you’ve got. Whatever your reason is for going to an exchange, stay true to that purpose and goal, and don’t get disillusioned or distracted by all of the hype and the action. Be humble and maybe even compliment that cool guy or girl who performed or competed.

So there are my top 5 five tips for going to an exchange. I hope they helped. I have more swing blogs on the way. If you have comments or opininons on this subject please post them in the thread. If you would like to see more posts like this, give me feedback and any requests.

My Journey to 27

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I’m twenty-seven today. I feel really good about it actually. I don’t feel too old, or too young. I’m on my way to 30, and even though the thought of 30 is a little scary, I see myself leaving my 20s behind and reaching a new level of maturity. The past couple weeks have been hard for me on different levels. My job, my friends, my health have all been difficult to deal with. Thankfully my love and best friend Andy has stayed by my side through all of it and my family has also been supportive and understanding with grace.

I wanted to write this blog post because I feel like I have learned a lot over the past few years. There was a time in my life when I was absolutely miserable and wanted to take my own life because I was so depressed. For years I dwelt in sadness and felt sorry for myself instead of doing anything about it. When my counselor at the time told me I needed a life change, and that a move would be the best thing for me, I fought the idea at first because I was afraid of change, but I finally gave in. Last year in June, I moved back to my home town of South Florida and tried starting over.

I was scared, I didn’t know what would happen. Would I be alone? Would I be able to secure a job? I had quit my job in North Carolina and moved back in with my parents, which is not ideal. But when I think about everything that has happened over the past year, I am so glad I made that life change. I needed it. So this blog post is really for anyone who needs a massive life change, for people who feel like they keep running into themselves or the same problems and don’t know how to get out of them. I’m not saying I have found all the answers and I’m still battling my own weaknesses every day. But I wanted to give some wisdom to those who are on a journey to self-discovery, and to share some things I hold to be true.

1. Do whatever it takes to be happy.

If you are not happy with your life, examine everything–your relationships, your lifestyle, your hobbies–and think hard about what is making you sad and what truly brings you joy. And don’t let ANYONE hold you back from the things you love that make you smile. There was a time in my life when I went to a Bible college that forbid dancing, movies, and alcohol. Yes, I lived in Kevin Bacon’s world of Footloose. I grew up dreaming of dancing and then I went to a school that forbid it. Once out of school, I was finally able to pursue that passion. And now dancing is a large part of my life. It brings me a lot of joy. The same goes for relationships. If someone is dragging you down, end it. Regardless of what people say, pursue the people, the places, and the passions that make you shine. You owe it to yourself to do it because you only live life once and life is too short to be miserable.

2. Discover your true self.

I believe that we all evolve over time. Sometimes that evolution can have negative consequences, like instigating a break-up with a serious boyfriend, or ending friendships. But not all change is bad. I think there are two different types of personal change. Personal change that is brought on by reflection and self-realization, and then change that is brought on by trauma. For example, if your boyfriend of 5 years broke up with you and all of a sudden you decide to die your hair blue, become a punk-rock chick, and travel the world doing yoga, is that your true self or just a response to a major traumatic life event? We all go through things that make us change, but it takes time to REALLY discover our true selves. I grew up in a very strict and conservative environment where there were set rules in place that you never broke. I was expected to be a certain way and I walked on that path because I felt like I didn’t have any other option. Now that I’m in my late 20s, I am free to truly live my life based on my personal beliefs and convictions. When you take out societal pressure, family pressure, religious pressure, you are free to just be who you are. Continue reflecting and searching for your true self, and don’t be afraid to step out and live as such.

3. Wrestle your demons.

Maybe you have felt this way before, but when your demons seem to keep coming back to torture you, it’s time to really fight hard. We all have weaknesses. And a part of growing up is knowing those weaknesses well and fighting them every day. One of mine is that I tend to be impetuous. I don’t think long and hard before I act, and I make decisions based on my emotions in the moment. I’ve made a lot of bad decisions this year based on emotion, fear, or just a lack of patience and foresight. I don’t want to keep making the same mistakes, so now is the time for me to work really hard on those weakness and get them under control. I don’t want to live like that the rest of my life, so I need to wrestle those demons to the ground now!

4. Grow up already.

So I recently dealt with some high school drama, and it reminded me how much I hate drama. Oh yeah, and gossip. Guys, gossip is for petty children. It’s time to grow up and deal with conflict. Stop telling everyone about how that person hurt you and just talk to the person yourself. I’m not perfect at this, but this is an important one. If you can’t deal with conflict with others then you are going to have a LOT of drama in your life. Sit down with the person like an adult and discuss the issue calmly with them. If you can’t resolve the conflict, let go of the relationship and don’t harbor bitterness. Hate will eat at your heart and leave nothing left.

5. Decide what you really want.

Do you want kids? What career do you get the most satisfaction and joy from? Where do you really want to live? These are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself sooner rather than later. If you don’t figure out what you really want in life, you’ll end up dating someone who is all wrong for you, you’ll live in a place you really don’t care for, and you’ll be stuck in a career you could care less about. Aimlessness is the worst, and it is even worse when you don’t know how to get out of it. Do yourself a favor and start figuring out what you want–in a career, a life partner, a lifestyle. It’s easier to change these things when you are single and 27. It’s way harder when you are in your 50s, married, or you have worked in a job you hate for 20 years. I realized I hated living in the mountains, the cold weather, and that I loved the city. So I moved to South Florida. I wanted a long-term relationship so I only dated men who fit that criteria. It really is simple. Figure out what you want, and stick to it.

6. Love Yourself

If you can’t love yourself, everything else will be wrong in your life. You can’t spend your life destroying and cutting yourself down mentally and emotionally. I had a close friend tell me once that you need to be your own best friend. Because when things get tough, and everyone around you seems to be against you, you are going to need a friend and it might as well be you! Truly learn to love yourself the way you are–for all your amazing quirks and even yes your imperfections–and you’ll live a happier life. I spent years letting other people determine my self worth and how I felt about myself. What a horrible way to live! At some point you need to stop caring about what other people think about you and just be happy with yourself the way you are. Because that is something you can always count on. Once I found peace in this area, everything changed. Trust me, loving yourself is the best thing you could ever do for yourself. Self-love and self-respect will not only change you, but it will change how others perceive you and treat you.

So there you have it my friends, wisdom from the land of 27. Take it or leave it. We’ll see what this year has in store for me. I’m thinking it’s going to be awesome! And way more stylish than 26. I still have some growing up to do, but I’m thankful for how far I’ve come already. Maybe take some time today to reflect on where you are in your journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skin Care for Sensitive Skin

What may be causing your skin allergies, breakouts, and long-term damage.

PharmacyChoosing the right product for your skin can make you feel like a guinea pig in a round of FDA testing. You expose yourself to brand after brand, hoping that  one magic cream will solve all of your problems. I understand this firsthand because I have sensitive skin.

During the past year, I have had problems with eczema, acne, and perioral dermatitis. After doing some extensive research, I discovered that checking ingredient labels on beauty products is essential to maintaining your skin’s health. I also realized that your doctor can only do so much in helping you solve the mystery in what’s causing the breakout. They are good at treating, but bad at preventative help. You know your body better than anyone else, so you just have to be attentive to how it reacts to products and the environment.

In this blog, I am going to give some tips and review a few good products for the sensitive skin girl. Please do not take my suggestions as actual medical treatment or advice. What works for me may not work for you since every female body is different. However, I can point you in the right direction to discover what may be causing your skin woes and worries.

Parabens

Parabens are in almost everything. It has been reported that about 85% of cosmetics have them. They are used as preservatives and antibacterial agents in make-up, soap, shampoo, and lotions (just to name a few). Pharmaceutical companies have been using them in products since the 1950s. Only recently have they been under fire. In the 90s, a British cancer researcher found parabens in malignant breast tumors. Experts began to believe that parabens mimicked estrogen in the body, disrupting hormones and causing cancer and other reproductive issues. The FDA responded by saying that parabens in products were at such a low level that they could not cause significant harm. Some scientists also questioned the validity and quality of the study. So should you be concerned? Scientific evidence seems to show that you shouldn’t throw away all your favorite make-up just yet. The link between parabens, cancer, and estrogen is inconclusive. But given that there are so many brands without it, it would be easy for you to try a more natural line to see if it makes a difference. I don’t want to encourage paranoia, but in my opinion, if there is any cause for concern, why not switch it out for a better product?

Sulfates

I have read a lot of blogs and articles that advocate for getting rid of products with sulfates, especially, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Sulfates are synthetic ingredients that act as detergents. They are found in shampoo, soap, and face wash. Though the majority of people will not have a significant reaction to SLS, some people do. The reason is that it’s a harsh chemical that can irritate the skin, causing redness, dryness, and itching. It also strips the skin of natural oils that it needs for protection. Sulfates can fade hair color and cause it to become brittle.

Fragrances 

The word fragrance can represent hundreds of chemicals, causing allergic reactions and irritation. Look for products that use essential oils or plant extracts instead. Mineral oils, alcohol, and talc can also irritate the skin or dry it out. Switch out mineral oil for jojoba oil. Look for mineral wear that says “talc-free” on the label and check ingredient lists for sopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol 40, and ethyl alcohol. These are just a few of the ingredients that may be causing your skin problems. But I do believe that SLS, parabens, and fragrances are the main ones. Here are some beauty products without these harmful chemicals that I use.

cucumbersSay Yes to Cucumbers Face Wash

This gentle cleanser is paraben and SLS free. It has calming agents such as cucumber and aloe to soothe and hydrate the skin. It has a light lather, a clean and fresh scent, and feels cool on the face. This is a great option for people who are looking for a basic cleanser free of many synthetic ingredients. A bonus to this line is everything is certified organic!

lorealL’Oréal’s EverSleek Shampoo and Conditioner

This product line came out in 2009 in response to many complaints about how SLS was making their hair fizzy and dry. The shampoo and conditioner are free of harsh sulfates and salts. Unlike other sulfate-free shampoos that are drying and don’t make enough suds, these products moisturize your hair and still feel like most shampoos–giving you a nice lather. The best thing about these is they smell amazing, like vanilla. It also has a lovely creamy feel on your hair in the shower. You can choose from a variety of hair care depending on your needs. There are EverStrong, EverPure, EverCreme, EverCurl, and EverSleek.

simpleSimple Nourishing 24/hour Day and Night Cream

The Simple skin care line contains no dyes, artificial perfumes, or harsh irritants like SLS and parabens. It’s hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic. Just like the name says, it’s simple. There is nothing fancy about this moisturizer. There are no frilly ingredients like lavender or essential oils. This is a fantastic moisturizer that can be used all day and night. It’s light and creamy, giving you just enough needed moisture to feel comfortable.

ology soapOlogy Soap

Ology is a wonderful brand sold at Walgreens and most grocery stores that is paraben, SLS, and fragrance-free, and eco-friendly. They make laundry detergent, hand soap, shampoo, and bar soap as well as some other household products like toilet paper. I love their bar soap. It comes in four different kinds: Aloe Vera & Olive Oil, Shea Butter, Oatmeal & Honey, and Lemongrass & Olive Oil. I have only used the Aloe Vera & Olive Oil, but I’m confident all of these soaps are lovely to cleanse with. The one I have been using makes a nice lather, has no scent, and leaves the body clean and moisturized without any residue.

PF2Physicians Formula Make-up

Physicians Formula is a make-up line that is paraben, SLS, and fragrance-free. The mineral powders are also talc-free. It is a brand designed and marketed for the sensitive skin woman. It’s also very affordable. The downside is it can be hard to find over-the-counter. I looked for it at three different stores until I found it at CVS Pharmacy. Recently they made a CC and BB cream, as well as an organic line. I like most everything I have bought under this brand. However, I have not used it regularly, so I can’t tell if it makes me break-out or not yet. But the value of this brand is you can trust it being free of any harmful chemicals or potential irritants.

Kreepy Tiki Starts Swing Saturdays

Owner Jackson Valiente and partner Ron Royce expand their retro tiki bar with more bands, dancing, and live entertainment.

Larry Joe Miller 1235539_700661263295437_1378077055_nuse to go to the Kreepy Tiki Tattoo Parlor just to get his tattoos, but now he’s also playing music in the lounge next door with his band, The Delusions.

The recently renovated tiki bar, owned by tattoo artist Jackson Valiente, started showcasing rockabilly bands two weeks ago for its Saturday swing, rockabilly and rhythm and blues nights. Not only will there be live music, but also free swing dance lessons, classic cars showcased out front and pinup models.

Valiente started the custom tattoo shop on Federal Highway over six years ago when he wanted to get away from the mainstream environment in Miami. But tattoo artistry actually is not his first love—it is music. A huge Sinatra fan, Valiente spends most of his time listening to jazz, blues, rockabilly, and Hawaiian music from the 1940s.

“As much as I’m into art and tattoos, I’m even more into music,” Valiente says. “I seek out bands and performers no one knows about. They are great and unique, and they deserve to get paid for what they do. Sometimes it’s like taking a shot in the dark because no one knows who they are. But that’s what I’m all about—bringing in talent to Ft. Lauderdale that other clubs don’t even know about.”

Valiente’s first tattoo was inspired by his favorite rockabilly band, The Flat Cats. His attraction to the music and the tattoos is really about his penchant to rebel against society norms. He says the first people to do tattoos were degenerates, sailors, and outlaws. The kids who played rockabilly in the 1950s and early 1960s were breaking the mold by dancing to rock ‘n’ roll and breaking down racial and cultural barriers.

“Rockabilly is the most rebellious form of music that has ever existed,” he affirms. “These people were doing something that was crazy. I don’t care what anybody says. It’s the purest, most rebellious form of music.”

1970578_10202388642711197_1192025768_nValiente initially had a difficult time finding a partner to successfully manage the bar. However, in July, DJ Ron Royce joined him to help keep the Kreepy Tiki going without blurring its vision. He recently moved down from New Jersey where he had been working at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and playing music at high-profile events, like Donald Trump’s 50th birthday party. It helps that Royce is just as passionate about rockabilly music as his friend, Valiente.

“I was DJing down here in South Florida, starting in 1978,” he says. “People wanted to hear the golden oldies, but that wasn’t what I was into. I was into rockabilly. It was my favorite music, and I had all these records that I collected and no place to play them. So I played rockabilly and people started liking it. They didn’t recognize the songs, but it’s the kind of music that is kind of a common denominator—rock ‘n’ roll. Even if you don’t recognize the song, you’ll like it. It doesn’t offend you. It’s easy to dance to. And you can tap your feet to it.”

Though there is not a huge following of people in South Florida who love rockabilly, Valiente and Royce are unwavering in their mission to show these kinds of bands to the public. Royce’s plans are to expand their customer base by catering to tourists and businessmen in the area who want to get a bite to eat, have a few drinks, and see some quality entertainment. Next month he plans to start showing Polynesian burlesque dancers Monday through Thursday in the afternoons and early evenings.

“I’m looking forward to building this place,” Royce says. “We are going to add another bar and then outdoor bars as well. I’m going to bring in bands from out of state eventually; they will be headliners. They are more nationally known and are icons of the rockabilly industry. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but there are going to be some big names that people will know and come down to see.”

Royce kicked off the fall season on September 14 with local rockabilly band, Slip and the Spinouts, who have been rocking out all over South Florida since 1998. This weekend he is bringing down Beau and the Burners from Jacksonville.

But even if you’ve never heard of rockabilly-style music, Royce and Valiente are encouraging people that the Kreepy Tiki is for everyone.

“If you are looking for something different, this is the place to come to,” says Royce. “If you are not familiar with the music, you are going to like it. If you want to learn how to dance, this is where you are going to learn.

“When you come in, you can take a walk back in time. It’s like escaping the reality of today’s culture. There is nothing out there like us right now.”

Where: Kreepy Tiki Lounge, 2606 S Federal Highway, Ft. Lauderdale

Cost: $5 cover, dance lessons are free

Contact: (305) 803-9014