I first visited the City of Hull less than a year ago, when Lindy in Leeds took it’s Summer Break and I was eager to carry on learning to dance, having only been dancing Lindy Hop for 6 months.
All I knew of Hull previous to my Summer 2011 visits was that it gained a somewhat negative reaction when mentioned in general conversation (with non-dancing folk, at least..)
What I found in Hull was a group of extremely welcoming, wonderfully fun people with whom I instantly clicked. I came back to Leeds professing a desire to move there, work at Hitchcock’s Vegetarian Restaurant, and spend my days with Bruce, Jane and the other members of Team Hull. They have since allowed me to join them in performances at Lindy at The Light, and Future Sounds of Swing, teach their Monday Night Classes and visit whenever I fancy, and I would consider them to be some of the best folk I know.
And DAMN, they know how to party!
This weekend was the 2nd of the annual extravaganza, ‘Hullzapoppin’, at the Endsleigh Centre – a dance camp weekend hosted by Team Hull, attracting dancers from far and wide and boasting some incredible International superstar Lindy Teachers:
Vincenzo Fesi and Isabella Gregorio (ITALY)
Kevin St Laurent and Jo Hoffberg (USA)
Sinclair Ang and Jenny Deurell (SINGAPORE and SWEDEN)
Trisha Sewell (UK)
Not only was I incredibly lucky to get a place and just be a part of it, I was honoured (and a little scared!) to be providing the musical entertainment on the Saturday night.
Here is my account of the awesomeness of the weekend:
Having set off from Leeds in good time to beat the traffic, and with almost everything remembered to pack, I arrived at Hullzapoppin’ base camp around 5pm. I consequently found and hugged many-a member of team Hull, unloaded my PA for the Saturday night, and contacted the ever wonderful Trisha Sewell to have a one-to-one lesson with her to improve my solo Jazz.
Hullzapoppin’ had a Solo Jazz stream of teaching this year. Initially I had thought about doing it, but only because I’ve never had Jazz (dance) lessons and find solo stuff difficult. Then I decided against it, opting for the ‘Intermediate/Advanced Lindy Stream,’ but to challenge myself I booked a private with Trisha. She’s a fantastic teacher. I first witnessed this in Hull last Winter, and then again at FSOS in Leeds last month. The way she she breaks down each step is brilliant. She makes you work damned hard, but is incredibly encouraging with it, and puts the nervous novice at ease – the perfect teacher.
After working up a bit of a sweat, and finally learning how to do a ‘Suzie Q’ properly, I headed down to the welcoming party, and changed into frock number 1.
It was a lovely night, everyone arriving full of energy and greeting people they’d not seen in a while. There was a surprise (in many senses!) live band containing bagpipers too..! I met Sinclair and Jenny, who wanted to talk about using my band for their cabaret piece for Saturday evening, and had some lovely dances.
I skipped off home early (around 10:30) as a sensible pre-empting of the following day, had a shower and put my hair in pin curls for the morning..
Saturday started early with good intentions to get to the first class of the day at 10am – Warm up/Move/Stretch or The Charleston Stroll. However, that didn’t really work and so my day started at 11 in the Marquee with Jo and Kevin.
It was a great class – looking at simple ideas to do with connection and lead/follow, but breaking it down and really exploring the different levels. I really loved the teaching style as well – it was relaxed, often very funny, and really clearly explained. A fantastic first class of the weekend!
During lunch (including tasty crumble) I chatted with some lovely folk, met some equally lovely folk, and considered my options. Trisha had asked if I would be able to drop in to one of her classes for the Jazz Stream over the course of the weekend, so the idea was definitely sown. I also met Vincenzo and Isabella, who also were thinking of using my band in their cabaret performance. As someone usually too scared to talk to the superstar lindy teachers, I was doing pretty well (thanks to being in the band)!
Reviewing my options, I decided that the next class was the one to go to Jazz in, and so I headed back to the (rather chilly) Marquee and blundered along with the Jazzers who knew what they were doing in a routine they’d all learned before lunch! Later, the class focused on technique for a few other steps, and I found it massively beneficial. I can not praise Trisha highly enough for her teaching!
Then it was time to finally moving inside (though the Marquee didn’t actually stay chilly for long, after all those jazz steps!) and have a lesson with Sinclair and Jenny. This was a lovely class, looking at variations from a Texas Tommy.
Taster classes finished off the day’s teaching, and I decided Aerials was probably not the way to go, seeing as I had an important gig to do in a few short hours.. So I headed up to ‘Ladies Styling’, where all the Apple Jacks and Boogie Backs/Forwards were bound to be good for working off the crumble I had for lunch..
Then it was time to meet the band, set up, soundcheck, check the cabaret pieces, try and find time to eat (there was an awesome Veggie BBQ going on outside), go home, get showered, changed into dress number 2, and get ready to be the ‘glamourous singer’.. and all in the space of about 2 hours..!
I think I just about managed it, and opened my set with ‘Basin Street Blues’, ending the song with:
“We’ll find the place where all the folk swing,
Heaven on Earth, they call it Hullzapoppin’!”
– cheesy perhaps, but I was proud of it – and it got a cheer!
The first set was great. I can not explain how wonderful I find it singing for dancers. I popped in a request from one of Team Hull, Angie, for ‘Close Your Eyes’ and ended with ‘Tain’t What You Do..’ which found me THRILLED as the international superstars did the Shim Sham right in front of the stage. 🙂
The Cabaret was just wonderful. Vincenzo and Isabella’s social dance to the band was one of the most incredible dances I have seen live, and Kevin and Jo’s routine was brilliant. Sinclair and Jenny sang ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’, which was wonderful and Trisha and Murphy’s compering (complete with singing ‘Old MacDonald had a farm) was spot on.
Having no time for a dance, I started the second set and soon found myself inviting Vincenzo to the stage to sing with me, as he quite fancied joining in with ‘Honeysuckle Rose’! In a slightly surreal moment, he then took over the band and performed ‘Undecided’ – a song I didn’t know, but ended up scatting a chorus on! (When a beautiful, talented Italian dancer tells you to scat, turns out you just do!)
I then finished my set as planned, and after clearing the stage was ready to finally start dancing! I plucked up the courage to dance with Kevin (I figure once people know I’m a singer, rather than a dancer, I’m able to be less embarrassed about the mistakes I make!) and had a few cheeky glasses of wine/cava/tequila during the course of the evening.
Just as the party was winding down for everyone, I was still buzzing with post-gig energy, and so determined to find the party, stayed with the clean-up team, before retiring to the Teacher’s Lounge for a chat with Mister Bruce. Then it was home time..
Not too hung over, I headed to Sunday’s classes excited for the last day of the event. To kick off the day, we had a lovely class with Sue Freeman from Sheffield, who’s teaching style is just adorable. Just what everyone needed to ease them into the day.
Then followed lunch, and another surprise band. As I rounded the corner of the Endsleigh Centre, a trad jazz band were playing outside, framed by blossoming trees and entertaining many dancers. I had a great dance with Mr Alex Gall (JiveSwing superstar), ate chocolate and marvelled at the awesomeness of the weekend. 🙂
A second class with Jo and Kevin followed – building from the previous day’s lessons. What was really nice (and very challenging) was that the spare follows were placed in the rotation so as to have to lead as well.. It really made me concentrate on both roles of the exercise!
Our final ‘full’ class of the weekend was with Isabella and Vincenzo. We looked at a couple of challenging moves that required us to spin. I’m not very good at spinning (nor particularly graceful at it either) so it was difficult. But still a great class, giving lots to think about, lots to work on, and a few giggles too.
Tasters then followed. I was planning to go to Vincenzo’s Jazz class to learn his ‘Fesi Routine’, but last minute was asked by Mr Gall if I would be his aerials partner. Now, ariels are a funny one.. I’ve done a couple before with Mister Bruce and Mr Bressanelli, but would only ever do them with someone I trusted implicitly. This, I apparently do with Alex, as I agreed! Slightly apprehensive, having missed the first part of the class on Saturday, I readied myself to be thrown around..
He was a great partner, and I think, given just a touch more time, we’d have nailed the move – which involved the ‘flyer’ (me) going upside down and doing something akin to a back somersault! We did it pretty well anyway.. 🙂
Quick dash back to my hosts’ house and a shower and change into frock 3 for ‘Madam Jinx’s Speakeasy’.
I think it’s the details that make Hullzapoppin’ so great. They really worked hard to make the weekend special, and nothing illustrated that more than the Sunday evening dance. The hall had been decorated with 1920s deco-style light fittings, there was a red carpet where Shoe-Shine boys would polish your footwear, the curtained doorway hid a smoke machine to make your entrance have that ‘prohibition’ feel. Stacks of vintage crockery and mountains of sandwiches and cakes adorned tables by the stage, well-dressed tea-ladies and waiters were on hand to get anything you wanted, and teapot cocktails were a-flowing. Madam Jinx made a grand entrance at about 9pm and DJ’ed (on vinyl) for us to have some lovely dances. I plucked up the courage to dance with Vincenzo, and felt quite giddy afterwards – I’m sure it wasn’t a great dance for him, given how awesome Isabella it, but I loved it!
After the party ended (a good couple of hours after advertised) I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Teacher’s Lounge once more. There followed hours of laughter and chatter before we headed home, tired and ever so slightly merry.
Monday morning was a lovely affair. Having gone back to the venue quite early to pick up my PA equipment and load everything into the car, many of the camp organisers, volunteers, attendees and teachers met for breakfast near Bruce and Jane’s house. Loopy from lack of sleep and the delirium of dancing all weekend, the energy was high and (as I often feel in Hull) I didn’t want to go back to Leeds!
I haven’t been to that many dance camps, but I know that this one will be hard to beat. It’s really the people that make it, and the people of Team Hull, and the dancers they attract, are some of the best. I left the city with invites to dance/visit new friends in London, Hertfordshire, Italy and California and laughed so much that I can’t be sure whether my aching stomach muscles are from the dancing or the giggles.
A truly wonderful weekend, and one I feel extremely grateful to have been a part of.
Thank you Team Hull, from your honorary Leeds-Based member.
I’m not sure I can wait til next year.. Can you do another one sooner?!