Friends, I recently competed in my first ever solo jazz contest. Heartland Swing Festival, also known as the Collegiate Jitterbug Championships, caters specifically to amateur competitors. This was my first year to attend this event after hearing about it for four years, and I came in swinging hard. My arms. And legs.
I was just trying to make sure that my movements read as jazz, since I hadn’t practiced anything but that last-act butterfly kick. It would seem that I had forgotten some of my favorite moves (not a single Apple Jack to be found! Where are the Sailor Kicks that I learned from Groucho Marx?). All my choices look like they were centered around high kicks and big arms. Which were fueled by nerves. Which was caused by a room full of people who were—in my mind, in that moment—expecting me to prove why I’m up there in the finals. Suddenly I’m Kicky McGee, your favorite Claymation chorus girl.
Looking at this performance in retrospect, I’m amazed at how huge all my movements are in comparison to my talented, taller peers. They’re all: “I got these moves. Look at my fancy feet.” I’m all: “Yippee! I’m flailing to jaaayuzzz music! Blaghablaghablah!” The judges did like it enough to place me second overall, so I can’t poo-poo myself too much. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned.
Lesson One: Take. A Deep. Breath.
Lesson Two: Practice small, precisely movements so it doesn’t look like I just ran out of fairy dust and am trying to fly away.
Lesson Three: Work on my ups. That barrel roll was pathetic.
Lesson Four: Lars Martinson might be a prophet. I didn’t even know what lindy hop was and definitely could not tap dance when he drew this (I am “Lonnie,” for those of you who don’t get it). I still can’t tap dance, but now I’m wondering if learning the art is inevitable. The prophecy must be fulfilled.