The Track 012 - Sylvia Sykes

 Sylvia Sykes at Lindyfest 2016

Sylvia Sykes at Lindyfest 2016

In this episode, I am joined by one of the most widely recognized and respected swing dance instructors in the world, Sylvia Sykes. Sylvia began dancing in 1966, competing in 1970, and teaching in 1979, and she studied with many of the dance greats, including Frankie Manning, Dean Collins, Maxie Dorf, and Willie Desatoff.  She is a six-time US Open Finalist, a member of the National Swing Dance Hall of Fame, and co-founder of the International Lindy Hop Championships. Sylvia’s unparalleled expertise and passion for preserving regional dances have made her the most sought-after head judge for Lindy Hop and Balboa competitions, and a celebrated international instructor.

We sat down at ILHC 2015 to talk about her obsession with the ‘Ellington at Newport’ record as a 6-year-old, dancing on American Bandstand with her original partner Jonathan Bixby, and her experience learning from swing dance masters Dean Collins and Maxie Dorf.  We also discuss the virtues of live music for swing dancing, what she looks for when she is judging Jack & Jill, Strictly, and choreographed contests, and the common thread she sees between legends Maxie Dorf and Dawn Hampton.

The Track 011 - Jo Hoffberg

 Jo Hoffberg with Peter Strom at ILHC 2015

Jo Hoffberg with Peter Strom at ILHC 2015

This month, I am joined by international instructor and award-winning Lindy Hopper, Jo Hoffberg.  Jo has been a traveling instructor since 2007 and has won titles at ALHC, the Canadian Swing Championships, ILHC, the European Swing Dance Championships, the National Jitterbug Championships, Lindy Showdown, and the U.S. Open. She has taught and performed in 25 countries across 5 continents and in 2012 was inducted into the California Swing Dance Hall of Fame

We sat down at ILHC 2015 to talk about her growing up as a competitive diver, the value she placed on winning, and how her drive to compete has evolved over the years. We also touch upon the wonder that is her hair & how that has become a defining part of her brand, her first time traveling with long-time partner Kevin St Laurent, and the practical & financial challenges of living as an international swing dance instructor.

The Track 010 - Rob Moreland

 Rob Moreland DJing at Lindy Focus XIV

Rob Moreland DJing at Lindy Focus XIV

This month, I am joined by the Head DJ of Lindy Focus, Rob Moreland.  ‘Raleigh’ Rob has been DJing for swing dancers since 2003, when he started a four-year stretch of DJing every week at a local dance in Raleigh, NC.  Now based in St. Louis, Rob has since DJed countless international dance events, including the Basie Centennial Ball, Frankie100, and Lindy Showdown, and has been the featured DJ at Stompology, Swing Out New Hampshire, and the Nevermore Jazz Ball.

In our conversation, we talk about how he found swing dancing after playing second fiddle in a cajun band, compare some of our worst DJ mistake horror stories, and explore the differences between DJing at large national events and local regular gigs.  We also commiserate on our mutual weakness for remembering song titles, compare notes on preparing for gigs & contest music, and Rob shares some advice he'd give to new and aspiring DJs.

The Track 009 - Caitlin Wellman

 Caitlin Wellman & Alain Fragman at ILHC 2014

Caitlin Wellman & Alain Fragman at ILHC 2014

This month, I am joined by an amazing dancer, singer, and instructor from Toronto, Caitlin Wellman.  A native of Ithaca, NY, Caitlin made a splash with the rest of Minnie’s Moochers in 1998. Starting as a teen, Caitlin was a traveling instructor for the better part of a decade, partnering with Dan Amores & Peter Strom, before she stepped away from the scene in 2006.  She has since returned, teaching on her own in Toronto and at dance events in Canada & the USA.

In our conversation, we talk about regional dance “accents,” why her height had her turn to Leon James for inspiration, and the struggle with the chronic illness that led her to step away from dancing at the top of her game. We also discuss what it’s like managing that illness, gender roles in partner dance, and challenging the glass ceiling as a female headlining instructor.

The Track 008 - Jonathan Stout

 Jonathan Stout at ILHC 2015

Jonathan Stout at ILHC 2015

This month I am joined by one of the top bandleaders for swing dancers today, Jonathan Stout.  Jonathan began dancing as a teenager in 1995, and started his first band, the Campus Five, in 2002.  Since that inception, his bands have played regularly throughout his native Los Angeles, and he has grown into a giant of the swing world. He has released 3 albums with the Campus Five, and led bands at the National Jitterbug Championships at Camp Hollywood, the Frankie 95 festival, the International Lindy Hop Championships and repeat engagements at Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing.

In our conversation, we discuss what makes a good song for swing dancing, whether DJs are a valuable asset to swing dancers, and his relentless pursuit of ‘the real deal’ - an obsession with the authentic and how that translates to his role as a swing dancer and bandleader. 

We also talk about starting on guitar as a bedroom metalhead, discuss the differences between the Mount Rushmore of band leaders he paid tribute to at the last Lindy Focus (Basie, Shaw, Goodman & Ellington) and uncover what it took for him to get past the cliche and rediscover the joy in Benny Goodman’s "Sing, Sing, Sing."