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.
This month I sit down with Shana Worel, who I met first years ago as a Lindy Hopper, but who has now crossed over to what I lovingly called the 'dark side' of swing dance - Balboa. Shana ran a very successful swing school in Boulder, Colorado for 15 years before relocating, and has traveled extensively since 1999 as a very well-respected swing dance competitor, instructor, and DJ.
In our conversation, we touch upon today's Balboa scene, dig into what makes a "Bal song," and get to the root of what separates Pure Bal and Bal-Swing. We also talk about our VERY different experiences in high school jazz band, discover an apt analogy for Balboa with Star Trek, of all things, and attempt to de-mystify my misconceptions of The Balboa Experiment as a cult retreat.