The Track 007 - Ramona Staffeld

Ramona Staffeld & Nalla Kim at ILHC 2014

Ramona Staffeld & Nalla Kim at ILHC 2014

This month I am joined for a very important conversation with instructor & back-to-back ILHC Pro Classic champion, Ramona Staffeld.  Ramona has already been teaching for half of her young life, starting at age 14 and spanning two decades. In that time she’s taught alongside legends Frankie Manning and Chazz Young, and has brought crowds to their feet at international events while performing with Minnie’s Moochers, the Silver Shadows, and recent partners Todd Yannacone and Remy Kouakou Kouame.

In our conversation, we talk about her experience starting at such a young age, how music and rhythm are her most important influences, the joy she brings to and receives from dance, and what it’s like putting together routines with different partners.  

About an hour-fifteen into our conversation, we get into a heavy topic that may be difficult to listen to. Ramona shares her experience of surviving sexual abuse as a young person and how she is coming to terms with that abuse today.  This is an incredibly important discussion and I am grateful Ramona has come forward with her story.

The Track 006 - Dawn Hampton

Dawn Hampton performs with John Dokes at Frankie100

Dawn Hampton performs with John Dokes at Frankie100

9/27/16 - Listen to Remembering Dawn Hampton for an updated episode.

I have the honor and privilege to be joined this month by the one-and-only Dawn Hampton. It is no exaggeration to recognize Dawn as a national treasure - her amazing life began traveling from town to town in the American South with a carnival, singing and playing saxophone with the Hampton Family Band, followed by stints at Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, and the Savoy Ballroom in New York City. Dawn became a legend of the Greenwich Village cabaret in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, coaching the likes of Bette Midler and singing along side Barry Manilow at the infamous Continental Baths. Only decades later did Dawn become a legend of another kind to swing dancers the world over, sharing her story and wisdom from Sweden to South Korea, and everywhere in between.

Dawn needs little introduction - her family has been the subject of an Emmy winning documentary for PBS, her cabaret act was lauded by the New York Times, and she stole the show in front of thousands of swing dancers during the Frankie 100 revue at the Apollo in 2014.

Dawn and I sat down in New York City and talked about her early memories of a lynch mob coming for her family during her carnival days, making gowns for Big Maybelle, performing in the off-Broadway show “Greenwich Village, USA,” the surgery that cost her her singing voice, and what she has to offer the swing dance world today.

The Track 005 - Naomi Uyama

I am joined on this episode by Naomi Uyama, who is not only an accomplished international Lindy Hop instructor and competitor, but also a singer and bandleader. Since discovering Lindy Hop in the late 90s at age 16, Naomi has won titles at such prestigious competitions as the American Lindy Hop Championships, the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, International Lindy Hop Championships, and the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships. She has performed with her band, Naomi & Her Handsome Devils, at dance events all over the world, including Snowball in Stockholm, the London Swing Festival, and events across the US.

Finding a break between classes at LindyFest in Houston TX, we talk about her time in New York City starting down the path as a singer and band leader, and about Lindy Hop as a living art form, tracing the thread that connects Count Basie’s "Jumpin’ at the Woodside" & Usher's club hit "Yeah!"

We dove right into our conversation, quickly getting into a little controversy around teacher's pay rates and how they relate to the greater picture of having a career as a traveling swing dance instructor.

Note: We had a small sound issue just as we got started, so please bear with it as it clears up after the first few minutes.

The Track 004 - Shana Worel

Shana Worel & Jason Swihart

Shana Worel & Jason Swihart

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.

The Track 003 - Skye Humphries

Skye Humprhies & Frida Segerdahl at ILHC 2013

Skye Humprhies & Frida Segerdahl at ILHC 2013

This month, I sit down with one of the most influential Lindy Hoppers of his generation, Skye Humphries. Dancing by age 12 (thanks to his mom) and a member of both Minnie’s Moochers and the Silver Shadows, he is a winner of virtually every lindy hop competition on the planet - ALHC, ILHC, WLHC, ULHS, and more. He has traveled the world over for dance and teaches Lindy Hop over 40 weekends a year.

Skye & I sat down in New York City, while he was home on a rare break between teaching trips. We spoke about his early learning experiences, and how they shape his teaching today; I try to convince him to join Facebook, while he tries to convince ME to teach dance. We touch upon his influences, and I press him to acknowledge his impact on what I call the "YouTube generation" of dancers, through his performances with the Moochers and his partner Frida Segerdahl. We also dig in to what moves him as a dancer and a little bit on their choreography process.