What I described as “a bit of an unusual dancing workshop” last year, was “a not so unusual smaller festival” this year. The teacher line-up with tried and tested Shag and Balboa names suggested that it won’t be just a workshop anymore.
It’s always nice to see Nejc in Zagreb, and we can consider ourselves pretty lucky to have someone like him not far from here. To his name add another Slovenian famous Balboa name, and two Lithuanian Shag names – and you get an event which anyone who can dance a few steps of these two swing dances is unlikely to miss.
The weekend started with an aperitif: rakija. A guided tour through the oldest, picturesque part of Zagreb, with shots of rakija at the crucial places for Zagreb swing community.
Was it because of the alternative facts that people got drunk so early, or because of some other reason, the welcoming party offered more than expected. The party was relaxed and pretty wild. The band Gadjo Manouche got so loose (read my lips: drunk) that it played an additional, third, set. I also heard that the bassist had his own 5 minutes in the spotlight, but that could also be an alternative fact since I saw the guy two days earlier on a TV quiz killing all the difficult questions.
Personally, I don’t like that place very much. The lighting is cold – the lights aren’t strong, but they’re too bright. The paintings on the wall don’t do anything to me, it’s like a not-cozy-living room. And they serve only one beer that I like and… okay, the hate is not objective, I just don’t like it. Unlike everyone else. The most I can do is to admit that with that “sterile” interior and a very good floor, it’s not that bad for a classy dance like Balboa, and it worked especially well that Friday. It’s relatively small so it gets warm and humid when people dance. But when you open the door to let some air in, it’s like on trash TV shows, the steam glides over the floor.
The place is usually open till 2 a.m., but that night the dancers wouldn’t go away for another hour. They needed a force a lot stronger to get them out of there. In the end, it turned out to be the force of law, summoned by a neighbour, that sent them home.
Saturday was like a Saturday should be. Classes, classes, party.
And they were good. I took Balboa classes. They were perfect for someone who struggles with Balboa, who had more than one beginner class, but still can’t dance it naturally, and can’t make it to a Balboa Jack’n’Jill competition, not even in Croatian terms. I loved Gašper and Irina. I can’t describe why, I just enjoyed their classes.
I am used to Nejc and Andrea, so I won’t be commenting on them this time. If they choose me for a Jack’n’Jill final, I’ll tell you how they teach.
I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to see Arnas and Egle teach. Maybe I could’ve taken the “Shag All” class , but it was too early in the morning (around noon). I am not sorry I didn’t see Vid and Lea teach because I see them all the time and they are still enthusiastic and energetic about this silly Shag dance 😉
The party started shyly, only to get to the next level during the second set of the SciFidelity Orchestra. I love when they stray to ska or other not strictly swing genres. It’s fun to solo dance for a change.
This band always has that one song, at the end of a gig, when the players (all of them except the drummer) get off the stage and do a sort of a line-dance choreo. Swing dancers can’t get enough of scenes like this.
If there’s one thing at the Saturday party that should be noted, that would certainly be the performance of the local Shag crew. It was unanimously and unofficially voted for the very best performance that Zagreb swing scene ever produced.
Sunday was like a Sunday should be. Classes, classes, party. Almost like Saturday but with a little less energy… a bit lazier. To back up the laziness, organizers put up a small swing talk with the teachers before the party. People got talking, let loose and confessed all their sins.
As usual, a Sunday party is for teachers, students and the unemployed. It’s not for those who are getting old and have to wake up for work on Monday morning. Judging by the photos, it seems there are more and more people like me. But as I heard, the quantitatively modest party turned out well, since ordinary dancers got a chance to dance with the teachers – which is something ordinary people like very much at international events.
Plus, there were many weird and strange situations; maybe photos will explain it better than me.
I still don’t know what to call this weekend – a festival I guess. It seems that people like small, cozy events, without great expectations… I also think that 4-6 hours of workshops during the weekend is the optimum. Compared to an average festival with 8 hours of workshops, this is less expensive to start with, you’re not so exhausted at the end of the weekend, and you get some time to see the city, have a slow meal, take a walk… When it comes to the side-kick dances, people are not so confident in their skills so, at the first sign of insecurity, they often find an easy way out to Lindy, so they never really master Shag or Balboa. But when they’re at a specialised festival like Shag-a-bal they are more likely to struggle (and succeed) with dancing the “obscure” dances. And they can scan and remember the people who dance these dances and hunt them down in future occasions in different places.
If you ask yourself why I’m writing reviews for Craftomoto, better ask yourself why Gašper and Irina were grinding and fixing a 40-year-old Capri. Believe me, the answer isn’t: “voluntarily”.