Back To Swing Zagreb prepared a bit of an unusual dancing workshop: a weekend of Shag and Balboa classes. Those are two dances that are not danced often in swing communities. At least not when compared to the all-present Lindy Hop. A quick description of these dances would be that they are danced to fast music.
During the last year Shag’s popularity rose greately. All of a sudden, everybody wants to dance Shag. Shag, Shag, Shag. Which I don’t like. Yes, a proper Lindy Hopper should dance all the swing dances. But they should dance “those” dances at home, in their free time. I support non-Lindy dancing only for a song. Anything more is just inappropriate.
Balboa, on the other hand, just can’t catch on as a social dance. That I do like. There is a decent number of Balboa fans, but it just can’t succeed as a stable subscene. They are barely succeeding in their fight for an advanced Balboa class. They are so sad… so sad that I like them, sort of. I still enjoy their misery though.
So I greeted Shag-a-bal with contempt, ready for a boycott. Despite the worthy guest teachers. Nejc Zupan and Mateja Grajzar came from Ljubljana to teach Balboa, Tarek DeLarge and Mel Schöneweiß from Vienna for Shag. Nejc is a well-known name across Europe in both Lindy Hop and Balboa, while Tarek and Mel are regulars in Shag competitions finals (e.g. Rock That Swing in Munich). They had a teaching back-up from locals: Mario Švigir and Andrea Vozila – paps and ma of the Zagreb swing scene, and Vid ‘Yossarian’ Milojković and Lea Grüngold. Vid is the leader of the Maribor Shag scene – Shagibor, while Lea is trying to encourage the same Shag boom in Zagreb.
The weekend started when weekends start – on Friday with a party. Without me, of course. To show them my aversion for this shagabal schmagabal. I appeared at 1 AM with a strong intention to dance none of the few Balboa and Shag steps that I know. I was a strictly Lindy activist. The location was the new bar in town – Rockers. It’s a nice wooden place with 32 sorts of beer and a boss – who didn’t quite click with the swing music. Irritated by the “high tones”, he put his own DJ on the stand who played pop-rock music from the 50s to the 70s. But the atmosphere was indestructible, so dancers danced to whatever played, and had fun despite the anti-swing owner… and despite me, the boycotting activist.
As I heard, the classes were good. Not too many attendees enabled the teachers to have a more personal approach; and that’s what people always like in classes. First day was all about the basics, while the next day new stuff was learned, but in a way that aimed to not overload the students with a bunch of stuff, so they wouldn’t forget everything in a few days. Balboa hugely lacked leaders on the first day, but on Sunday the ratio was more balanced. So, pretty much everybody liked the classes. What I, of course, didn’t like.
Needless to say, I was late for Saturday’s party in Pivana, a beer factory. I wanted them to wonder if I will show up at all. There was a live band, Gadjo Manouche – a gipsy jazz band that is usually asked to slow down a bit for swing dancers. But this time, since this was a Shag and Balboa event, their natural fast tempo was just what was wanted. I personally found them too fast. I danced with half of my usual vigour, making the activistic statement about fast dances. Nevertheless, the worst thing about the party was that it ended early… at 2 AM. I didn’t like that. The law and the rules. Rules schmrules. Band had to cut the music off and the dancers didn’t get neither the encore from the band, nor the opportunity to dance the night away with a DJ. I don’t like that, not even when it comes to Balboers and Shaggers.
On Sunday there were again the classes that I mentioned before, and the weekend ended when weekends end – in the evening with an intimate party at the usual Sunday place, Vinyl.
All in all, people liked the non-Lindy weekend. Everybody was so happy and satisfied that I hated it even more. But, at least, with all this fast tempo dances we’ll have only slim dancers in Zagreb in no time.
Thanks for the photos, Bruno Papić!