2013 was a watershed year for the Toronto swing dance scene. We have been growing steadily for a few years now, but in 2013 the size of the scene and the scope of what it offers its dancers has expanded beyond many of our wildest dreams. Before I even talk about what’s happened in Toronto Lindy Hop, here are some of the highlights I’ve identified from 2013 for the rest of the swing community:
UT-Swing, fresh off the largest and most successful TUX in history, added two more workshops to the mix, a lindy hop event with Mike & Laura and a musicality session with Glenn Cryzter.
The balboa scene presented Toronto’s first-ever all-balboa workshop when it held the Toronto Toss-Out in March 2013. It was so successful that the 2014 version will have four instructors and two tracks.
Not to be outdone, the blues scene hosted the 2013 edition of MezzJelly Blues, which became the largest of the many workshops held in Toronto this year – while also finding time to run two other blues workshops, with John Lozano and Dexter Santos.
Lindy hop arrived in the west end of the city with the founding of the Frog Jump Swing Dance studio in Swansea.
There’s a new social dance in town on Monday nights, courtesy of Lindy Hop Revolution.
Toronto dancers seem to have been everywhere around the city this year, with Bees’ Knees Dance driving a lot of the action but the entire scene contributing. From the Beaches Jazz Festival to the ROM, from dressing to the nines for the Vintage Easter Parade to shim shamming in swimsuits at the Toronto Island, lindy hop has touched every corner of Toronto. Not to mention that dancers probably spent more time this year than in the past at the glorious waterfront dance hall where all of the big-name big bands played during the actual swing era, the Palais Royale.
Finally, as someone who learned to dance at one university swing club and co-founded another, I’m particularly excited about this news: 2013 saw the Swing Dance Society of York University open its doors.
2013 was a breakout year for Toronto Lindy Hop as well. Here is a TLH year in review:
February: TLH hosted the first-ever Winterstock, complete with wolf-tracking and dog-sledding. It became so popular that when registration for the 2014 edition of Winterstock opened later in the year, it sold out in 11 minutes.
April: TLH revived its Theme Nights at the Dovercourt House (in partnership with Swing Toronto) on the last Saturday night of every month, starting with the Casino Royale theme night in April 2013. We’ve seen a very encouraging build-up in their popularity, and they are going to be an even more essential part of TLH’s strategy going forward.
May: TLH was proud to sponsor Toronto’s largest swing dance event, the Frankie Tribute Weekend (although most of the organizational credit goes to Mandi Gould and her team). As part of the weekend, TLH had the honour of awarding the Frankie Spirit Award from the Frankie Manning Foundation to three incredibly deserving Toronto dancers: Charlie Foster, Shannon Refvik and Phei Mei Oon.
August: Lindystock, one of Toronto’s best-loved events, returned with a host of fresh faces.
September: Lots happened this month! The Dance Ambassador program was re-launched for its 2013-2014 season with new uniforms, a renewal of the classic red shirts adding the TLH logo; TLH hosted Brittany and Dargoff for the Lindyworks workshop weekend, and generated more excitement for our Strictly Lindy competition than we would have believed; and at the end of the month, TLH ran the first-ever Anti-Comp. The Anti-Comp was an incredible success, with one dancer describing it as “one of the most rewarding and fulfilling days I’ve had since I started dancing,” and another as “rewarding, supportive, and inspiring.”
October: TLH co-promoted, with UT-Swing, a lecture series with the great Swedish lindy hopper and swing historian, Lennart Westerlund.
November: TLH’s annual Cabaret was a fantastic hit. Despite the name of our organization, we’re actually proud that this year’s Cabaret featured its lowest lindy hop content ever, because it meant that you got to enjoy an incredible range of dancing, from jazz to tap, salsa to blues, contact to can-can. Cabaret also featured some great non-dancing acts, including an improvisational theatre troupe and that one sketch that made us all want to have what Tyler Cowan was having. If you missed the show, you can check out the videos here.
But despite everything that both Toronto Lindy Hop and the swing scene as a whole have accomplished in 2013, the thing that happened this year that I’m the most proud of is the behind-the-scenes strategic planning that TLH has done to make 2014 Toronto’s best year ever. In addition to keeping up with our core events – Winterstock, the Anti-Comp, Lindystock, Lindyworks and Cabaret – we are planning to take a serious leadership role in growing the lindy hop scene by promoting swing dancing to new dancers; expand and enrich our Theme Nights; promote Toronto as a dancing destination to lindy hoppers throughout the region; and tackle floorcraft concerns through our World of Floorcraft initiative.
Thanks everybody for a wonderful 2013. I think I speak on behalf of the entire Board when I say that we couldn’t have accomplished half of what we did this year without our Committee members, volunteers, co-promoters, and the support of other organizers throughout the Toronto scene. But most of all, we could not have done it without you, the dancers. Have a happy new year, keep swinging, and we’ll see you in 2014!