Between the holidays, starting a new job (again), and moving (again) it’s taken a bit of time for me to sit down and reflect on what I consider to be my favorite back-to-back events of the year: The US Open Swing Dance Championship and TAP, otherwise known as The After Party.
This amazing, event-packed week began on Thanksgiving Eve with a road trip from the Bay Area down to Burbank. This was the first time ever in my life that I haven’t been with my family for Thanksgiving (sorry, fam), but for years I have wanted to have the full weekend experience of the US Open. I found it extremely weird to be competing in a jack & jill on a Thursday (and Thanksgiving, nonetheless), but it was great to be able to experience the rest of the weekend with no stress or commitments!
After Thursday, my weekend was filled with hanging out with amazing people, watching some amazing routines, and having some of the best social dances of my life in the wee hours of the morning. I left the weekend feeling especially motivated to work on my own dancing, as well as longing for the opportunity to one day compete a routine of my own on the US Open floor.
Late night burritos at the US Open!
Fast forward through a ten hour drive home, my 23rd birthday, and a 2.5 day work week, I found myself on that same road trip back down to SoCal-- this time with a car full of motivation, snacks, and many, many pairs of dance shoes.
The After Party has always been an intense weekend of growth and learning for me. It’s the weekend where I tend to splurge on private lessons, as well as take as many classes as humanly possible. This was the first weekend ever in my life that I actually sacrificed most all of my social dancing for learning opportunities. I had the pleasure of working directly with Sean McKeever again, as well as Hugo Miguez and Stacy Kay. All three pros were an absolute joy to work with, and I left each lesson with a long list of things to take home and practice.
As for classes, I decided to focus on all of the solo classes offered over the course of the weekend. One of the reasons why TAP is among my favorite events is the crazy number of solo classes offered. As someone who didn’t grow up a dancer or dance at all until college, I happily eat up any opportunity I can to get into any sort of solo class. Among my favorites were Cameo’s ballet class and Nicole’s contemporary class. Cameo was wonderful at relating ballet technique to West Coast Swing, and I have never felt so comfortable in a contemporary class as I did in Nicole’s. She was not only warm and welcoming, but opened my eyes to a lot of new concepts about solo dancing as they relate to WCS.
TAP is one of those events that has so much happening throughout the weekend that I actually forget that I’m supposed to compete. I was shocked to make finals amongst such a large group of amazing dancers, many of whom I didn’t even know because of the huge international presence at the event. That final was one of the most fun ever, and even though we didn’t place in the top five (sixth though!), I felt comfortable with my partner and had a blast just goofing around on the floor. It was a nice change from the usual nerves I get before/during any form of spotlight final.
Jack and Jill prelims at TAP!
Lastly, I was able to continue my judging apprenticeship by mock judging all weekend. I explained my scholarship to Myles, the head judge, and he happily allowed me to mock judge all weekend and even took the time to meet up with me at the end of the weekend at answer my (many) questions. Since my last time mock judging with Kelly at Boogie by the Bay, I’ve continued to gain experience by judging several times per month at various local J&Js, so it was great to be able to judge at a “real” event to check in on my progress. This is a skill I’d like to pursue seriously some day, so to have support from my community in doing so has been extremely encouraging.
The US Open – TAP week is one I look forward to all year long, and this year was by far my favorite yet. I love the drastic change of environments from competition-focused to learning-focused. I want to extend a huge thank you to both The Next Generation Swing Dance Club as well as The Silton Foundation for supporting me on my dance journey. So much of this wouldn’t be possible without you guys.
Thanks for reading, and hope to see you at Capital Swing Convention!