Saturday night saw the UK Open Lindy Hop Championship at The Swing Jam - and a great gig too.
The UK Open Lindy Hop Championships took place on Saturday 26 August at The Swing Jam in Runnyemede, Berkshire. The heats were held during the day, with the finals presented as part of the evening's entertainment, which also featured an outstanding performance by Pete Long's 9.20 Deluxe.
There were two categories of competition: the Open and the Jack 'n' Jill. The Open attracted five couples, while a larger number were up for the fun element of the Jack 'n' Jill. In both cases, entrants were whittled down to three finalists for the judges to decide.
The first surprise of the day came during the afternoon in the Open heats, when 1994 winners Robert Austin and Claire Hilliard were eliminated. This really hasn't been their year, following on from the disastrous turnout for the Hollywood Weekend and then the recent announcement of the cancellation of this year's UK Modern Jive Open.
The deserved winners were Jump 'n' Jive duo Andy Fleming and Rena Swanepoel, who captivated the crowd with a dazzling display of Lindy Hop and aerials, all laced with good humour. The tune they chose was Jump Jive 'n' Wail, now universally known from The Gap advert. Rena put the whoops and catcalls during their performance down to her outfit - a skimpy animal print-type number with matching underwear.
The first runners up were Denis Grispan and Cecile Bonamich from France, with an exuberant performance. They are young and will surely be back for higher placings in the future. The second runners-up were Swingland's Martin Ellis and a PVC-clad Jane Eliot.
It was a difficult job for the judges, Beckie Menckhoff, Rob van Haaren, Diane Thomas, Asa Palm and Frankie Manning. But it was even more so to separate the finalists in the Jack 'n' Jill contest. Eventually they settled on Les Jones and Helen Avey as second runners-up and Steve Hughes and Judy Cook as first runners-up. The winning trophies found their way onto the mantlepieces of Gary Boon from Gloucester and Nikki Jones from Oxford. So that made it a double triumph for husband and wife Les and Nikki. Now people will really have trouble keeping up with the Joneses.
The competition finals came as a welcome break to rest and recover from the evening's social dancing. And what a night it was. 9.20 Deluxe put on one of their best-ever performances, with every number a danceable gem. Bandleader Pete Long introduced Shiny Stockings with a dedication to Frankie Manning, and The Man responded by getting up to dance lightly around the floor with every woman he could find.
Singer Patti Revell was in good voice as always, really filling the room on numbers like The Late Late Show and Let's Call The Whole Thing Off. In fact, the whole band was on form, and responded to the enthusiastic dancing that they saw from the bandstand.
This was never more evident than during what was supposed to be the final number. Pete Long's clarinet announced the intro to Temptation, with Mrs. Revell ready to deliver the vocal. However, Pete spotted Ron Leslie and Angela Andrew giving it plenty, and continued the solo to match them. The song eventually got underway and turned into a two-person jam session as Ron and Angela wove their bodies around the Eastern feel of the tune.
The encore led to Pete Long stating "We're going home!" to a resounding "No!" from the dancers. Trombonist Winston Rollins was first to leave the stage, and he was all but manhandled back onto it by Rena Swanepoel, clearly not entirely exhausted by her earlier triumph.
This was the eighth year of The Swing Jam, and from its early days as a co-operative effort with Jitterbugs it has grown into a fixture on the annual swing dance camp calendar. The changes in teaching personnel and bands have clearly proved popular with the punters, who turned up in record numbers for the event and the evening dances.
Credit to Live2Jive's Fred Hunt and Beckie Menckhoff for sticking through the lean years to have their deserved second successive sell-out event, with around 235 people attending. Big shout and respect too, for the hardworking crew that assisted them, especially Tim Ashburner, who stage-managed the Saturday night proceedings with style and humour, wife Tina in charge of front-of-house and creche facilities, and Barbara James, who achieved the seemingly impossible by transforming a student refectory into a red drape-bedecked night club.
You can keep up to date with all Live2Jive's activities - which include West Coast Swing and Salsa - on their web site at Live2Jive.
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