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The fact that I was going to be working in Taiwan for three weeks was no great problem. Andrew had digitized a video of the 50/50 routine and burned it into a CD- ROM. So, although I did not have a partner to practice with, I could still review the video and memorize the choreography using my laptop.

Garvin and Dawn
Doin' the Lindy

Meanwhile, my dance partner, Li Hsien, could practice her part back in Singapore along with the other 20 volunteer dancers preparing for the motley of numbers being performed for the Singapore Arts Festival Late Night Fringe production of "Night at the Apollo".

The Arts Festival is a semi-annual month long event in Singapore in which an international host of singers, dancers, acrobats, and other performing artists are invited to do their stuff at various spots in Singapore. Of course it is also a great place for home grown artists to strut their stuff as well. This would be the second year Sing and Andrew arranged a Lindy Hop performance.

Ritzy Celwyn

This year, Sing and Andrew (the dynamic duo of Singaporean Lindy Hop) had scored a two-night gig at the extremely swank Chijmes Hall next to the Raffles Hotel. They decided to put together a Lindy gala based around the theme of "Amateur Night at the Apollo". There would be a fake competition decided by audience applause.

They choreographed 13 numbers and got about 20 volunteers to agree to participate in dance and back stage roles. They also arranged to have two internationally renowned Lindy gurus (Lennart and "W" from the Rhythm Hot Shots) from Sweden fly in to perform with us.

The 50-50

Rehearsals began about a month and a half before show time and Sing proposed a rigorous schedule for the dancers. Of course, I would spend half of the time in Taiwan, so Sing chose a lower-intensity number that she thought I could handle given the time constraints.

The 50-50

The number she chose for me was the 50- 50 which she had choreographed for her and Andrew. The 50-50 plays on the fact that Lindy Hop (Swing) is a partner dance with well-defined girl and guy's parts. Essentially, in the 50-50, the dancers are required to switch back and forth between male and female roles throughout the song depending on their orientation relative to the audience.

The dance is oriented perpendicularly to the audience so that if your right shoulder is facing the audience, you are a guy (characterized as a dark, cool, pimp- strutting kind've dude) and if your left shoulder is to the audience, you are a girl (an extroverted blond bimbo). The costumes, makeup and dance personas are all schizophrenic. For example, the left half of the costume is a dress and the right side is a zoot suit of sorts. To add to the silliness of it all, I agreed to grow a beard and shave the left side off for the show

Lennart and W

Of course, soon after I agreed to perform, I left for Taiwan. I practiced the steps as best I could in Taiwan but by the time I was finishing the project, it was clear I would be rehearsing every day till show time. Meanwhile, Li Hsien had been dividing her time between the 50-50 and a Charleston number she had also agreed to do with Sing and Fen.

The Charleston number was a cute, but seriously demanding routine for three dancers. I don't really like Charleston because it seems too cutesy and bouncy for me, but Sing is a master of choreography and I was really impressed with the number. It is extremely fast, complex and demanding.

Anyway, so when I returned to Singapore, there was much to be done. Fortunately, things at the office were fairly mellow due to the problems my company was having staying afloat. Mainly people were walking around like zombies wondering when or if they would get the axe. On the up side, the state of the office gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time practicing. If I blended into the office environment and did not volunteer myself for any new projects, I had plenty of free time after work. In fact, in the week before the performance I pulled mostly half-days.

The Big Apple

Over the next two weeks, rehearsals went well. Sing put the whip to Hsien and I and after awhile the routine got more and more polished. A week before show time I was beginning to be able to focus on the role-playing and not simply desperately trying to memorize the steps.

This was important because acting is probably more important than anything else in the routine. The fact is that most audience members would not be knowledgeable enough about Swing to appreciate the technical difficulties of continually switching from lead to follow. You see, in Lindy, the lead and follow parts are extremely different so one has to really concentrate to get the steps and hand positions right as you are whipping round and round. Thus, what really carries the routine is the absurdity of big ole hairy me in a skirt acting really silly. So Sing worked with me to get me to do the girls part extravagantly enough and for Hsien to work on her cool, masculine side.

The Fast Lindy

On the Monday before the show we finally had a full dress rehearsal so I finally got to see the other numbers.

The first number was called the Big Apple which was a modern interpretation of an old standard in which dancers rotate around a circle improving jazz steps. Sing had modified the basic to be a high energy swing-out oriented version using the first cut off the new Big Bad Voodoo Daddy album.

I have to say, I was floored when I saw the number. It was definitely more my style of swing (loosy -goosy, bawdy, earthy high energy improv swing) rather than the usual complex and subtle Sing type choreography which is less my style but which I respect a great deal. The dancers included Pon, Krissy, Mayen, Selwin, Jeremiah and Fen.

The Fast Lindy

Second up were Denise, Garvin, Francis and Dawn (a.k.a. the kids). Their routine was very cool. They were performing to "Doin' the Lindy Hop" by Stephen Mitchell which includes a hip hop break down. It was nice to see them do so well because I definitely remembered their very first swing class and was impressed at how much better they all had become. The blending of Hip Hop and Swing was also pretty cool.

Next was a blues routine performed by W, one of the Swedes. She had only arrived from Sweden that day so she did a low- key run through. I got to see the routine much later and it, as well as all the Rhythm Hot Shot stuff was very impressive.

(Later that month I learned a lot more about the history of the Rhythm Hot Shots. They were one of the initial groups who began the resurgence of Swing. They, as well as Erin and Stephen from the Pasadena Ballroom Association, had flown out to New York in search of the octagenarian originators of Swing. In New York, they found Frankie Manning, one of the original dancers of "Whitey's Lindy Hoppers" and the first person to do an aerial, working at the post office. Both groups convinced Frankie to teach them the all but forgotten dance of Lindy Hop and the rest is history. Frankie now travels all around the world and is an inspiration to us all still doing aerials in his 80s.)

The Ritz

After that was Hsien, Sing and Fen doing the Charleston. It was clear that they had much work to do, but at the same time, they got through it very well and I figured they would have no troubles by show time. I reminded myself to remind Hsien that she needed to keep smiling the whole time and not get too involved in concentration. Fen ad Sing had been doing the routine for quite awhile so Hsien had a lot of pressure on her to reach their performance level.

There were several singing/cabaret numbers after that. When I had heard that there would be singing numbers I'd originally been a bit concerned. However, the group of Yu Chien, Selwin, Jeremiah, Deborah, Pon and Rupert pulled them off very well and the harmonies were on it.

After the singing numbers and another routine by the Rhythm Hot Shots, a group of high school kids from the American Club came on and did a number choreographed by Krissy. They did a superb job, especially given the amount of time they'd all been dancing. Krissy was like a mother hen. She was so proud of her troupe and I must say, the pride was well-deserved.

How High The Moon

The "Ushers Dance" came next, in which four dancers (Andrew, Denise, Heather, and Winni) attempted to synchronize all movements in order to look like one single beast. This one looked the most rough at the time because the very nature of the dance required that everyone did everything perfectly. I think Andrew must have had them practice quite a bit that next week because by show time, the routine was much better.

Next was an amazing tap number by W and Lennart and then the 50-50. Finally, Krissy, Pon, Fen, Joel, Sing, Andrew, W and Lennart came out to do the "Fast Lindy" to "Apollo Jumps" off the "Oscillating Rhythms" album. The song is 280 rpm and it is so fast that feet begin to blur. What's more, the routine was chalk full of intense aerials. If the Big Apple had impressed me, the Fast Lindy had made me completely jealous. Sing told me later that I had been slated to do the number but because of Taiwan I had been moved to the 50-50. Damn! I would have loved to do the Fast Lindy with all those aerials.

Rob and Deborah

And then it was Friday and the day of the first show. I took the day off so that I could go down to Chijmes Hall and help set up. I had twisted my ankle on Monday night so I also stopped by Guardian to pick up an ankle brace and a topical anaesthetic spray that I could use to completely numb my ankle for the entire performance if necessary.

By the late evening, everyone was pretty tense. Both shows had sold out earlier in the week so we knew that there would be a lot of people out there (300+). I was extremely nervous. Stage fright had taken over once again.

I will always be amazed at how quickly I can fall back into those old patterns. You'd think that after the band experience, performing would be nothing. However, it was not like riding a bike. I felt as if I was just as scared as I had been before the band.

However, I did have a better idea of how to cope with it. I realized that I tended to rev myself up by talking about being nervous so I decided that if anyone asked me how I felt, I would say "chill baby". It seemed to work okay. If I kept saying that I was fine, I kind've was fine.

Another thing that helped was to stay away from other performers who were putting off serious stage fright vibes. I was not going to go on until much later so I tried to stay away from back stage because whenever I went there I got really stressed out. Instead, it was better to simply sit by myself out in the courtyard.

Swing Kids

Another benefit of going on so late was that I was able to see the first three numbers from the audience. They went great. I suppose there were a few screw ups here and there but they were probably unrecognizable by those who did not already know the routines. So after three numbers I knew that the show would all go well.

I went off to the bathroom to shave. While there I got plenty of very odd looks from people coming in and out who must have wondered what the hell I was doing. Thank goodness I was not in my costume too.

And so, time passed. Performers went up the stairs, disappeared onto the stage and came back smiling and sweaty. And then, before I knew it, I was on the top stair listening for my cue and then suddenly the music was playing and I was into it.

I have to say, we rocked. Perhaps before the music started I was already in the zone and had already forgotten the audience, the stress, and everything else. We both came out and hit everything. And of course, the minute we switched roles, the audience lit up with laughter. Their energy just made me flail more, my left arm whipping around and my twist- twists even more pronounced. I make an incredibly ugly chick and that made it so much more funny!

The Ushers

And, before I knew it, the routine was about to end. I thought to myself. "Oh my God, I can't believe we actually got through the routine without making any errors". And, like a shortstop who begins to throw to first before the ball is in the glove, I screwed up on the last two 8- counts and missed the final aerial/dip.

I saw Hsien on that last bit and realized that we had both taken our minds off the choreography for just long enough to make the same mistake. I had ended up on the wrong side which would have meant that I would have taken the dip...and there was little chance that Hsien could have led me into an aerial! So we kind've ran around (fortunately in character) to set up the finale a half a beat late. In the end everything was okay...nobody except the dancers could tell, but I felt really stupid.

The rest of the numbers went on and I came back onstage for the final number after shaving off the other half of my beard.

The next night was quite a bit different. I think everyone was feeling high on the show the previous evening and was much less stressed out. However, that was not good either. Everyone seemed a little more lazy and cocky. I tried to get myself on the right track and again stayed outside.

Doin the Lindy Hop

Soy had come to watch the performance which was nice. I could see her in the audience and knew she would get a big laugh out of me. And in fact she said afterwards that she could barely contain herself and had to watch Li Hsien most of the time for fear of seeing me!

The second night went much better I think. The error from the night before had made me more focused so I was able to go through the routine pretty flawlessly. Well, at least I was very happy with it.

And then, it was over.

It was weird to not have the Arts Festival because I had been so intently focused for so long that it was odd not to be preparing or something. However, I had a lot of things to take care of in a short time because I was about to leave for the US and was moving out of my apartment because when I returned to Singapore I would only stay for a month until I left for Bangkok permanently.

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