The Very First Sicily Swing Fest 2016 – My Honest Experience :)

Hello there! So I was lucky to be able to go to Catania, Sicily for Sicily Swing Fest 2016! I did full weekend with advanced workshops and social parties. I actually arrived on Wednesday. Left Sicily for Rome on Monday and then flew back to London on Tuesday.

Basically, we had 8 hours of crazy workshops with Maeva and William and Peter and Katja. The workshops were really good! I learned so much! I especially liked the sugar pushes and St Louis Shag. One step was also great! I wish we had more St Louis Shag classes somewhere in London … maybe there is a market for it 😉 I will not go over exact material we had during the workshops. I have blogged about both teaching couples many times before and we all know they are really awesome and great teachers! Really good choice!

There were 3 streams – improvers, intermediates and advanced. I think there is a need for intermediate/advanced stream as well. There were also auditions. I guess it was only to set general level of intemediate and advanced students. I truly love the way that Lindy Shock does auditions – each stream is divided into 3 sub-streams. At least this way, everybody is at somewhat equal level. I mean, very equal! However, there weren’t 80+ couples per stream at Sicily Swing Fest. There were maybe 30 couples in advanced stream and I suppose a bit more in intermediate stream. I think it would have been better to get intermediate and advanced students and do proper audtions and then put them into 3 leves – intermediate, intermediate/advanced and advanced streams … but that’s just my opinion!

I was lucky to stay 5 minutes walk from all the class venues. It was, however, 20 minutes walk to the main social dance venue and Catania, at 2 AM – 3 AM, is a bit dodgy. I mean, I was more scared of crazy drivers than those crack dealers you see every now and then 😀 But taxi was quite cheap – 9 – 10 euros per car to get to central Catania (where I lived, pretty much). So, if 4 people share the taxi, it’s like 2.5 euros per person. That’s like half pint of beer at the festival which brings me to another point.

The bar at the festival was quite expensive. 5 euros for a bottle of beer (330 cl size). I went to supermarket to get some food and got 5 cans of beer (500 cl each) for 5 euros. The very strange thing is that a cup of coke was around 4 euros. There was no water provided, you had to pay 2 euros for it. Here, in London, you get water for free all the time, so I had to bring my own water … I suspect that the bar was hired from independant company. Like a mobile bar or something. I think it’s way better to do this internally – buy the stock, let’s say a can of beer costs 1 euro, sell it for 2 euros, put volunteers in place and give them discounts at the camp or some free days, like a weekend party pass in exchange for work … or something. Those who come from overseas (which weren’t many), have to pay for camp, flights, transportation, food and even accommodation (although, there is a cheat for it (being hosted) ;D).

Let’s talk about floorcraft for a minute. It was quite bad. Maybe venues were too small because there is never too many dancers. I remember there was a lady hit on her foot so hard, she needed ice which doubtfully helped her. It happened on Saturday and I don’t know if she danced on Sunday. Honestly, I don’t know that girl and even if I knew, I would not out her name because that’s not nice. I was also hit quite hardly on Saturday. I can feel pain to this very day (Wednesday, 9th of November, 2016). It’s not like the pain was an obstacle to dance because it only hurts when I actually touch the wound (yup, it’s visible). Also, people don’t apologise, don’t even look when they hit someone, only a few people did that … I know that floorcraft in London is bad but here was probably equally as bad. There is a need for bigger venues. Although, I had no such problem during classes.

Let’s talk about music. Music was great. The bands were amazing. Both bands – Hornstagan Ramblers and Hot Jazz Orchestra were very professional! Especially Hot Jazz Orchestra, which, I believe, was a local band. They were truly smashing and they kept the whole audience on their feet on Sunday night! Also, at the end of the festival, we were entertained by the “last song” which probably took well over an hour. It was not swing but I loved it. Truly amazing choice of raving songs! I had to leave quite early, like 2:30 or 3 AM because I had to catch a flight early morning to Rome. Music, in general, was great – from bands and from the DJs as well. I was quite tired to dance to some faster songs but on Sunday I had this burning desire to practice my St Louis Shag but I don’t think that tempo was very suitable for it. Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoyed the music, especially on Sunday, even without practising St Louis Shag, I still had a blast! Also, the lights … they looked awesome, just like at a night club or something … but sometimes the light would move and blind dancers … and I don’t like dancing with my eyes closed tight. I think they didn’t move on Sunday or at least I didn’t notice!

Do you know what I truly LOVED about this camp? Classes started at 1 or 2 PM (depending on stream and what day it was). It was super cool to sleep until 11:30! Especially when you live a few minutes walk from the class venues 😉 Also, social parties started quite late, at around 10 PM … well, 11 PM actually because even at 10:30 PM there weren’t many dancers yet. It’s fine, classes finished at around 5-7 PM so you needed  some time to get home, shower, work (in my case), etc …

Well, this was the very first edition of Sicily Swing Fest and I truly enjoyed it despite getting hurt, being blinded by the light, paying a lot for beer, etc … To sum up, here’s what you get:

  • Amazing classes from international teachers!
  • Great music from great bands and DJs
  • Sleep (which you don’t normally get in other camps due to classes starting too early)
  • Great vibes and atmosphere
  • Great dances!
  • Abililty to explore Catania (or beyond if you have time)
  • Easy access to Etna volcano! Just dress up as it’s very cold out there!
  • Ability to taste Italian foods like proper pizza, lasagne, maccaroni, gelato, etc …

I believe this is a must for every lind hopper. Etna volcano is very close, you can take a hop on, hop off kind of bus for 35 euros and they will take to 2 km to Etna and then the bus will stay there for 3 hours which allows you to get another train around the area for 10 euros or flying cabins on the zip for 30 euros I believe.

Having said that, would I come back? Absolutely! This camp is great for dancing and exploration, sightseeing. And today, I remove another item from my to-do list – dance in Italy. There is, like, another 180 items left in this bucket list … but I have time, so … 🙂