I’ve been totally crappy with my blog writing this year. I had many ideas and intentions, but they are still half written pieces on my hard-drive which no longer seem relevant or recent enough to post. So, as usual I am going to my default topic: Herräng. This blog is also a little late, with my original intention being to post it a few months back when people were still debating whether or not to register. I then realised this week, that Herräng is only a little over a month away. So whilst it is too late for me to inspire those sitting on the fence to bite the bullet and register, hopefully there are some pieces of useful information here.
I got the idea for this post quite awhile back, after being asked numerous questions about Herräng from several very apprehensive potential first-timers. It seems to be no secret that I am one of the ‘hard core’ ones, heading over for my 3rd year of doing the full set-up through to crash down stint (and my 5th Herräng in total), so it is for this reason that I seem to be deemed the person ‘in the know’
I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on absolutely every aspect of this amazing camp, nor I am able to write a guide that covers it all. There is far too much that goes on, that it is practically impossible to know everything about it all. Unless you are somehow able to divide yourself into 2 or 3 people. Nonetheless, it is often the people that are considering going for the first time, or for more than one week for the first time that seem to ask me the most questions. Newcomers to the dance scene are often daunted at the concept of Herräng. Often all they know is that it is in Sweden, there are a lot of people there and you can dance until 9am in the morning.
I’m aiming to target this blog primarily to those who have never been to Herräng before. Those who have heard bits and pieces from friends and seen photos and videos on facebook, but otherwise know very little about what this camp is all about. I’m going to try and avoid writing information that you can find on the website. I’m also going to try and avoid information on the general infostructure and schedule of the camp. If you are looking for more details about this, then I can recommend my friends page which is regularly updated:
If you want a general idea of what the Herräng experience could be like, then you might want to read my earlier blogs.
Now that my introductory ramblings are over, let’s get down to business:
Firstly, I want to highlight a few points that I feel are very important to be aware of for newcomers:
Something I hear far too often is ‘I don’t think I am good enough’ or ‘I haven’t danced long enough to be ready for Herräng yet’. To me, this is a load of nonsense. Herräng is held by many with such high regard as THE dance camp to go to, that is automatically assumed that it is filled only with awesomely dancers who expect to only dance with awesome dancers. Newer dancers therefore feel like they won’t be welcome or won’t fit in with what they perceive to be a collection of the worlds best and most experienced dancers. The truth is, that the very nature of Herräng is what makes it probably the most accepting and inviting dance camp for people with very minimal, and sometimes even no, dance experience. Whist the vast majority of other dance camps and exchanges are primarily focused on workshops and/or social dancing (many not even having a beginners stream), Herräng not only offers classes for absolute beginners but also offers so much more than just dancing.
I have met several people who learnt to dance in Herräng, after being coerced into going by friends, some of whom have gone on to become quite involved in the camp itself
When I was preparing to go to my first Herräng, one of my friends gave me the best piece of advice that you could give someone in my situation: Don’t go to Herräng with any expectations based on what people have already told you. I know I might be contradicting myself slightly by writing this post, but there is a difference between taking advice on how to ‘survive’ or make the most out of Herräng, and being told what Herräng will be like for you. Don’t go with an idea in you head of what you will do there, what your daily schedule will look like. Don’t assume that the dancing will be a certain way. And definitely do not try to make pictures in your head of what the camp looks like based on the information provided by the website. Just take things as they come and make the most of them as they do. If you end up dancing 16 hours a day, thats awesome. If you get caught up in all the other craziness that Herräng has to offer, then that is equally awesome.
HERRÄNG IS MORE THAN JUST A DANCE CAMP.
So make sure you treat it as such. Yes, you have the opportunity to dance shitloads, but you also have the opportunity to do so much more. You have the chance to hear old timers such as Dawn Hampton and Norma Miller talk about what it was really like back when the lindy hop first started. You get performances from the worlds best teachers and dancers. Everyday, Herräng has something crazy and random to offer be it speed dating, a 90s party, car bingo, karaoke, a makeshift Hooters restaurant, water bomb fights, pillow fights, sporting games, an assortment of random classes such as how to say ‘would you like to dance’ in as many languages as possible. The list is endless. And those are just the things that are formally organised and publicised at the camp. In addition to that, you are quite likely to find beach parties, bonfires, sauna parties and more that the camp goers organise among themselves. So make the most of it. Don’t spend the entire week on the dancefloor.
Now that the basics are covered, here are a few more things to know:
A large proportion of volunteers see it as a way to pay for classes. Which is fine to a point, but unless you genuinely can’t afford to pay for a week of classes no matter how hard you save, try to look at is as a way to help you be at Herräng for multiple weeks. Thats how I look at it. I like being in Herräng for the whole summer, and whilst I could probably skimp and save to pay for the 3 weeks of classes I registered for, being a volunteer allows me to be there for the remaining 4 weeks. It’s no secret that it is hard work, and it takes away some of your sleeping and/or dancing time, but don’t forget: whilst you are volunteering you are still in Herräng, regardless of what you get to experience during that week. Volunteering is a great way to get involved in the camp and an awesome way to meet people, so don’t be one of those douche bags that complains about how much hard work it is, or feels the need to point out that you are working for below minimum wage. If that bothers you, then you have completely missed the point of volunteering. If you happen to be one of the lucky ones to have a volunteer slot this year, then be sure to appreciate the opportunity you have been given. If you feel the need to complain about how hard you are working, and how little you are getting in return, think first about all the people who really wanted your slot, and then rest assured that if you voice your complaints, you will never have to worry about volunteering again.
WHAT TO PACK.
Herräng actually has a fairly decent list in the regard, but from memory you only get the list in an email once you have registered. There is also a list in the website I mentioned earlier, so I am only going to cover what is missed on those pages.
Dance camps can be hard to pack for, and Herräng is no exception. You need clothes for classes and clothes for social dancing. You also need something a little nicer to wear for slow drag night. If you are volunteering, then you may want to pack an extra pair of shorts or trousers that you are willing to get dirty as well.
Yes, they are an important part of the Friday Night parties. There are a supply of costumes as well as an assortment of material and props available in Herräng, so it is not a huge issue if you can’t fit a costume in your suitcase. Many people bring at least part of a costume from home, and then supplement it with props or extra material once they get to Herräng. Fabrics are easy to come by in Herräng, so try to think of things you can create out of a few pieces of coloured cloth If you are there for multiple weeks, then it can be hard to fit several elaborate costumes in your suitcase. Try to find something that you can use for several of the parties, using different props and accessories to go with it.. One of my friends used the same blue sheet for at least 3 or 4 weeks one year. You could also consider using the bed sheet you are required to bring for your costume on your last night in Herräng.
If you are only going for a week, then you can most likely get away with simply packing what you would take for a weekend exchange (with a few extra clothes of course). If you are going for longer, then, in addition to what is on the other lists, there are a few extra things I would recommend taking.
Ok, so based on the abuse I got in response to a recent facebook status update, there is a difference of opinion regarding the efficacy of antibiotics, and whether they do more harm than good. But, the bottom line is, If you are there for more than 2 weeks, chances are you will get sick to one degree or another. If you are one of those people that can get REALLY sick from what initially appears to be a common cold, then you may want to consider going to your GP or a local travel clinic for some antibiotics. Contrary to the beliefs of some of my friends, I have used them the past 2 years after being sick for over a week, and they really did make a world of difference.
Camping mug & Spoon
Needle and Thread
Mirror (unless you want to be on of 30 girls fighting over the one mirror)
A bag for your dirty washing.
An extra towel.
This can be a tricky one, seeing as the overall average level of those doing classes can vary from week to week. But the information you want to know is:
- Intermediate/Advanced & Advanced levels have auditions, in which you will be placed into a stream within that level. The auditions are Jack and Jill style, which as many of you will know is not without it’s flaws. Generally, the really good dancers will be placed in the top stream and those out of their depth with be placed in the bottom one.
- Sometimes those running the auditions make mistakes. If you feel you have been unfairly placed in a lower level, you can ask the teachers to watch you in class to see if you should go up. If they say know, the best thing you can do is just swallow your pride and make the most you can out of your class. These days, teachers tend to teach the same concepts to most of the levels, but progressing further with the higher levels, so you will get similar content regardless of which class you are in.
- If a teacher thinks you should go up a whole level (eg: Intermediate/Advanced to Advanced), they will most likely tell you during the audition. Often, it can be better to be in the top stream of IA than the bottom stream of Advanced.
- Classes are not the be all and end all of Herräng, so try not to take them too seriously. Yes, you have the potential to learn lots of new things to take back to your home towns, but don’t get disappointed if you don’t learn all the fancy stuff you were hoping for. Bear in mind that by weeks 4 and 5, many teachers have been there for several weeks and are starting to wear down, so be a little understanding if they don’t seem completely on form. Many of them will be tired from dancing into the early hours of the morning (teachers generally get paid less than usual in Herräng, so have less of an obligation to be fresh and spritely for classes). I have also heard stories about high-profile teachers turning up drunk or hungover, but this is not the place for that sort of speculation.
WHAT ABOUT BLUES NIGHT?
*Sigh* I personally feel that this topic gets FAR too much hype and speculation, hence the numerous dodgy connotations and stigma that seems to be attached to it. Yes, some people get too gropey on the dancefloor. Many people enjoy it and leave to continue the groping in a more socially acceptable location. Others (men and women) are forced to endure several minutes of discomfort.
I like to think of blues night, or ‘slow drag’ night as it is now called, as an opportunity to dress up and dance to some slightly different, awesome music. And escape the usual chaos of noise that usually fills the dance floor. If you don’t like the sound of this, go and dance in the lindy hop rooms (yes, they still exist). If you are curious to give the blues floor a go, my survival tips are:
- Try to identify a few people you feel comfortable dancing with.
- If you have an uncomfortable dance, simply thank the person at the end and then walk away.
- Remember that whilst there will be a few people who know they are being inappropriate, a lot of the people that get too close will be new to blues dancing, and not fully aware that what they are doing is wrong.
- Don’t feel that you need to conform with those who brag about ‘dancing all night’ ‘dancing with x number of people’ or ‘dancing x number of songs with a certain person’. Do what feels comfortable for you. If that happens to be a few songs with your friends, with the rest of the time watching, or mingling around outside of the ball room, then that’s ok.
WHAT ABOUT STOCKHOLM?
Yes, it is worth going to. Plan to spend a few days after your week/s in Herräng there. Most likely, you will meet other people at the camp during the week that are also planning to hang around for a few days, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find some sight seeing buddies!
WILL THIS BE MY LAST POST ABOUT HERRÄNG?
Not likely. Expect another long winded story about my 7 weeks there sometime late in August. But I will try to post about something different in the meantime.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW?
Probably, If you think of it, feel free to ask :)
Herräng is pretty much as awesome as you allow it to be. Lose your expectations, step out of your comfort zone and chill out. Take things as they come, and be sure to seize as many opportunities as possible, no matter how obscure or ‘non-dancing’ they may be!