Camp Hollywood XVI – What a long, strange trip it’s been

Guest Post by Hilary Alexander

Coming up on the 16th Camp Hollywood, it’s hard not to wax nostalgic. Hardly a week goes by where I don’t drive by the (revamped) Hollywood Palladium on Sunset Boulevard and think of the two years our event graced that stage – 1999 and 2000. Our first year, 1998, was in a humble Woman’s Club a few blocks away. So many things have changed since those days – the first year we didn’t even have a website, hardly anyone had cell phones, and so many of the “kids” who came in those early years are now married with multiple children. And guess what – they still come to Camp Hollywood!

That’s what I love about Camp Hollywood. Not only is it a reunion for those of us lucky enough to experience the first wave of the Swing revival in the 90s, but it’s a warm and welcoming place for new dancers as well. I’m always so excited to see all the newbies in our special Beginner’s Class Track, and also to watch the competitors get better and better every year.

We’ve had so many great moments at Camp Hollywood. We’ve had marriage proposals, original Jitterbugs from the 1930’s and 40’s sharing their knowledge in discussion panels and strutting their stuff in our Intergenerational Contest, Anita O’Day celebrating her 80th birthday, the 60th anniversary of the opening of The Palladium, visitors from Japan, Italy, and Korea knocking our socks off in the Showcase Division. Hundreds of dancers from around the world come to Camp Hollywood just raring to have a great time. Imagine being in a packed ballroom surrounded by that energy!

I’m so pleased that Camp Hollywood has been one of the elements keeping the LA swing scene not only alive but relevant. It warms my heart every year to see the Teams division – groups of dancers who get together to do a multi-couple dance routine – knowing how hard these people worked all year just for that one moment. And then the awards ceremony at the end of the weekend; there’s tears and joy and good will all around as people celebrate their friends and rivals, with promises to each other to kick your butt next year (after all, our motto for the dance contests is “it’s not winning or losing, but who places above you that counts”).

The sixteenth annual Camp Hollywood is just two months away, on our new special holiday weekend, Labor Day. Who’s going to win the Golden Budgie (our special “spirit award” for best performance)? Who’s going to be the new Showcase champion, or Shag champion (the only national title for Shag in the US)? Who’s going to walk into our Beginner track and walk out not only knowing how to dance but with a lifetime love of Lindy Hop? Who’s going to meet new friends, find a new favorite band, have a weekend camp experience they’ll never forget? I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens!