A Chat with Organizer Victor Celania

What is the Southside Stomp?

Emcee Victor Celania and DJ Coordinator Bill Speidel

VC: Southside Stomp is more than just a monthly lindy hop dance; in many ways, it’s my attempt to help bring the excitement of the outside swing world to our local area. I intend to bring in nationally recognized instructors who will share their extensive knowledge of the dance and its history, as well as accomplished DJs who are advancing the sophistication of the music through finding quality songs that inspire us to dance.

I imagine having a central location in Norfolk’s Ghent is pretty helpful. What’s the studio like?

VC: The studio is a beautiful open space with a huge wooden dance floor. The floor is slick, which is fantastic for swing dancers since we do so many slides and it makes fancy footwork much easier to accomplish.

Who are you marketing to? Will brand new beginners and experienced dancers each come away with something and look forward to the next month’s dance?

VC: In the lindy hop community there are a lot of people who enjoy not only dancing, but vintage culture, music, history and fashion. These, along with people who enjoy having a truly fun and rewarding experience, are those that I want to have at our dance. For beginners, we are offering a free class at 7:30 that will get them dancing on the first night. Hopefully the energy and vibe of the dance will inspire them to keep learning and growing as dancers. Experienced dancers will enjoy the quality music and the great people that are coming to visit, as well as experience the very latest ideas in our swing dance community.

How important is the quality of the music and the ideal of staying true to what makes music swing? Or to the history and musicians that have brought us to this point?

VC: The quality of music is what keeps the dance and the lindy hop community alive! Swing music was America’s first pop music, it brought such stars as Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw into the main stream. It created a new fashion, a new slang and a new sense of freedom and integration within the youth of the United States. Swing music has influenced everything that’s followed and I want people to experience the amazing musicianship and foot-tapping rhythm that makes me want to dance until I’m too tired to move!

When you and Bill Speidel first presented the idea for Southside Stomp you were very committed to it being the first stand alone, independent dance in Hampton Roads in a while, yet you were equally vocal about coordinating with the surrounding dance scenes outside HR. Why is that?

VC: In some ways it’s terrifying to be solely responsible for the success or failure of an event and making sure everyone has a good time; yet at the same time, there’s a tremendous creative freedom when you are your own boss. As a result, Southside Stomp is all about embracing new possibilities, new beginnings, and showcasing what the outside world has to offer.

After all, swing music and dance is energetic, vibrant and overall, fun! We believe bringing in people from outside our area is vitally important to growth as a scene because it helps bring experience, new ideas and new music that inspire dancers, and the dance itself, to evolve!

When people really get into the dance, they realize what other amazing people are also involved in it with them – people who are exciting, passionate, fun, open minded – and who are spread throughout the entire world. Lindy Hop has gone global and with dancers in almost every country. Right now, the world’s largest swing scene is in Seoul, South Korea! When we all cross over and interact at dances, it’s like a big reunion and we hang out, dance, eat, share cultures, and enjoy the positive energy we all share with each other. The swing community is a tight knit group, but an easy one to enter – “Can you do a swing out? Yes? You’re in.”

You’ve mentioned that Southside Stomp is going to be multi-media? What does that mean?

VC: The multimedia aspect is crucial; we’re utilizing every resource to help make our participants aware of what’s going on outside Hampton Roads and to share the history of this great dance! At one end, its displaying flyers from every dance event and organizer on the planet who’s promoting an event; on the other it’s Youtube videos playing on the flatscreen showing major competitions, historic routines, and contemporary instructors. It’s inspiring to watch both new and experienced dancers watch the same clips and each smile at the potential of learning something new from what they’re seeing.

Many of those supporting you are also very into vintage fashion and, like yourself, seem to be fueling a return to the days when people dressed up for a night on the town. How does fashion fit into the enjoyment of the dance?

VC: Everyone, despite what they might say, enjoys looking good, feeling good and enjoying a night on the town. Even guys that never dress up know they look good in a suit and that gals look great in dresses! Dancing gives people an opportunity to take pride in how they look and enjoy a days-gone-by attitude towards life! Top that off with TV shows like HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, which is starting to influence men and women’s contemporary fashions and styling, and anything is possible.

Lastly, instructor Reuel Reis was asked what era he saw as the pinnacle of Lindy Hop. He replied that looking at the quality and creativity of dancers through time, he thinks it’s today. What are your thoughts on that?

VC:I agree that lindy hop is at its height RIGHT NOW. Ten or twelve years ago, when Lindy Hop came back it went through its infancy stage, with the wild colored zoot suits, neo-swing music and beginner-level dance styling. It’s matured into a dance that blends lindy hop, balboa, charleston, collegiate shag, blues and solo jazz. Today there are professional dancers who travel the world over 300 days a year perpetually training and learning, scouring online video archives and with unprecedented access to music at the touch of a download button; plus they’re spreading their wings into tap, musical and theatrical performance, cabaret/burlesque, hip hop and more. Dancers are getting more knowledgeable in specialized areas such as musical history, vintage fashion and hairstyles, and rare and forgotten dances. Going to events now versus six or eight years ago is a completely different experience.

The bar keeps getting raised every time I go to an event, which pushes me and everyone else to love it that much more. We hope that the Southside Stomp allows Hampton Roads dancers, and those who want to become dancers, a glimpse of that ever-changing and exciting world of swing dancing and that they’ll fall in love with it as much as we have!


One Response to “A Chat with Organizer Victor Celania”

  1. […] honor of my trip to visit Knickerrocker this weekend and DJ at his and Bill Speidel‘s monthly dance event, The Southside Stomp, I […]

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