An Interview with the Carolina Fascinators’ Laura Windley

This week blogger Bill Speidel invited North Carolina’s charming Laura Windley to the spacious Southside Stomp offices to sit down and talk about her latest project, the Carolina Fascinators, who’ll be performing at Southside Stomp’s The Carolina Invasion on May 21.

Tell us about the Carolina Fascinators? What are they?

TCF is an all girl dance troupe based in Raleigh/Durham who perform routines inspired by the dances of the jazz era. Our members are: Abigail Browning, Kristy Milliken, Heidi Reule, Elizabeth Tietgen and myself.

The troupe started because the girls wanted to do vintage inspired dance performances. I don’t remember who had the idea first – it wasn’t me – but the general consensus back in December 2010 was that this was a good idea and the ball sort of fell in my court to organize things. So, here we are!

I remember you had a public name search. How’d you gals come up with the Carolina Fascinators and were there any other choices that almost won?

I love polling Facebook when I’m out of ideas because something brilliant will come up or something someone says will jog my creativity. I believe Michael Quisao threw out the name “Fascinators”, a throwback to the decorative headpieces frequently made with feathers, flowers and/or beads and attached to the hair by a comb, headband or clip in place of a hat.

But we couldn’t be “The Fascinators” because that’s the name of former Squirrel Nut Zipper’s singer Katharine Whalen’s band and that’s a little too close to home since they are also locally based here in Chapel Hill. Adding “Carolina” to the name felt right and gave it a local feel, as we were hoping to find some sort of name that would give a nod to one of our cities or our state. The runner up was The Lucky Strikes, which would have been nice considering our first gig was just yards from the Lucky Strike water tower at American Tobacco in Durham, but fell short on a number of levels. I don’t think we’d be hired to perform at any cancer benefits.

I hear there was quite a fundraising effort made for your outfits… and remember you’re the bride with the home sewn wedding dresses. Any good stories here?

I have great difficulty asking people for money, but if you ever need to raise money, the remaining Fascinators are pros at creative fundraising – they are highly motivated and full of great ideas. We have a backlog of fundarisers we have yet to do, but thus far our funds have come from epic bake sales, selling drinks and food at dances, selling hair flowers, and auctioning off a 1940’s reproduction jumper and blouse that were donated to our cause. Our first costume was relatively inexpensive ($45 to outfit each girl with dress, prop, and headpiece), so with our successful initial fundraisers we were able to buy costumes and really nice dance shoes for the team. Our second costume is entirely handmade, with contributions from Etsy, Kristy’s mom, and my mom. Yay moms!

Can you give us any hints on what to expect from your performance?

I can’t give any hints about the performance, silly. You’ll just have to come out on the 21st!

You’ve also always been a big supporter of Southside Stomp going back to the “Wouldn’t it be great if” planning stages; plus, I remember you regularly tearing up Sugarfoot Stomp in Norfolk’s old Huette Center weekly dance about 5 years ago. Do you a soft spot for our area?

Of course I have a soft spot for Norfolk/VAB! It’s really cool to live in another dance community for a summer during an internship and to be welcomed so readily by the dancers there. It’s what I love about dancers – wherever you go, you have friends. Ever since that summer I’ve stayed on the mailing lists just so I can keep up with what is going on. And, of course, Bill and Victor keep me informed.

What’s next for the Carolina Fascinators and for DJ Laura Windley?

After Southside Stomp, the only confirmed gig we have lined up right now is the Eastern Balboa Championships. I have a few things in the pipeline for us, and we’ve been invited back to perform for the Triangle Swing Dance Society’s dance with ACME Swing Mfg Co and the Davenport Follies. On the DJ side, I’m excited to be DJ’ing at VTLX this weekend, All Balboa Weekend, EBC, and Jammin’ on the James this fall.

Come to think of it, you also sing with George Knott’s larger band, the Atomic Rhythm Allstars. We’ll definitely grab you for a dance or two this month, but what are the odds we might coax you into sharing a song with us?

I’ll sing a song if some of those Ondrej Havelka swing CDs you had smuggled into the U.S. find their way into my dance bag… 😉

(Disclaimer: this interviewer officially has no knowledge of how Ondrej Helveka or Prague Syncopated Orchestra recordings, which can not be distributed outside the Czech Republic might so appear, but stranger things have happened so let’s hope for miracles.)

Thank you Laura for your time. We’re all looking forward to seeing the Carolina Fascinators performance during the Carolina Invasion of Southside Stomp on Saturday, May 21st! I hope you and the Vespa have good weather for the trip up.


One Response to “An Interview with the Carolina Fascinators’ Laura Windley”

  1. Ken Hanson Says:

    “spacious Southside Stomp offices”? 😉
    Looking forward to the Carolina Invasion! (and yay Laura!)

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