Interview with Jammin’ on the James organizer, Andy Nishida

Richmond’s annual JotJ workshop weekend is only 3 weeks away and, with the excitement building, Southside Stomp sat for a chat with organizer Andy Nishida about Virginia’s longest running lindy weekend.

Q. So 2011 is the 9th year for JotJ, that’s practically a lindy hop lifetime. Did you and Rita originally envision the event would have such longevity?

A. Nine years is a long time! It’s always a year-to-year decision if we’re going to do it again, so no, we never dreamed it would be around this long. It’s a lot of hard work and financially stressful at times but the weekend is always a lot of fun and is usually enough to convince us to do it again.

Q. What do you think makes Jammin’ on the James special?

A. I think it’s the small friendly vibe. We’re not big like a lot of other regional events which are a lot of fun and very inspiring but one can sometimes feel lost in it all, especially a beginning Lindy Hopper. I’ve had past attendees tell me not to let JotJ get any bigger than it is. And we’ve made improvements over the years (e.g., went from 2 to 4 instructors, added a beginner track and advanced classes, having a competition and this year our Wellness Coordinator, Jason Sager, is offering a class on Stretching and Body Mechanics for Dancers).

This year we’re offering 8 workshops with Nick Williams and Carla Heiney, Mike Faltesek and Casey Schneider, 3 great bands, the Gypsy Roots, Blue Crescent Syncopators and the Doctors of Jazz; plus DJ’s Laura Windley and Bill Speidel. We feel we’ve made it better but not necessarily too much bigger, so I think we’ve been able to retain that intimate feel.

Q. What are your event goals? What one thing would you like dancers to come away with?

A. Our goals now and when we started Jammin’ was to bring world-class instructors to the area who maybe don’t come to the mid-Atlantic states very often and provide the opportunity to our dancers to learn from the best. It’s really all about allowing dancers to improve and realize what Lindy Hop can be for them and to inspire them to get better and to just have fun.

Q. Richmond’s @ the center of many small local scenes: do you see JotJ as a local or regional event? Or based on the calibre of your instructors, are you a small national event. How do you define yourself?

A. We’re definitely a regional event. I’m pretty sure we’re not on the radar of dancers west of say Ohio although we’ve had random folks come from Colorado, California, Michigan, etc. Pretty much our radius of influence is about 500 miles or so.

Q. What level of dancer do you think would benefit the most from JotJ?

A. Although we have instruction to satisfy every level of dancer, I’d think those in the early intermediate stages will benefit most. They’re at that stage where they’ve got the basics well in mind and they’re starving to learn more. Also those who take the beginner track. They’ve made the brave decision to come out and learn to dance and they’ll receive instruction from some of the best dancers on the planet and they’ll hopefully be inspired by the dancing they see, the live music they hear, and the energy in the room at the dances.

Q. Is registration still open?

A. Early bird registration has ended, but dancers can still register on our website at Plus,we’re even offering a beginner friendly pricing option. It’s going to be a fun weekend.

Thanks, Andy. Southside Stomp is looking forward to dancing in Richmond again. We’ll see you on October 14th!


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