Today we are talking with notorious DJ Superheidi from Rotterdam. All around festival Swing DJ, Balboa aficionado, fresh mint tea junkie with polka dot fetish.
It was difficult to reach you for this interview. What have you been up to lately?
DJ Superheidi: You just caught me in the wrong moment, I was in Herräng.
Herräng, the biggest swing dancing event in the world. Was it “business” or pleasure?
DJ Superheidi: I was there as one of the staff DJs, which means more pleasure than business.
How would you describe Herräng experience in couple of words?
DJ Superheidi: Swinging, creative, crazy, good fun!
Now when you are back home in Rotterdam, what’s next in your swing agenda?
DJ Superheidi: Rotterdam is still swinging during Summer. The bi-weekly balboa social dances will continue in Summer. There will be outdoor dancing at the so-called ‘Stadspodium’ (City Stage) with live music and taster classes. If the weather allows, there will be some Grashoppers, we meet somewhere outside with a boom-box, dance and share some beers. The dance studio Swing in Rhythm organizes Summer classes on specific subjects.
In August, Roffaswing (the non-profit organization that organizes swing dance parties and workshops in Rotterdam) will celebrate its 5th birthday! There will be a fun party with dancing, cakes, games and a cabaret.
That sounds great. A lot of activities for dancers! How are you satisfied with the way the scene developed in the past five years?
DJ Superheidi: It’s been quite a journey, but good fun. There was like nothing in Rotterdam on the swing front. In 2011 we had a first lindy class and now there are 4 nights with several classes on offer. A weekly social dance, a bi-weekly balboa social dance, several swing parties, a big lindy hop weekend in March: Harbour Hop and the Roffa Balboa Weekend in November.
The scene keeps changing and new dancers keep coming, some will disappear after while, some will stick around for long.
Would you say that the scene is still growing?
DJ Superheidi: I am not sure of that. Rotterdam isn’t that large, it has over 600.000 inhabitants, there are only so many people interested in this. September will show us how many new dancers will be starting.
You are part of Rotterdam scene from the beginning. What was important in growing the scene to be as it is now?
DJ Superheidi: There was no master plan, we just started out with a bunch of creative people, designers, photographers and artists and we’d see where the fun would get us. But we didn’t want to make this cookie-cutter swing scene. We felt like creating our own little playground that would welcome all ages and walks of life and give it a Rotterdam touch. Before WW II Rotterdam had quite the night life, there was theater, cinema, jazz, dancing. We flirt a bit with that past.
I can imagine you learned a lot along the way. What would your advice be for growing a scene and keeping it strong?
DJ Superheidi: Don’t have too high expectations, realize this is only a niche. Keep a tight budget! Be welcoming and inviting to everyone, make it fun for any age, size, shape or colour. Try to keep this clear in your communication too.
Be inspired by others or steal some good ideas and mold them to fit your own scene. Spot opportunities and grab chances when they appear.
Don’t be afraid to put in some work. The effort of co-creating something good will reward you. Just jump in and have a good time!
You mentioned people leaving the scene. What do you think is the main reason intermediate dancers stop dancing? In Rotterdam and elsewhere there is a similar pattern… a few advanced dancers and a lot of beginners.
DJ Superheidi: One can only guess about that. There may be several reasons. Some may get bored after a while, some may not get bitten by the swing bug or find other hobbies or other dances. And sometimes ‘life’ just gets in the way, like having a non-dancing partner, babies, families, careers, studies, health, losing a job, moving elsewhere.
These are certain factors to consider, but all are let say external. Can you think of some factors that could affect the dancers and come from how the scene is organized and run?
DJ Superheidi: possibly, but you’ll have to ask the dancers, I cannot answer for them.
I can only say that as an organizer I take note how other organizers do their events. I do try and compliment them when I see good things happening and get inspired. I do try and fill out surveys after events and I try to give constructive feedback when asked.
Also it is important to acknowledge that most organizers are just volunteers doing this for the love of swing dancing and most are not pros. All doing their best, and yes there are always things to learn.
You are preparing next Harbour Hop festival as we speak. What “good things” are most important for a festival in your opinion?
DJ Superheidi: As a dancer I like to attend events for several reasons: a good teacher line-up, the occasion to meet up with dance buddies, easy to travel and good music.
As an organiser, I’d say locations, locations, locations. For us it is the most important thing to get down first for any event as it is often the hardest thing to arrange. Especially if you don’t have access to your own venue. Teachers, music, anything else is easier to find than a good location.
A good team is important, with people that are ready to fix things, are pro-active and reliable. It is very empowering to see what you can accomplish as a team. Next to that, tight and realistic budgetting, planning and decent PR will get you ahead.
But I’m sure I forget something important. Like a good MC! … and having good run sheets for everything … and no swing-event can work without the best: all the lovely volunteers!
If you want to meet people, get an insight in a scene and learn about organising, have a peek backstage and contribute to the scene or an event: do volunteer! In your local scene or at international events. Volunteering is awesome and it’s how we make most of all these events happen.
Could you point out an European swing dance event that you remember for specially good organisation?
DJ Superheidi: Lindy Shock and Snowball are well organised and professionally run events. Maybe it’s not fair to compare those big events, to locally organised events, that are mostly done by non-profit organisations and volunteers. But I would say that the Edinburgh and London Balboa Exchanges and Hamburg Balboa Weekend are pretty damn well put together. Don’t blame me for forgetting to mention some other good ones.
Event PR has many aspects. When you hear about an event you would like to attend in its next edition, what info do you expect and how much in advance?
DJ Superheidi: Dates, teachers, music, place(s), costs, registration dates. And who’s going to attend (Facebook events give you some idea).
It depends how much in advance. If it is local, it may be less important. If it is internationally aimed, at least 3 months in between registration date and actual event is better, when cheaper travel options are still available.
If there is not much info one month before I would be less interested, it’s when you start to wonder how well it is organized.
Rotterdam scene has a rare opportunity to have you as a regular DJ. What is your view on dancing to real swing music versus non swing which is sometimes DJed to lindy dancers?
DJ Superheidi: Of course I’m a regular, this my home scene. Here in Rotterdam we agreed to keep the music mostly swing as it is the music we love most for swing dancing.
It is quite the discussion that keeps popping up in several scenes. If you want to swing dance, swing music is best, period. Of course it is not as strict as it sounds. Musicians always hovered around the borders, recycled riffs, looked back, evolved, grew, explored, as did the dances and dancers.
And swing DJs also like to stretch it and play beyond in any direction. But personally I think swing music is the foundation of swing dancing. Without it, no lindy hop, no balboa, no shag, no swing dancing. Just listen to it, with your ears and with your body, feel it! It if it doesn’t move you, swing dancing may not be your cup of tea.
Tastes change, even in the decades of swing dance history you can spot several trends. But I’m glad right now the focus seems to be on ‘classic’ swing. It seems that this interest is picked up by several contemporary bands also. What’s not to like? You can always rely on it, it never fails you as a swing dancer.
Do you encourage new people to start DJing? How do you do it? What guidelines do you give to people who want to DJ?
DJ Superheidi: We regularly invite guest DJs from other scenes. This year we started to take some local action too and had a few ‘fresh meat’ nights for which you can sign up and have your firs DJ slot. There are no strict rules but we emphasize that DJing is for swing dancers. How we will proceed from there is still in consideration and we are thinking about some guidelines.
Dear Heidi let’s finish with the couple of fast ones:
Glen Miller or Count Basie?
Basie! (though Miller could swing hard)
High heels or Keds?
Lower heels or flat dress shoes.
Lindy or balboa?
DJing first or after someone else?
Doesn’t matter much.
Feyenoord or Ajax?
Sparta (but I don’t really care for football)
Well, thank you Heidi for this interview. It took us nearly one month to complete, but it was worth a while! Feel free to leave us with eternal words of wisdom of just some plain propaganda.
Everybody come dance with us in Rotterdam!