Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Movers and Shakers - Nicole Zonnenberg, Tallahassee

Movers and Shakers is a new series highlighting some of the people behind the growing Lindy Hop scenes throughout Florida.

This week we interview Nicole Zonnenberg from Tallahassee.

Tell us a short story about your dance history. When did you start swing dancing, Lindy Hopping, other styles? What initially drew you to Lindy Hop?

I officially started dancing at the beginning of 2010, when a friend of mine (who had frequented Zendah’s) found the Tallahassee scene, known then as the Coalition for a Tallahassee Swing Scene. 

It was a gathering of a handful of (mostly) FSU students working out the swing out and other facets of the Lindy Hop. Not the top echelon of dancers, but a group of friendly people who met up at least once a week to try and learn the finer points of this really awesome dance. Basically, it was perfect for a new freshman just trying to find her niche. What basically drew me to swing dancing, and ultimately inspired me for the scene at Florida State University, was the community. People from different backgrounds, different jobs, different places in their lives could get together and, if nothing else, enjoy each other’s company for a few hours with awesome music.

How are you currently active in your scene and what have you done over the last year to grow Lindy Hop in your area? What have you learned from your work?

As you might have guessed from the new name (which was applied at the start of the 2010-2011 school year), the Swing Dance Club at FSU is a university run scene. I have recently graduated with my bachelors from FSU and have plans to move out of state to pursue a career of some sort (basically just to make sure I can pay rent, eat and Lindy Hop). So I am no longer a regularly contributing member to the scene. And while I am sad to leave a scene that has become so much more than a group of dancers that met every Friday night (to me, many of the dancers there have become as close as family), I know that those taking over will do an amazing job and I hope to return every once in a while, if only to dance and hang out around old stomping grounds. 

As for what I have learned: so much. I’m pretty sure I could write pages about what I learned of myself, being a leader, other people, running a dance scene. But mostly just how rewarding it is to give to community, because what you get back is priceless and nothing can take that away.

What do you love about this dance? What keeps you dancing?

One time I was asked to describe swing dancing in three words or less. The three words I chose were: fun, energetic and people. 

The Lindy Hop is first and foremost a social dance, so there cannot even be swing dance without the community that drives it. The people are what consistently made me come back, even if I felt dangerously close to being burnt out (which happens to the best of us). 

There is just this intangible joy that seems to occupy a dance floor, even the most rudimentary ones, that makes this dance and therefore the people that share it so wonderful. 

I have made friends all over the world because of this dance. Friends I would not have met if not for Lindy Hop. Some of whom I have become incredibly close to and will continue to stay in contact even half way around the world.

What are you currently working on in your dancing right now?

Over the past year I concentrated on teaching, because it’s harder than it looks. Now, however, I’m getting the chance to really analyze myself as a dancer. I guess if I had to specify, just bringing everything together cohesively. By that I mean being able to follow effectively but still being able to retain my identity as a dancer in my individual styling while still making it a fun dance for whoever I happen to be dancing with at the time. 

Also, my reoccurring weakness since day one: anticipation. I don’t think I’ll ever be truly rid of this habit, but I keep constant vigilance so that it at least may stay in check.

Who is a major inspiration to your dancing? Can you link us to a favorite video of this person? If you can’t pick just one, then post a few!

This was such a perfect opportunity to go back and watch all of my favorite videos. I was tempted to just list all of them (I mean, you more or less gave me permission), but this is one that I could watch over and over again. It’s not the flashiest, but still very well-choreographed while showing off some amazing technique in each individual and partners. I am a fan of all the dancers that are showcased and have had the pleasure of taking classes from each.

Also, I love watching Skye and Frida social dance. She’s definitely someone I try and emulate in my dancing.

Another dancer that inspires me, which I do not have a clip of dancing I’m afraid, is Rebecca Strickland, who has more or less become my mentor over the years. She and her husband, Michael, are a huge reason for the club’s success and have been invaluable to the club as advisors and teachers. And friends to me.

What was the catalyst that pushed you to become personally invested in building your scene?

I’ve always been someone who jumps feet first into something. In one club, I found an extracurricular activity that would quickly evolve into a passion and (more importantly) a circle of friends. I would have done anything to make sure this club succeeded. It just happened that due to lack of interest at the time, I quickly became a senior member and leader in the club.

But the catalyst? It’s addicting. Giving something of yourself. The return might not be immediate, but eventually you’ll have something more precious than anything. Even after officially leaving Tallahassee, I still get messages from people who are excited about an event they just attended, or a lesson that went really well, or a new scene that they’ve just discovered in another city. Seeing people’s faces light up when things finally click or eager to help out in any way they can.

In my short twenty-two years of life, I am the most proud of how far this club has grown over the course of four years (from roughly in the lower teens to 60-80 people a week) and the part I was able to play in making that happen.

If you could request only one song to be played at a dance, what would it be?

Maybe not the most exciting song, but I absolutely love it and you will find me on the dance floor somewhere when this plays.

What events do you always attend? Which ones inspire you the most?

This is probably going to change drastically in the next year as I am planning on moving to the northeast. Since 2010 I have been to an average of six to ten events per year. And I have been lucky enough to attend events outside of the country as well.

Probably my favorite in the past year has been the Amsterdam Lindy Exchange (this year called Lindy Swop). They were able to create such a unique experience to their city, including a boat ride with a live band through the canals!

But something closer to home: Orlando Lindy Exchange always manages to make me dance until I can’t feel my feet any more. They always have the best music and the best dancers in the southeast, several of whom I am lucky to call friends.

And of course, my own events: A Floor Divided and Seminole Stomp! Which you should all go to this year. I heard Steven Mitchell is on the roster this year. ;)

What do you envision for your scene in the next years? Next 3 years?

Those who have assumed the leadership roles in the club, I cannot have more faith in. They are all very strong and capable leaders as well as dancers and they want nothing but the best for the club. I know they’re planning on reaching out to the more permanent members of the community, outside the college. And I know for a fact they’re gearing up for another A Floor Divided and Seminole Stomp.

It would be amazing for these to be long standing events for Florida and the southeast to enjoy. And I would definitely love to come back and attend these events, this time as a regular dancer instead of an organizer.

If you could share one bit of wisdom that you’d like everyone to know, what would it be?

Don’t stress over the small details, usually those fall into place. Or if they don’t, then they probably weren’t that important to begin with. Concentrate on the bigger picture, which for a scene leader is:

- a welcoming environment where new and experienced dancers can enjoy themselves

- consistency in when and where you meet (so people can find you more easily)

- communicate effectively (simple lists are a boon in organizing ANYthing)

- dance with as many people as possible (ESPECIALLY the new dancers)

- HAVE FUN! (otherwise it becomes just another responsibility, and you already have those)

1 comment:

Erica B said...

I just wanted to say if it weren't for Nicole and A Floor Divided, I probably wouldn't be as passionate about swing dancing as I am now. I went to that workshop as an absolute beginner and gained SO MUCH from it. Some of my closest friends I met at that workshop, I learned so much, and I got to dance with Peter Strom. I've only been dancing for 9 months, but I give that workshop and Nicole credit for inspiring me again and again (Seminole Stomp was also an amazing event!).