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22nd July
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Herrang Sign

Herräng Sign

Each summer, the tiny town of Herräng becomes the swing dancing capital of the world. Hazel and I had both wanted to attend the camp for several years before but actually getting to Sweden for weeks on end in the summer was always too difficult. This year, we made sure to go by setting up our Europe itinerary such that we’d end up there at the right time!

We arrived by city bus, with Chris and Christian, and relaxed outside the camp because they hadn’t opened the gates yet. Each year they do what’s known as the “Herräng 100m” when they open up the gate and everyone runs to the registration booth! Hazel and I placed relatively well, and so had a relatively easy time finding a bed (which were bunks in a dorm, chosen first-come-first-served style). We had a really good location near a mini grocery store and next to many of the dance floors that would be used for our lessons.

A typical day at Herräng looked like this:

  • Wake up around 8 or 9 to get up for your first class.
  • Eat breakfast at the Herräng dining hall. Breakfast was always similar, with cold cuts, vegetables, oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, coffee, and juice available.
  • Have 3-4 classes (1:20 each) between breakfast and dinner usually with at least one gap in between each.
  • Dinner at the dining hall. Dinner was always different, and there was always an assortment of salads, a main course with meat, a main course without meat, a soup, and fresh bread. Coffee and juice were also available. For extra fee you could buy alcoholic drinks.
  • Some down time until 8:30, when you line up for…
  • The camp meeting, which was actually a really fun production that included real information, spoofy gag acts and sometimes a performance. This lasted until 10 and there were always several things to do at this time, usually including one talk/lecture, one movie and a few classes.
  • The main dance of the night which always had 3 rooms of dancing (Week 1 was boogie-woogie week so one of the big dance floors was dedicated to that dance). This would last until the last person standing went home or the morning classes started up! Hazel and I would often stay up until 3 and sometimes later, until 5 in the morning!

This is an exhausting schedule but it’s also a complete party and a really fun time. Some nights there were special themes. These would typically be dances that you would be asked to dress up for and would be set up with décor that evoked a certain feeling. For example, we had “Slow Drag Night” which was mandatory dress-up (unusual for a swing dance event) and had dim lights and blues music all night. Other nights had a live band (actually 3 nights out of 7 had a live band somewhere in the camp). We really enjoyed all the bands but the dance floor got so crowded those nights that it was nearly impossible to dance without getting kicked, stepped on, or knocked over! The best strategy seemed to be to wait till the band was done and then get on the dance floor.

One of our favorite nights, though, was the masquerade ball on Friday night. Hazel and I had both brought costumes with us that went with the theme: a late 1700’s ball being attended by the King of Sweden! Well, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

Our Costumes

Our Costumes

Our Friend the Jester

Our Friend the Jester

I’m not sure you could have recognized either of us with the costumes on, unless you looked at our shoes! Hazel’s head was completely covered and I had even shaved off my goatee to complete the disguise. We both did remarkably well for the amount of baggage we had brought to the camp (some people had multiple giant suitcases with them), and we couldn’t have possible done so well as we did without the help of my cousin Jeremy and his wife Sarah, who took us to a sweet Carnival shop in Cologne that had all of the extra props we needed to complete our costumes. Thanks!

Another brilliant part about Herräng is that there are dozens of top instructors attending to teach all these classes that you’ve heard about. We took it one step further and got a private lesson (well, the two of us and another two dancers split the cost) with Mike and Laura who hail from Austin, TX. We had a really good lesson and are still gaining insights from it, though it’s much harder to put to use when you’ve not got 10+ hours of dancing every day!

It’s not possible to completely describe Herräng, but the thing that made it stand out to me was the atmosphere. Everyone was enthusiastic and happy and we met tons of really friendly wonderful people. We are both pretty certain we’ll make it back again!

1 Comment

  1. Mom

    loved the costumes!!!!! i had to look twice to see if it was you, justin..but then i recognized your smile!! (awwwww)
    what a great party time!!! i would love it(except the staying up late part!!)
    Did you get to see any of the town? or were you pretty much dancing the days away??

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