What is Herrang Dance Camp?
Herrang Dance Camp is an annual swing dance camp that takes place in the small mining village of Herrang, Sweden every July. Started in 1982 with 25 attendees (mostly Swedish) participating for a single week of classes and social dancing, the camp has since grown into the world’s largest and most comprehensive dance camp focused on the African-American swing and jazz dance traditions, especially Lindy Hop, Charleston, Jazz & Tap. These days, the camp serves thousands of international dancers travelling from across the world who gather for up to 5 weeks every July to participate in workshop classes with renowned dance champions, social dance, exchange dance and cultural ideas, spread the joy of Lindy Hop…and leave inspired!
Why should every Lindy Hopper go to Herrang Dance Camp at least once in their lifetime?
- the practically 24/7 total immersion in swing and Lindy Hop dancing will improve your dancing by leaps and bounds
- you’ll meet and make friends with dancers from all over the world, who share your passion for swing dancing and culture
- you’ll take classes with the best dancers in the world…champions and accomplished performance dancers who will relate and pass on the history of the dance as well as share their innovative dance ideas that push the boundaries of swing
- the sheer and collective creativity of those attending, coupled with Herrang’s northerly location where the sun sets for a mere 6 hours, leads to a magically surreal experience where it seems like time has stopped, boundaries fall away and just about anything can happen!
- the brownies at the dance camp’s Cafe. To Die For.
- Fun – mind and soul expanding Fun
Herrang is Lindy Hop Heaven. It’s quite simply a mecca of swing dancing, that every serious lindy hopper should visit at least once. This Lindy Hopper attended 3 years already, and intends to make it back again in 2012 for the 30th Year Anniversary! [update: yes, Nathan did actually make it to Herrang for 2 weeks in 2012! woo-hoo!]
What is a typical Herrang Dance Camp experience?
A week of classes at Herrang runs Sunday – Friday, and there are 5 weeks total. Saturday is check-in and check-out day. While some campers from neighboring European countries may have the luxury to stay the full 5 weeks, most visitors from other parts of the world, including the US, attend for one or two selected weeks. The initial weeks of class are geared toward beginner & intermediate dancers, and the class levels increase through the weeks of the camp. Certain class tracks such as Balboa, Tap, Jazz, Boogie Woogie or Competition and Show are offered only during specific weeks, whereas Lindy Hop is offered throughout the 5 week period.
The camp actually takes place at the Herrang Town Hall (Folkets Hus) and the neighboring school house building. The camp also erects a growing number of outdoor, tent-covered dance floor/classrooms to accommodate the increasing number of attendees.
Here’s a typcial week at Herrang:
Saturday: arrive, check-in, finish paying for your classes/registration if you haven’t already, audition if you are enrolling in classes that require one (such as intermediate/advanced or advanced), settle into your accommodations, attend camp meeting at Folkets Hus, social dance
Sunday – Friday: main camp with your assigned track classes from about 10am – 7pm, extra evening classes with volunteer instructors, camp meeting at 9pm, social dancing 10pm until the last person leaves, sometimes as late/early as 8am!
Theme Nights: certain evenings of social dancing have specific themes
Tuesdays – Slow Drag Night. Campers dress to impress and dance to slow and sultry vintage blues. The perfect chance to make a move on that cute guy or girl you’ve been eyeing in class.
Thursdays – Cabaret Night. All campers are invited to put on an act in the weekly cabaret, and prove their creative talents extend well beyond dancing. Magic, comedy, burlesque, and more!
Friday – Masquerade Ball. Volunteers work all day long to decorate and transform the Folkets Hus into a totally rad theme party venue. Past theme nights have included: Studio 54, Woodstock, Horror Night, the Olympics, etc. Campers bring or make costumes, and there are always zany contests and activities to go with the theme.
Other things not to be missed:
Camp Meetings – held each night in the Folkets Hus, make sure to arrive early to grab a seat. The meetings are a chance to share the daily news and happenings of the camp, as well as watch and discuss special selections of vintage dance clips. Traditionally, legendary dancers such as Frankie Manning, Norma Miller, Sugar Sullivan, Dawn Hampton and other have been on hand to share their special perspectives. Lennart Westerlund, one of the camp’s early founders, usually hosts the meeting with a comedic deadpan that makes the meeting feel like a sort of Swedish David Letterman show.
Evening Classes – camp attendees offer classes of their own for a variety of topics that extend beyond the traditional camp curriculum. For instance: hip hop, bhangra, belly dancing, modern dance, acrobatics, etc.
Cultural Activities Day – a chance to do something other than dance. Take a hike, a trip to the lakeside beach, fly in a vintage airplane, take a hot air balloon ride, and experience Herrang in a totally different way.
Housing and Accommodations
Basic weekly camp costs include budget accommodations, essentially a one person bunk (featuring IKEA bunk beds!) in the school house gym. Expect extremely close and communal quarters, large camper to bathroom ratio, and very little privacy. Earplugs and eye mask recommended. Another budget form of accommodation: bring a tent and camp outdoors (free!)
Private Accommodations: the local residents earn a little money on the side by renting out their homes while vacationing themselves. These accommodations are actually semi-private in that a single house will often be shared by multiple persons. Still, you’ll have better person to bathroom ratio, possible kitchen access, and a quieter living space. A trade-off may be that you’ll have to rent a bike to get yourself to and from classes and the Folkets Hus each day. Level of accommodations will obviously vary. A good way to book private accomodations is to coordinate with friends and book a house to yourselves.
Food & Beverage
Food is not included with the camp costs. For an additional fee, you can opt to join the meal plan which offers two meals a day, breakfast and dinner. Meal plan reviews vary, with many Scandinavians loving it, and foreigners often complaining. If nothing else, the cafeteria is a good place to hang out and make friends outside of dance class while commiserating about the food.
Folkets Hus “Blue Moon Cafe” – coffee, tea, cookies, brownies, ice cream and other treats for individual purchase
Folkets Hus “Bar Bedlam”- serves cooked meals for individual purchase that are, in my opinion, tasty and much better quality than the cafeteria meal plan
Ice Cream Parlor – offers ice cream, sandwiches and small snacks
Burger Kiosk – Swedish style burger stand….mmm, burger
Kuggen Grocery Store – there is a small grocery store a short walk from the Folkets Hus where you can buy supplies to prepare a meal in your kitchen if your’e staying in private accommodations, or in the camp’s single community kitchen…if you find time to squeeze yourself in. If you have time, you can also take a bus ride into neighboring Hallstavik which has a more comprehensive supermarket.
Marina Bar & Pizza Parlor – a little further away from the camp is a marina on the lake, and a restaurant that serves drinks as well as European style thin-crust pizzas and a few other dishes
Last Notes, Tips and Advice
- Be prepared for mosquitos and purchase your insect repellent in Sweden. Apparently the US brand repellents don’t work on those foreign buggers.
- Maximize your trip to Herrang by sandwiching it between a trip to other parts of Europe.
- Plan to spend a day or two in Stockholm on your way in and out…the city is beautiful, especially during July.
- If it’s your first time, coordinate to travel with a group of friends from your local dance scene…instant support group for your adventure.
- Followers: unfortunately, Herrang does have a reputation for being follower heavy, so you’ll have to be assertive about asking for dances. Tip: do your best to make some leader dance friends during your afternoon classes…so that you have go-to people for the evening social dances.
- The social dance floors are often super crowded from 9pm-2am. My best dancing happened when I went home after the camp meeting and slept from 9-2am, then woke up to social dance from 2am-6am when there was plenty of dance space, and some of my favorite partners were out. The downside: make sure you wake up in time…or miss a whole night of dancing!
- Register for two weeks instead of one…that way if you get sick during one of the weeks, you have a chance to enjoy the other week in a recovered state.
- Be outgoing and push yourself to make friends from other countries. It’s extremely easy to just hang out with your English speaking friends from your local scene or country, but the rewards of stepping out of your comfort zone are countless.
Okay, that’s it. Hope to see you in Herrang this year!