Saturday, 11 January 2014

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Go To Herräng

The opening of registrations for the Herräng Dance Camp are just around the corner. Many people are getting ready to sign-up for their summer and plenty more are wondering if for the first time: "Should I go to Herräng?"

There's plenty of articles on the internet telling you why you should go to Herräng (especially if you've never been before) and most lindy hoppers you'll meet who have been there will tell you that you "must go".

But, though it's one of the (if not the) major events in the international Lindy Hop calendar, Herräng is not for everyone. I loved my time there and can't wait to go back, but if you're not going to have an awesome time there's not really much point in going - despite many people's regular (and somewhat culturally insensitive) comparisons of Herräng to Mecca.

So besides all the usual reasons (money, time, family/work commitments, a deep aversion to meatballs etc.) here's why you shouldn't go to Herräng.

1 - It's a Camp


With the growing number of hotel events Lindy hoppers seem to be becoming accustomed to living in the lap of luxury. Herräng isn't a hotel event - it's a camp.
Lloyd explores the exciting accommodation options at Herräng

You dance in a tent, eat in a tent and you may very well sleep in a tent.* Much of the common space is outside and despite mosquito countermeasures the bugs feast on many of the camps residents (I suspect that this year with Sweden's rather warm winter will make them particularly bad this year). Herräng can also become rather unpleasant when it rains, as there's little undercover area and mud gets everywhere (including on the dancefloors which make them very dusty). Most of the facilities are set up for just 5 weeks of the year and whilst their temporary nature adds a certain level of charm they don't necessarily function terribly well. Many of the facilities that are found in a city aren't present in a small village in country Sweden like an ATM, somewhere to buy liquor or even at times soap.
If the idea of roughing it for a week or more is not appealing to you, you may not find Herräng so much fun.

2 - It's Ridiculously Social

Free love and pancakes!
Communal showers, communal accommodation*, communal kitchen, communal common space. Herräng is a place where you're around other people all the time. Sure Lindy hoppers have reputations as socially awkward nerds, but that's not evident at Herräng (well the socially awkward part anyway) nor are you dancing all the time (see #4). It's a very social experience and not always easy to get some personal time. If it's sunny it's quite possible to head for the beach or the lake for some quiet alone time, but in inclement weather that's a near impossibility. If you're not a people person or you actually experience social anxiety, and especially if you're not coming with a group of friends, Herräng can be an incredibly intimidating place.

After my 6 weeks there I didn't really want to have anything to do with people for about a month afterwards, which certainly made my travelling through Europe a somewhat tricky business.

3 - The Herräng Flu



HAND SANITIZER from Tor Helmstein on Vimeo.
Everyone knows about Swing Flu - the illness you pick up at a weekend event because close contact with sick people + not eating well + sleep deprivation + disturbed circadian rhythms. These factors are generally worse at Herräng. But there's an additional factor in play at Herräng: When tonnes of people stay there for more than one week the resident viruses get established in the general population, meaning there's way more people who can infect you than at a shorter event.

Now the Herräng Flu (which in reality is probably a collection of sicknesses - i.e. you can get it more than once) may be mild or it may confine you to your bunk in general accommodation. If you're the type of person who normally gets laid out by the flu - this is unlikely to be a fun way to spend Herräng.

4 - You can't actually dance 24/7

Lloyd explores the many things that have been done for 24 hours at Herräng

Although Herräng itself is a 24/7 operation and there are things to be doing for pretty much all hours of the day dancing is not one of those. The evening dances run from 10pm to whenever they finish (somewhere between 4am and 9am) and classes only go for 3 or 4 hours a day. The other hours contain the Evening meetings, Friday party activities, shows, competitions, cultural activities, jam sessions and plenty of random shenanigans. Dance floors are often and regularly co-opted for other activities like cabaret, party activities, talks etc. Now it's all this craziness that makes Herräng Herräng and quite possible to be there doing stuff for a week and not even dance, but if you're the kind of lindy hopper who just wants to dance that could be a bit of a bummer.

5 - The Classes

Stock photo - Nothing implied about this class
Now this one's probably a bit controversial (and was not my experience - but I have heard it enough from others) but not all teaching couples will bring their A-game to Herräng, particularly if they've been there mulitple weeks and its at the end of the camp.

An alternative explanation is that if you've been there for much of the camp, you might be totally exhausted and not be bringing your A-game to classes either. This happened to me at the end of one of my volunteer weeks which was backing onto a class week - exhausted from volunteering I pulled an all-nighter at the Friday party, had a very long volunteer day Saturday and thus performed rather poorly in the peer auditions that evening. I was still happy with the class I ended up in but want to point out that it's difficult for teachers to be enthused when the students are all members of the walking dead.

In Conclusion


Herräng is really quite an amazing place - check out the links in my previous post for a better idea of the craziness. If you like camping, being social, doing all sorts of crazy shenanigans besides dancing, are strangely attracted to sick people (or have a strong immune system) and aren't there solely for the learnz then you're probably going to have an awesome time. If not, then it's totally okay to not go. Either way, make it your decision - not someone else's.

* I've had a number of people point out that you can stay in private accommodation which can offer significant improvements in comfort over general accommodation or camping (at a much higher cost too - and it's worth noting that not all private accommodation is created equal, if you're cramming people into your house/flat/cabin it may not be much more private than general accommodation. Also some private accommodation can be a significant distance from the camp and its facilities), but even if you're camping 'in a cabin' the rest of the camp experience is still there.

6 comments:

  1. Yeah, yeah. Thoughtful article and all that. It's totally okay not to go but...

    1) If you don't like sleeping in a tent or the stalag style group accommodation you can always arrange private accommodation. It can get pricey but if you like your creature comforts...

    2) Yeah, it's ridiculously social, but if you like your 'just me time' here are some suggestions: ride a bike to Hallstavik, listen to your fuckin' iPod with your sunglasses on, sit under a tree and read a book or take a nap (more about sleep later), go for a walk (or even better, a run - nobody will catch you), write in your diary, play your ukulele badly (the worse you do it, the further you'll drive people away), don't stay for six weeks.

    So you're all alone? Try smiling at people in your classes. Then maybe move on to 'hello'. Pretty soon you'll be exchanging friendly smiles and nods across the social dance floor. This could eventually lead to...conversation. If you really hit it off they may even let you sit next to them in Heaven's Kitchen. You would have to try extremely hard not to make any new friends at Herrang. Yes, even I made friends at Herrang.

    Another way to get to know people at Herrang is to do what the Lindy Penguin did - volunteer. By virtue of the T-shirt you wear many people will approach you and ask all sorts of questions, to which your response will probably be -"Ask at Reception. I just clean the toilets at the Marina with Olga". But as long as you smile when you say this they will still be thankful for your help. And at least you get to bond with Olga whilst on toilet cleaning duty. Soon you'll be inseparable.

    3) Don't want the Herrang flu? WASH YOUR HANDS regularly, EAT regularly and...GET ENOUGH SLEEP. Nothing breaks down the immune system faster than attempting to survive for a week (or more) on an hour of sleep a night. There is plenty of time between classes to catch up on sleep. Your (new) friends will still probably be at the ICP or Bedlam Bar in an hour. They could even be as tired as you. Be a mate and suggest they catch a few z's themselves. Then none of you will miss anything.
    Okay, you might still get sick. It happens at all dance camps with all that touching. Sorry, but you'll just have to be sensible and REST.

    4) You really want to dance 24/7? How much ice have you been smoking?

    If you don't sleep at some point you will get sick. This is why there are only 3-4 hours of classes a day.

    Still wanna dance all night? Often in one of the rooms the music doesn't stop until the last couple stops dancing. Many have gone straight from the dance floor to Heaven's Kitchen for breakfast.

    Actually, 'dancing all night' is quite easy at Herrang as dawn starts breaking at about 3am early in the early weeks of the camp.

    5) So the teachers didn't bring their 'A-game'? (Well, that's your opinion and you're entitled to it. Other students may disagree.) This phenomenon isn't unique to Herrang. The camp sends out a survey after each week. If you thought your teachers sucked, let them know. If you thought they were excellent, let them know.

    Haven't brought your 'A-game' to class? Well, you should have got more sleep. It is possible to have a fuckin' awesome time at Herrang and still get at least six hours of sleep a day.

    When do registrations open for Herrang 2014?

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  2. I always appreciate articles like this - that tries to give a fuller picture of a major Lindy Hop experience. It's kind of along the lines of Being A Rockstar Isn't All Fun and Glory. I admire and appreciate the profound impact that Herrang has had on our community, but I wouldn't go.

    It's just not for me. I know this without going. Does that make me a bad lindy hopper? Of course not! It just makes me a kind of PERSON who doesn't enjoy crowds, mosquitos, or 20/7 stimulation and socializing!

    There are as many ways to appreciate and live Lindy Hop - as many as there are dancers. This post acknowledges that.

    I can tell that LindyPenguin isn't trying to Bring Down Herrang. I don't think there's any call to get defensive.

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  3. I just heard about herrang and it sounds like great fun. I don't know anything about lindy hop, but have always wanted to learn. Is this the kind of place I would want to go to on my own? Or do I need to find a friend to bring along?

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    1. Unless you live in Sweden (which makes it easy to go for the beginners weekends and half weeks) Herrang Dance Camp is not something I would recommend for a beginner lindy hopper (unless you're already well versed in a related dance style - like tap, which is also taught). Having said that though, there's many people who attend after only dancing a few months and enjoy themselves immensely.

      As I outlined in the article, if you're not the kind of person who makes friends easily - it can be intimidating, so you might want to bring a friend. My best advice would be to start taking classes and dancing in whatever city you're living in, and find out who there is going. Volunteering is another great way to meet people.

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    2. Thanks heaps for the advice. I haven't danced for a few years, so might need to get back into it first then. certainly something to think about!!!

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    3. A great way to make friends is by volunteering and getting involved in all the other activities that run at the camp. Beginners are more than welcome as there are Half Week and Weekend beginner classes. It can be a great way to get back into the lindy hop community, as you can't help but get excited by all that goes on around you. :)

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