It's been a different experience being here Week Two of the Herrang Dance Camp rather than Week Four or Five, when I have come in the past. This camp is a lot less intense so far than previous times I've been here. And for the most part, that is a good thing.
Herrang in total is a five week dance camp experience. Few people can come for the full ride, although many do. Most opt for a week or two to come, as they can. And generally the more advanced, more "hardcore" dancers come toward the final weeks. This makes for the interesting conundrum of there being hundreds of the best dancers in the room and no actual room to dance!
By contrast, the first two weeks are more focused on beginner and intermediate dancers, and there is been more of an effort to include entire families at the camp. Of course there are also many, many amazing dancers here in the early weeks. But it's quite a different population than the final two weeks.
I've happily observed that there are lots less long lines to contend with, to register, to eat, even to get on the dance floor. The advanced level I am in is only about 30 students, compared to other years when it was 40-50 students. The social dances are crowded but not impossible to navigate. You can actually get some good dancing in before midnight, rather than waiting until 2am!
On the other hand, some of the madcap energy of the final weeks of the camp is not as prevalent this week. You don't have random costumed freaks racing through the middle of your dance class. Or teams of people doing weird pranks to film for the daily meeting.
There are a lot more kids here too. There is a "Swing Kids" program where youngsters have a whole program of dance and non-dance related activities they are engaged in. Seeing little gangs of pre-adolescent boys hanging out on the dance floor and daring each other to dance with one of the adults is kind of hysterical. And the swing babies are adorable.
Overall it feels comfortable being here, heading to my favorite spots for a coffee in the bar or an ice cream in the parlour, hanging out with friends playing ukelele as day turns to evening. Old friends and new are everywhere.
I can see now that being here during a less crazy week certainly has its advantages, while avoiding some of the logistical issues of the later weeks of the camp. For future camps, I will certainly try again to come during the later half of the camp, when there is a greater critical mass of the most amazing lindy hoppers on the planet. But for today, I'll gladly take a slightly more chill and fun Herrang camp experience.