Going to Herrang for the first time? Here's what you need to know!
Herrang Dance Camp is a five week long festival celebrating a wide variety of African diasporic dances, including Lindy hop, boogie-woogie, Jitterbug, Balboa, Shag, slow drag, solo jazz, and tap. Dancers from all over the world and of all different experience levels come to experience this unique festival in Herrang, Sweden, whose philosophy and teachings honor the legacy of the late swing dance legend, Frankie Manning.
This year will mark the 36th year of Herrang Dance Camp, making it the largest and longest running dance festival/camp in history. Perhaps a more appropriate way to describe it, though, is as a dance mecca or dance heaven on earth. Here are a few reasons why:
• ALL of your classes are taught by international instructors who are known throughout the dance community as incredible dancers. Skye Humphries, Remy Kouakou, Pontus Persson, Isabella Gregorio, Pamela Gaizutyte, Peter Loggins, Frida Segerdahl, and Chester Whitmore have all taught there, to name just a few.
• Live bands and DJs who will play music to keep you dancing literally all night long—or at least until you decide to sleep or start your next day of dance classes.
• History lessons every night on the roots of vernacular jazz and Lindy hop
• Movie nights every night that showcase famous swing dance scenes
• Nightly meetings that not only inform you of upcoming events, but also feature performances and routines, fun banter, and Q&As with instructors, dancers, and other well known figures of Lindy hop
• Dance fusion lessons to learn new styles of dancing
• Costume parties where everyone is required to go ALL OUT
• A Lindy Hop Prop Shop that is FILLED with random costumes, hats, masks, props, and miscellaneous things that you can rent out and use for the week
• Birthday parties every night
• A vintage store (The Lindy Hop Shop) to buy clothing/shoes/Herrang swag, and to get your hair and makeup done if you wish
• A sauna that is open every day where you can sit and relax after a long night of dancing
• Make-up room with mirrors and lights to perfect your look for the evening
• Lindy’s Laundry, a manned laundry service open from 12-8pm every day where they deliver your clothes back within 24 hours (Prices based on weight).
• Swimming in beautiful lakes
• Hanging out and dancing (of course) at the beach
• Ice cream bar
• Coffee bar
• Good food during the day at the camp (Heaven's Kitchen, Bar Bedlam, Café Blue Moon, Annedals Pizzeria, Ice Cream Parlor, Banana Club and the so-called Russian Kitchen, which is a kitchen open for students to do their own cooking) and around the area (hamburger stand, food trucks, and Kuggen, the local grocery store)
• Random shenanigans
And finally, my favorite reason….
• The opportunity to meet international dancers who you will meet and befriend as you take classes and social dance. The friendships you make can last for a lifetime. At the very least, they’ll make the duration of your stay incredible.
Long story short, Herrang is just a big ole party camp where you can be inspired by others, feel ecstatic that you are part of this community, and fall in love with dancing all over again. It is totally normal to leave this place on an incredible dance high that is too marvelous to explain using words.
So…when are you planning to go on your Herrang trip?!?
My first trip to Herrang was in the summer of 2017. I went by myself, without knowing anyone or really anything about what the experience was going to be like. I did as much research as I could and reached out to people who I knew who had been there before, but I realized that no one could tell me everything because the experience is what you make it.
In the end, I decided to take half a week of classes and to sleep in the general accommodation (bunk rooms). You can also camp in tents if want to bring one, camp in a caravan if you know someone who has one there, or stay in private accommodations, but I chose general accommodation because it was the most cost-effective option and so I could make new friends as a single traveler.
If I can pass on any knowledge to you, here are my top tips for Herrang:
1. Bring a little bit of everything, but be okay with the fact that you still won’t have everything that you need.
If you decide on general accommodation when planning your stay at Herrang, you will need to bring your own sheets, pillow, towel, toiletries, and shower shoes. For sleeping, I highly recommend packing earplugs and an eye mask; the bunk rooms are supposed to be a 24 hour quiet zone, but it can be tough to fall asleep when people are coming back in the early hours of the morning, or if you need a midday nap. Bring a small flashlight or use a flashlight app to find your way around the room in the dark. There are also very few outlets for any electronics you may bring, so bring your cords and chargers, but be flexible with only having a few hours to charge your phone per day.
Don’t forget sunscreen and bug spray! I suggest Swedish bug spray because the ones sold in the U.S don’t keep the bugs away as effectively. In terms of clothes, bring clothes that you plan to dance in for the lesson and hang out in all day and then different outfits for the evening when you go social dancing. Remember to bring some nicer clothes as well, because there will be at least one fancy night where people dress to the nines. Also, make sure you know the costume party theme for the week in advance, because the props available at the Lindy Prop Shop can be hit-or-miss. The best costumes I saw were the ones that people brought from home; they had more options and more time to be creative.
For your feet, you’ll need street shoes, dance shoes, and flip flops for the shower/going to the beach. Bring a bathing suit for the beach, or for the sauna if you feel uncomfortable being completely naked in front of friends and strangers. Pack snacks because you might get hungry at random times in the day, and it wouldn’t hurt to bring some medicine to prevent you from getting sick. With so many people you’ll come into contact with, it’s easy to encounter germs as well.
If the idea of trying to pack for every single occasion stresses you out, you don’t have to bring everything! I didn’t bring enough fancy wear when I went and had to borrow dresses from friends that I made there. I didn’t have anything for a costume, so I took some time at the crafts table during the week (yep, they set up an arts and crafts table for dancers) so I could make a panda mask for the animal-themed costume party. You can’t pack everything, but there are definitely ways to work around it, whether you Macgyver it or get help from friends.
2. You need to bring all the cash you plan to spend.
Fun fact: there are no ATM machines at the camp and cards cannot be used everywhere! Any and all money you plan to spend you will have to take out before you go to Herrang. Don’t panic! There are places that you can take out Swedish krona (SEK), like the airport or at grocery stores. The Herrang website also lists all their prices, including accommodation and meal plans.
Just for comparison, I think I brought a little over 3000 SEK (about $400) because I wanted to have more than I needed. That covered the price of bus transportation to and from the camp, a meal plan card covering 3 meals a day, the coffee card I used throughout the week, treating myself to ice cream twice, buying two pairs of dance shoes (P.Mela Swingin’ Shoes and Slide & Swing dancing shoes….AH! SO WORTH IT for a birthday splurge!) and other goodies at the Lindy Hop Shop, some food for between lessons and late-night snacks, and I still had money left over.
3. Be open to new things.
You are here to improve your skills as a dancer, but that’s not limited to just Lindy Hop! While I was there I tried Capoeira, boogie-woogie, and a Harlem Roots class. I also visited a sauna for the first time and learned about cultural norms totally unlike anything I’ve experienced in the U.S. I slept in a bunk room with like, 70 other dancers and learned how to be comfortable sleeping, changing clothes, and living with a large group of new people.
I met new friends from different countries who taught me new dance lessons and life lessons, made me feel like I belonged there, and gave me confidence that traveling on my own is not scary, but a fantastic adventure. By being open to new things, I gave myself the opportunity to truly embrace my experience and have fun.
4. You can’t do everything.
At every hour of the day, there are at least 4 different things that you can be doing: lessons, activities, social dancing, going on adventures around the camp, going to the Lindy Hop shop, seeing a movie, going to a lecture, talking with friends, eating food, etc. Personally, I LOVE to do everything I possibly can, but in this case, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Go to your classes if you signed up for them, and then pick one or two things that you want to do each night.
Sometimes you’ll be lucky and the schedule will line up perfectly so you can try a bit of everything, but other times you’ll have to make sacrifices. Usually I would make a schedule for myself, circling or making a note of the most interesting activities. You might miss a history talk one night or a fusion dance another, but that’s okay—you’ll be busy doing something just as awesome.
5. PACE YOURSELF!
This is the most important tip I can give: You have to pace yourself so you have time to eat well, hydrate and, most importantly, get enough sleep! It is very easy to get run-down or even sick if you don’t take care of yourself.
I’m happy to say that I didn’t get sick while I was there, I think largely because I took the half-week option for classes. My classes started at 4 PM and ended between 7 and 8 PM, so I could social dance to the wee hours of the morning, then sleep as late as I wanted and relax for most of the day. Other people who just had the dance pass would dance until late and then sleep in or take naps throughout the day. Those who enrolled in a full week of classes, though, ended up either going to bed early or pushing through a full day of activities on too little sleep.
Granted, when I got back home and the excitement of traveling was over, I was definitely swung over and got sick. But while I was there, it helped to check in with myself and make sure I took care of my body.
Voila! There are my top 5 tips for planning for Herrang. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. I’ll see you in Sweden soon! ;)
by Stephanie Quon