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.
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
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.
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.