Herräng Dance Camp is a festival for swing dancers and takes place in the small seaside village of Herräng in Sweden. The event is divided into three camp weeks, where some dancers stay for one week, some stay for two, and some stay for the entire period. It is also possible to come and visit for single evenings and take part in the extensive evening and night programmes. Dancers travel from all corners of the world to take classes, social dance and celebrate the full concept of primarily African-American vernacular jazz dancing.
HDC first saw the light of day in the summer of 1982 with a visit by John Clancy, an American swing dance teacher from New York. In the years to follow, the event continued to pass on a mix of Swedish and American jitterbug dancing interspersed with a peppering of Lindy Hop influences thanks to the late Albert Minns’ visit to Stockholm in the fall of 1984. In 1989, Frankie Manning came to the camp for the very first time. This visit marks the beginning of HDC’s transformation into the international swing dance festival that we know today, celebrating primarily Harlem swing dancing of the jazz era.
Throughout the 1990s and way up until 2019, this evolution has meant that the camp has evolved and grown to become the largest and probably the most renowned event in the swing dance world in modern times. The birth and subsequent bloom can be attributed to passionate Swedish dancers and the future visits to camp by Harlem old-timers, who invested lots of time and effort into the project in order to spread the dance form. Right from the start, the philosophy was very clear and simple: welcome to join in and have a ball celebrating the art, joy and history of American swing dancing, enjoying the surrealistic spirit and the marriage between Harlem nightlife in the jazz era and the Swedish seaside one-horse town of Herräng.
This combination instantly became a smash hit. Dancers flocked from all over the world and oftentimes there were 60-70 nationalities represented in the tiny village. American veteran swing dancers loved to come to Herräng to teach, to lecture, to talk, to associate, to connect and pass on their knowledge to a large group of eager and passionate proselytes from all over the world. It was integration at its best; totally informal, open-minded and welcoming to all.
Frankie Manning, Chazz Young, Dawn Hampton, Norma Miller, Charlie Meade, Betty Wood, Miriam Nelson, Fayard Nicholas, Skip Cunningham, Jeni LeGon, Jean Veloz, Mable Lee, Sunny Allen, Sugar Sullivan, Barbara Billups and many more of the old-time dance celebrities have all spent a significant amount of time in the village.
Frankie came for 19 consecutive years, Dawn and Chazz reached over 20 visits individually, and many of the others have spent time in Herräng often, and over a period of many, many years. They all loved to hang out in the village for different reasons. Maybe the international atmosphere appealed to them, maybe it had something to do with the laidback openness, maybe it was the innovative surrealism that has become the hallmark of Herräng.
"They all loved to hang out in the village for different reasons."
Nobody can know for sure, but a few things are obvious: they somehow fully understood the inner nature and intentions of the event, and they found themselves comfortable in a creative environment where their historic contributions are appreciated. While many of these people have passed on, their spirit and teachings have been internalized and continue to be an integral part of the body and soul of the entire event.
Dawn Hampton's wish
It was Dawn’s wish to have some of her ashes spread in Herräng; a request which was properly fulfilled in 2017. To see the entire ceremony we performed, please click here.