Herräng Dance Camp, which originally started as a one-week event back in the summer of 1982, is now the leading and most comprehensive dance camp in the world focusing on the African-American swing dance tradition. The initial reason to put on the event was that some members of Stockholm based Swedish Swing Society had come in contact with American swing dance instructor mister John Clancy from New York, and made the decision to invite him to Sweden. Originally the camp was meant to be held in Stockholm but some of the organizers thought that it might be a better idea to find a more isolated place somewhere else but at the same time not too far away from our capital. The choice became Herräng, a sleepy one-horse town in the outskirts of nowhere but still fairly easy to reach by car or public transportation. When the camp opened its doors for the very first time on August 1, 1982, approximately 25 dancers had signed up to participate in what was to become the future Herräng Dance Camp.
The future intention of the event was not set from the beginning, and most people looked upon it as a one-shot happening. A decision was however finally taken that the event should continue and in 1983 nearly 100 jitterbug dancers from different clubs around Sweden showed up and participated in what now had become a strictly Swedish event exclusively presenting Stockholm based teachers. During the rest of the 80s the development of the camp very much followed the intentions given in 1983 and for the years to come the event gradually started to grow and in the later part of the 80s the gathering counted a few hundred dancers spread out during two weeks rather than one. At this time very few things indicated what was to become the modern Herräng Dance Camp, at the same time we have to remember that in the late 80s there were no international camps, workshops, competitions or exchanges and the swing scene in general was much smaller and much more local than it is today. However: in 1989 professional Swedish swing dance company The Rhythm Hot Shots (formed in the summer of 1985) decided to become an active part of the arrangements in Herräng, and their first decision was to invite legendary Savoy dancer Mr Frank Manning to headline the event. Things now started to gradually change in Herräng: the previously (excluding 1982) mainly Swedish approach to the dance was replaced by an African-American, the Scandinavian perspective on the Lindy Hop as a competition dance rather than a social started to decline and finally, Swedish dancers started to experience foreigners to show up at the camp. At around this time the brochure also got an English edition, Swedish was replaced by English as the official language at the camp and already in the middle of the 90s Swedish dancers found themselves being a minority rather than a majority at the event. This most positive and challenging development escalated even further during the later part of the 90s and around the turn of the century there was no exaggeration to say that the Herräng Dance Camp was by far the biggest and most international swing dance camp in the world.
When The Rhythm Hot Shots in 2002 was in a position of personnel transformation the camp suffered economically and was close to end up in bankruptcy. During the fall/winter of 2002/2003 things looked very dark for the event and no one could at the time tell whether the Herräng Dance Camp history had come to an end or not. Finally some agreements were made and five individual dancers (Frida Segerdahl, Fatima Teffahi, Daniel Heedman, Lorenz Ilg and Lennart Westerlund) took over the event from the previous owners. Luckily for both the new owners and the camp itself the 2003 event never suffered from the above difficulties, instead the increasing interest for the camp has continued and reached an all-time high in 2013.
In the early days of the event, it was only a place where dancers interested in jitterbug dancing gathered to have a couple of hours of dance training per day combined with some general physical training and some sun bathing at the beach. All dancers/instructors lived in Folkets Hus (main building), in a youth centre or possibly in the in those days existing hotel/restaurant. Besides the training itself there were no activities arranged: no social dancing, no café/bar, no cabarets, no meetings, no blues nights, no transportation et cetera. All those things and many more have gradually come into the event as a part of the arrangement, and most dancers today probably very much connect the camp with a large amount of both traditional and unorthodox side-arrangements.
From an organizers point of view there are many often contrasting things to say about running an event like the Herräng Dance Camp. The administration of it covers since many years the whole year around and is a full time job for at least a three or four people. It is no doubt demanding and historically there have been a handful of different individual persons willing to contribute, support and work for the camp on a fairly extreme level to make things happen. Without these people, the camp most likely would not be where it is today. At the same time more and more people seem to find an interest in helping the camp as volunteers in different positions. For this we are truly grateful and from some point it feels like even though we are taking care of the administration, it’s not only us running the camp any longer. With this in mind it’s also possible to say that it is a big privilege and responsibility for us administrating the event to be involved in an arrangement of this kind surrounded by people from all over the world coming together in the semi-surrealistic reality of the Herräng Dance Camp.
Heartily welcome to the 2014 Herräng Dance Camp.