Before launching into the rest of this post I feel it’s important to acknowledge some of the criticisms that Herräng dance camp has received, particularly in 2022.
Criticism came to a head this year in the comments of a post on the Herräng Facebook Page where a video from 2017 was shared of a performance from one of the daily meetings. In the video a dancer steps into a time machine and is transported back in time to a Harlem rent party, where he subsequently joins the party and dances until the party is broken up by the police. The video was posted in response to an NPR podcast which critically discussed Herräng in the context of cultural appropriation of African-American culture as well as negative experiences of Black attendees from years past.
While many people objected to the videos itself, it also served as a tipping point for discussions that extended well beyond that one performance, including negative experiences of BIPOC and LGBT+ people at Herräng across the years, the camp’s unwillingness to take stances that it deemed too ‘political’, or it’s failure to have a public Code of Conduct (until 2022). The comments section itself devolved into arguments and ‘Anti-Wokism’ before being locked.
Having attended Herräng in 2016 (one of the years discussed by interviewees on the NPR podcast) and now in 2022, it does appear that camp organisers are taking on feedback, even though some may feel this is too little too late. This year there were meet ups for marginalised communities, open discussions between management and attendees about problems at camp, and a prominently displayed pride flag, which previously had been removed as it was deemed a political symbol. I was also made aware that behind the scenes Herräng has hired race and LGBT+ consultants, and the post camp survey included questions specifically trying to gather feedback on issues of diversity and inclusivity.
While I would encourage everyone to listen to the podcast, explore the Facebook discussion, and read though the various public responses by camp that are available, one of the difficulties I have had in writing this section is how scattered the various online opinions and sources are. I know I don’t have the full picture of either the problems people have experienced or the work that is taking place to resolve them. Nonetheless I try to feel hopeful that Herräng is growing, knowing that growth can be painful. At it’s best Herräng is a place where magic happens, and there are people from all backgrounds and walks of life working hard to keep that magic alive.
There is still A lot I know I'm leaving unsaid, perhaps I'll return to this topic at a later date. For now the originally planned article continues below…
This year I was super happy to be able to attend Herräng Dance Camp for the second time, long story short, it was great!
My first time in Herräng was in 2016 after hearing about it from friends at university, who were able to encourage and reassure me by sharing their experience from previous years. In this post I hope to dig into the practicalities (mainly cost) of my experience visiting Herräng this year, and hopefully give some people who are on the fence about going that little bit of extra confidence that tips them over the edge 🙂.
Herräng Dance Camp is a 5 week dance festival celebrating African-American jazz dancing and music, situated in a tiny village on the east coast of Sweden. Celebrating it’s 40th year in 2022, Herräng is widely considered one of the best, if not the best, swing dance events in the world. There you can find classes on Lindy Hop, Boogie Woogie, Balboa, Solo Jazz, Tap, and more. In addition to classes, Herräng also takes time to share the history of the music, dances, and dancers that it exists to celebrate. They do this in the form of class lectures, video and history snippets shared in the daily meetings, and evening talks and Q&As on different aspects of African-American dance history.
My experience with Herräng is mainly based around Lindy Hop which I stared dancing with a uni society around 2014. After a couple of years going to classes and dipping my toes into socials and events I was starting to feel confident and eager to learn more. That was when someone mentioned Herräng and with a little apprehension I signed up. In the summer of 2016 I spent 2 weeks at Herräng working as camp staff, and 2 weeks taking classes in Lindy Hop, totalling 4 of the perhaps most intense, energising, joy filled weeks ever 😮.
One of the main questions asked about Herräng was cost. Below is everything I spent to attend 1 week of classes in 2022.
|Item||Price||Price in GBP|
|Airport Bus: Home → UK Airport (return)||24.00||GBP||£24.00|
|Flights: UK → Stockholm Arlanda (return)||194.00||GBP||£194.00|
|Herräng Class Pass (1 Week, Intermediate Lindy)||5,600.00||SEK||£455.84|
|Herräng General Accommodation||700.00||SEK||£56.98|
|Airport Bus: Arlanda → Stockholm||119.00||SEK||£9.69|
|Snack in Stockholm||60.00||SEK||£4.88|
|Hostel In Stockholm, 1 Night Inc. Breakfast||23.37||GBP||£23.37|
|Public Transport To Herräng Dance Camp||44.00||SEK||£3.58|
|Herräng Expenses: Day 1||161.90||SEK||£13.18|
|Herräng Expenses: Day 2||311.99||SEK||£25.40|
|Herräng Expenses: Day 3||310.00||SEK||£25.23|
|Herräng Expenses: Day 4||280.78||SEK||£22.86|
|Herräng Expenses: Day 5||379.90||SEK||£30.92|
|Herräng Expenses: Day 6||190.00||SEK||£15.47|
|Herräng Expenses: Day 7||75.00||SEK||£6.11|
|Herräng Airport Shuttle: Herräng → Arlanda||400.00||SEK||£32.56|
|Airport Snacks due to delayed flight||12.17||GBP||£12.17|
|Remaining Cash (deducted from total)||-350.00||SEK||-£28.49|
Here “Herräng Expenses” represents everything I spent that day on my card. This could include meals at the camp, things for a picnic, a couple of toiletry items, the occasional coffee or ice cream during the day, and sometimes a beer or brownie in the evening. Roughly speaking it was 2 full meals a day plus 2 snacks which felt like plenty for me. Putting aside the cost of classes and getting to and from camp, my average daily expenses while at Herräng after including cash spending was about £28 a day.
If you require a daily coffee or are keen on indulging yourself on banana bread and all the other exciting treats on offer then you could bump your estimate up to £40 per day. I am naturally not a big spender and arrived ~£28 with no more than my typical at-home concern about spending. Do bear in mind though that alcoholic drinks, including the alcohol free ones, are expensive in Sweden compared to the UK. As I recall a beer at the marina can set you back 80 SEK. Personally I had a couple alcohol free drinks over a meal and one alcoholic drink, purely for the novelty, the whole week.
If you wanted to spend less, here are a couple options:
Knowing what I do now and with a little more planning I think I could have gotten costs down to around £900 without changing my experience of camp in any significant way. While this still isn’t cheap, it does include £455 worth of classes and partying. Compared to a week in Europe which could easily cost £500, £400 more for possibly one of the best weeks ever isn’t too bad.
There are so many parts that come together to make a Herräng, it’s hard to summarise in a way that does it justice. While classes and evening socials might make up the ‘core’ on paper, to say that’s all Herräng is feels like to miss what makes it special entirely.
The common love of dance, the constant background of music, the jam sessions, the meetings, performances, tasters, competitions, traditions. The knowledge being passed down by the old timers, the history, the feeling of being separated from the rest of the world, the people. Chaos and joy in equal measures.
Herräng does have some learning to do, and I don’t want to discount the negative experiences that have been brought to the fore and discussed this year, but I think there is Magic living in Herräng still. In my opinion, if you are even the slightest bit curious there is only one thing to do. Find out for yourself.
Maybe I'll see you there next year 💃🏽
Much love to all, bye for now.
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