I know, Herräng is over since weeks and this post is long overdue… eventually, here is the report about my week as staff DJ. Herräng Dance Camp (HDC) is a unique event, you know it or you have heard about it.
There was a time, 10 years ago to be exactly, when I thought it's too overcrowded and I decided not to attend it anymore, which I did for the following four years.
Nowadays, everything is different to me. Yes, there are even more (much more) people. But I couldn't imagine to let the summer pass without having been in Herrang for at least one week. So, in July I went there for the seventh time.
Premiere As Staff DJ
In April, while staying at the Balboa Experiment, I was booked by head DJ Mark Kihara as one of the staff DJs in week 2. Wow, what an honour!
I was DJ'ing before in Herräng for several years as a volunteer DJ, though, but I haven't been a staff DJ before.
Week 2 (and also week 3) are Balboa weeks, which means that one dancefloor (the library) is assigned to Balboa dancers. This became my main DJ place, but I also DJ'ed the other two dancefloors (Folketshus upstairs and Dansbanan).
What is the difference between Staff DJ and Volunteer DJ?
Before I write about the life as staff DJ, I would like to explain you the difference between the two types of DJs in Herrang.
As a staff DJ you get booked by the head DJ before the camp. I suppose, he knows all of these DJs personally. They are from different swing scenes worldwide to guarantee a certain mix of styles, and they are chosen because of their proven capabilites.
Staff DJs can take liberties while DJ'ing. That means, musical experiments are allowed, depending on the mood of the crowd and the time frame (when they are DJing).
It is expected, that staff DJs know their responsibility they have for the dancers and for the camp. Staff DJs get certain benefits (see below).
As a volunteer DJ you sign up for a DJ slot right at the camp. There is a meeting you have to attend and when you are lucky you get one or two slots, most likely not during prime time. Also musicwise there are certain rules you have to follow. But hey, it's a great starting point to show your DJ skills and to become known as a Swing DJ. Volunteer DJ get paid per hour.
Oh yeah, there are benefits. Beside getting paid per hour (DJs are probably the only ones who get paid for their work in Herrang), you get transportation from/to airport, private accomodation with the other staff DJs, access to all the parties, breakfast and dinner from the volunteer kitchen, entry to the DJ box with WiFi. I hope, I'm allowed to write all of that here 😉
My Life as Staff DJ
Arriving in Herräng is always a little bit weird. There are already lots of people in the camp groove and you are coming from the outside and first have to adapt. Seeing so many people again you have met before somewhere helps a lot! It usually takes me one day until I'm back in this groove.
My arriving day was Saturday. We had a short staff DJ meeting to get to know each other (we were six staff DJs) and to get the necessary informations. Then I settled into the “DJ Dungeon” nearby Kuggen, the supermarket. Basically it's a cellar room, which I shared with Leru from Russia/China, Fred from Sweden and Haydnfrom the UK.
Then the my first DJ was scheduled from 1.30-3.30h in the library (the Balboa dancefloor), quite a reasonable start!
A Typical Day
After my first set I was dancing myself a little bit. Actually, I always was dancing before and after my DJ sets. That's the cool part about this job, you “work” and still have plenty of time for dancing.
I rarely slept more than 3-4 hours in a row. I don't sleep that well during day time, it was quite bright in our room (yes, we had a window). But maybe there was another reason: I simply was not used anymore to sleep more than a couple of hours because of my baby boy at home…
So I got up around noon, grabbed a coffee and some banana bread at the icecream parlor and did some work (eg. writing for this blog). I could have had breakfast from the volunteer's kitchen but I mostly missed it. DJs have their own daily routine because of the late night shifts.
During the day I was hanging out, chatting, listening to music and watching classes. I especially was interested how the different instructors teach, to get inspired for my own teaching skills.
Then I had an early dinner and after that I tried to sleep another 2-3 hours before the Meeting. My goal was to sleep at least six hours per day, that's the best way not to get sick in Herräng.
The Daily Meeting was a must for me. I like the atmosphere and the creativity. Herräng is an unbelievable melting pot of highly talented people!
Most of my DJ sets were scheduled somewhen between 3.00h and 5.00h. The majority of sets are fixed, between one and two hours.
But you also could get the last shift and that meant you are spinning until the last couple left the dancefloor. Then, three to four hour sets are quite common, especially on the Folkets Hus dancefloor upstairs!
One highlight was for sure the masquerade party on Friday night. The subject was “Tiki Herräng” featuring Hawaiian culture. This was a special challenge, because I wanted to play some Hawaiian swing as a surprise.
So I spend all day to go through my library and through my music sources to purchase some tunes. I found some really great songs (one example is the album “Jazz Goes Hawaii“) and it was a pleasure to see the positive reaction of the dance crowd to the unusual songs.
- Total of 16 hours of DJ'ing during the week
- 9 DJ sets: 6 Balboa sets in the Library, 2 Lindy sets at Dansbanan, 1 Lindy set at Folkets Hus
- Two times 2 sets per night
- 1 last shift set of 3 hours
This week in Herräng was one of my best ever, because I had the best job you could have at this camp!
I'm indeed a passionate social dancer but I'm also a passionate swing DJ. I love it and it's really fulfilling to play for such a crowd of awesome dancers!
It hope to come back to Herräng as staff DJ next year.