I very nearly didn't make it down for Blues N Soul in Orlando, FL. After paying way too much money for a shiny StarFire sword at the Renaissance Festival, I was thinking I might take it easy on my bank account for a while. Luckily, a combination of awesome dancing with the organizer, Steve (who I met at CHEX) and the fact that Blues N Soul fell on my birthday weekend convinced me that I should say "fuck it!" and spring for the trip.
Bert went down with me so that I'd have some company, and we arrived Friday night in time to get changed, locate booze, and head to the first dance at UCF, less than a mile from the hotel I booked. Verra nice.
I don't feel the urge to go into all of the dances, so I'll hit the themes and highlights of the weekend.
The exchange was small, only 40 people pre-registered, though I'd estimate that the evening dances had close to 100 people, and the late nights 50 or 60. The Orlando scene was very friendly and inviting to the few out-of-towners, though I was glad that I hosted Sheila and Austin during ATLX so that I knew a few people. Elizabeth, an awesome chick I met at Bluesalicious also came down, as well as Jonathan and Stefanie from Macon, so between those people, Steve, and Bert I never really ran low on company.
The dancing was good, and I found it was generally of a high level. Notable dancers included Chris (massively skinny, gangly, adorable boy) who I had a bit of trouble getting connected with at first, but once we hit the right spot we really were on, and Jim who danced with me quite a lot throughout the weekend and is one of the few dancers who is much shorter than me but still fun to dance with. Austin was wonderful and light and bouncy as always - his connection is such a dream! I didn't get to dance quite as many with Steve as I would have liked, since he spent a lot of time running around organizing and I spent a lot of time taking pictures.
Other highlights: my birthday jam, which was way too lindy and way too nerve-wracking. Center of attention at dancing (which I stopped for 4 years specifically because I -didn't- want to be the center of attention) equals equals bad. Luckily I made it through without too much anxiety. The other amusing time involved me trying to leave the Saturday night late-night… I quite literally had my keys in hand, and every time I grabbed a boy to hug them goodbye, they wouldn't let me go until we had danced a song. One-handed blues isn't so hard after all.
The only bad thing I have to say about the event is that they needed some goddamn signage. Bert and I got turned around going to every single venue - UCF and The Zebra room each took us 30+ minutes to find. The person checking us in also didn't give us the exchange brochure, so we didn't have an physical copy of schedule and locations, which was sucked.
Also, not the exchange's fault, but fuck florida and all of it's toll roads!
Bottom line: I had a great time! Next year Steve plans to hold the exchange in the fall so that we won't be swimming in sweat at the less-well-air-conditioned venues - I approve! I'll definitely look to make a return trip next year!