JULIE MIRANDA and Hula Boogie – The Life She Dreams and Lives

miss alohaJulie Miranda’s love for dancing comes from her love for music. Julie was born in London. Both of her parents were from Trinidad and none of them were very much interested in dancing. Julie has always loved Rock’n’Roll music and whenever she watched old films with jiving she felt she wanted to do it too. Nothing and no one brings her alive more than music. Rhythm and melody… She dances, she moves, she laughs, she opens her heart and her knowledge to everyone who are willing to learn and experience the real thrill of Rock’n’Roll. She believes that anyone can dance and for as long as one is ready the door to the dancing floor is fully open. The magic of dancing… She has been living it all her life.

Hula Boogie – Julie Miranda

What dancing does to you? What do you get out of it?

Dancing makes me extremely happy. It actually takes out of the present moment and you don’t have to think about anything! It is a joyful moment!

You are an artist expressing yourself through the dance and at the same time that expression leads you to teaching and guiding others in the steps of your passion. When did it all begin?

I always wanted to dance when I was little but never took any classes (except some English folk dances we did at school) as we did not have money for extra activities. I saw rock-n-roll dancing on a film when I was very young and loved the music and wanted to dance like that. As soon as I started working (when I was 19) I took classes in every type of jive I could.

Are you the only one in your family who has been taken by the energy of dance?

None of my parents dance, though my mum says my uncles did when they were younger. My brother dances (jive) socially and enjoys it, but it is not as big a part of his life as it is mine.

Julie Miranda..You get to be surrounded by many people every time you dance or teach. How does it feel? Do you ever get tired being the centre figure? 

I don’t really see myself as a central figure. I am just imparting knowledge. It is the knowledge, not me that is the focus. I actually am not conscious of people watching me!
I really love teaching and seeing my students progress from thinking they are not able to dance/will never able to dance to literally dancing and enjoying it. It is like magic! I know they can do it and I get a thrill to see people make this progression and the joy they get from dancing and realising they can.

You are yourself like a magic! When did you know you wanted to teach dancing, which is jive and boogie?

Teaching actually came about by accident. A friend suggested me and my dance partner to fill in for a dance course where the teacher had to leave unexpectedly. I really enjoyed the experience. It would be another year before I started teaching continuously after that when another friend gave me an advertisement for a Jive teacher vacancy at my local college.

Have you ever done it professionally, for example, participating in various competitions, performing for wide audiences and similar things?

I really don’t like performing. My reason for dancing is enjoyment and for the same reason I teach. I enjoy it and want other people to experience that joy too. I have entered competitions in the past… long before I started teaching. These were competitions at rock-n-roll/jive weekend festivals. Yes, I have won them, but the entry was for enjoyment and for the prize, which was usually free entry to the next festival!
Teaching is part of what I do for a living… I teach mainly here at home, but I’ve been invited and taught in Germany, Belgium, Greece and Sicily within the last 3 years. It is really my DJ’ing that has taken me all over Europe regularly.

I heard you have visited Barcelona just recently. Was it for the purpose of teaching or just simple vacation?

The visit to Barcelona was for a 1950s music festival (Screamin’ Festival). The major acts are on the weekend but the festival started slowly from Tuesday with more bands and djs added as the days went on. I was employed to Dj but also announced one of the bands. I work a lot abroad at festivals in various roles.
Following Screamin Festival a week later, I was in Inzago, Italy for Vintage Roots Festival, another 1950s music festival.
I was there to Dj, teach the Hukilau Hula dance at the Hawaiian party and my main role was to look after the one of the headliners, the only original 1950s act on the bill – 1950s saxophonist Big Jay McNeely.
I get to be in Ulm, Germany for Big Rhythm Rumble and also rock-n-roll/1950s music weekender as a Compere and Dj.
Summer is a festival time… It is a lot of fun whatever role I am asked to undertake.  I am very fortunate that I get to see great bands, visit new towns, meet new people – and dance! It is fantastic! I feel very blessed to have these opportunities.

How long did it take for you to reach the point where you are being asked to come and be a part of such kind of events?

I’ve been playing in clubs in Paris mainly since 2000 and played my first festival abroad in Switzerland in 2002 (Dames Don’t Care Swing Weekend in Davos). It really started escalating in 2008. German Dj, Swinging’ Swannee, (who I met in Switzerland and had played from me at my first Club night) recommended me to a promoter to play at a Swing weekend in Leipzig, Germany. From that I got invited to play at more club nights, as well as festivals all over Europe.

Julie, what does make you tick in life?

What gets me out of bed? What make me happy? What puts a smile on my face? What motivates me. Difficult question… It changes every day.

So what is it?..

Adventure … new experiences…new people…. everyday has to potential to bring amazing opportunities… I like that.

miss aloha 3Julie, you are organising those Hula Boogie parties once every three weeks at your The South Pacific Bar and during that evening many people come and dance, but just before the party begins you do those taster dancing lessons. Tell me please how did it all begin, where and why?

Ok, common misconception is that I own the South London Pacific!  I don’t.  I only use it for Hula Boogie! once a month.  I just run Hula Boogie’s events!
But I have been there more or less since it opened in 2002. The Reverend Boogie (co founder and resident DJ at Hula Boogie) told me he had found this Tiki bar on his way home from work. I went and saw it not expecting it to be much but felt like I had stepped into heaven when I entered for the first time! It is everything a Tiki bar should be.
There was already a rockabilly night being run there and the promoter of that night recommended us to the owner who was looking for an additional vintage night to add to the calendar.
The first dance night we put on was in December 2002 (called ‘Swinging with Santa).  We then opened Hula Boogie on 22nd January 2003 (my birthday) as weekly then bi monthly then finally monthly event.
We decided to have taster Jive dance classes before the evening starts for two reasons: to give people who had never danced before the chance to learn a couple of moves and also serve as an ‘ice breaker’, a chance for people to get to know some people in the club so it wouldn’t feel so daunting coming to the night by yourself.
The Hukilau Hula dance class was almost part of the selling point of getting the club running as it added something that no other night had done before.  And were else better to teach a 1950s hula dance than in a 1950s Tiki bar!  I had already been DJ’ing at Miss Aloha for 4 years by that point. It all seemed to fall into place.
We operated more or less as a dance night with guest Djs from London then progressing to inviting some of the Djs to come and play who I had met in my travels – thought this was not a new thing to me as we had already been doing this in our first dance event ‘The Blue Dahlia’ which ran from 1998 to 2003).
In 2006, when I took sole control of Hula Boogie and I invited a band from Italy (playing Hawaiian inspired rock-n-roll) who I had been working with to come and play for our 3rd Anniversary. It has been a tradition now to have a band in December (for our Christmas Party) and in January (for the club and my birthday!). We also have an annual Elvis night where we have had Black Elvis as our resident Tribute Artist on that event.
I love live music I get to see a lot of bands as I work a lot of festivals. I wanted to bring over some of the bands I had seen who rarely get to play in a clubs in London. I always like the atmosphere that you get seeing a band in a small venue…it’s electric! The band plays off the audience and vice versa. You don’t just see a band; you are part of the atmosphere and spur the performance. This you don’t get in a large festival or venue.
I don’t think anyone thought there would be space in South London Pacific for a band (and especially the bands I have brought over!) but I always say if something is meant to happen, everything will fall into place! I have been very fortunate with the bands which have played at Hula Boogie! I always feel honoured when a band agrees to play and every show has been an awesome memory!
The aim of Hula Boogie has always been to share great music, to make your forget the everyday world for a few hours, lose your stresses and be enveloped in a world of great vintage music, dancing and good times. That’s what it does for me.

What are your plans for the future events regarding Hula Boogie?

Just to keep doing what we are doing. I have a list of bands I want to bring over and lots more music to share and of course to get new people and more people dancing!
Here is an interview I did some time ago. My part starts at around 33.54: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01p2tg8

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