Charleston Challenge Accepted
PUBLISHED IN VINTAGE LIFE MAGAZINE MAY 2015
It's not every day you get to be a part of a Guinness World Record attempt, let alone one featuring the most iconic dance in the world – The Charleston!
When I, and my fellow, fabulous flappers, descended on the historic Hydro Majestic hotel in the Blue Mountains, Australia, we had only one thing on our minds; worldwide Charleston domination!
I must admit to being quite the Charleston fan girl. I recently rediscovered its charms after stumbling upon its latest incarnation as part of the 'Electro Swing' music genre, which has seen artists like Parov Stellar and Caravan Palace rocket to recent popularity, and of course it has not at all been hindered by the soundtrack of The Great Gatsby, which featured several Electro Swing tracks (including songs by Fergie & will.i.am!) Although, you could say my Charleston fandom goes as far back as age 7, when I got to dance it on stage as part of our school concert, in a red satin number my Mum had put together and I fell in love with Bugsy Malone.
But I digress, back to the Charleston Challenge!
It was a scorching Summer's day but we all gladly donned our 'glad rags' to break the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of costumed people to dance the Charleston. With a previous record of 276 dancers in 2013 and 319 in 2014 (both achieved at the same festival in previous years), the new world record was about to be broken on the lawns of one of Australia's most iconic, historic hotels, the Hydro Majestic.
There could not be a more perfect venue for such a record breaking 'knees up'. Originally opened by retail baron Mark Foy in 1904, the Hydro Majestic was created as a hydropathic sanitarium health retreat. The hotel originally offered a myriad of odd, hydrotherapy treatments to it's exclusive clientele but ironically the mineral springs reported to be on the site never materialised, so Foy had mineral water imported all the way from Germany instead!
The hotel has played host over the years to some notable guests including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes) for whom the Blue Mountains were the inspiration for The Lost World, Julius Blau of 4711 perfume fame, opera singers Dame Nellie Melba from Australia and Dame Clara Butt from the UK, and the hotel was even a military hospital during WW2 for American soldiers injured in the battles of the Coral Sea and the South Pacific.
After being closed for close to a decade, the hotel recently reopened for Christmas 2014 amidst a flurry of vintage-loving excitement. Now back to its former elegance, after a $35m art deco style makeover, the hotel oozes vintage charm including the decadent, orientally themed 'Cat's Alley' and 'Salon Du The' and the 1930s styled 'Wintergarden' restaurant, with jaw-dropping views of the Megalong Valley.
The Charleston Challenge itself is part of The Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism Roaring 20s and All That Jazz Festival; an annual event on the social calender which, this year featured a myriad of 1920s themed events including costumed balls, high teas, historical walks, fashion parades, garden parties and speakeasy's.
Festival Director Angela Corkeron said it was a great opportunity for locals and visitors to dress up and relive the era of true extravagance.
"The 1920s was a time to celebrate - the drudgery of World War I was gone, people were happy and kicked up their heels to show it.”
Popular TV personality Claudia Chan Shaw was once again Festival Patron, and Charlotte Smith, curator of The Darnell Collection of International Vintage Couture, was Ambassador.
Despite the heat on the day (we all hid under each other's parasols and slathered ourselves in SPF 50+), and the physical challenge of heels on grass, everyone rallied to set the record. From children as young as two-years-old to a veteran stepper in her nineties, there was certainly no lack of enthusiasm, and after multiple run-throughs we were finally ready!
The horn sounded and for five solid minutes we danced our little stockings off to break the World Record! The sea of smiles never wained and with a total of 360 costumed dancers, we 'flapped' our way into the Guinness Book of World Records.