Thursday, 2 June 2011

Addicted to Swing

Learning to dance was on my 30 Before I'm 30 list. While I wouldn't say I've learned to Swing Dance yet by any stretch of the imagination, I have taken great strides recently in the right direction.

I spent the weekend at the London Swing Dance Festival and had a fantastic time. I also introduced my friend Adam (who's danced solo in the past but never done partner dance) to the joys of both partner & swing dancing. Swing dancing, incidentally, in this case refers to Lindy Hop / Charleston / Jitterbug / Shag / Balboa / Blues. It doesn't include West Coast Swing, which is a style all in its own right with its own classes & festivals.

Friday night was the competition for all those who actually know what they're doing, and gave some idea of how big the vintage dance scene in London actually is. It's huge. Really!

I've danced on and off since I moved to London, racking up maybe 10-12 lessons over an 8 month period. Certainly, the guy in the Beginner's stream who most closely matched my skill & knowledge had been dancing for about 2 months, which given how long it takes me to master new hand-eye-foot-coordination tasks seems about right. Saturday was Charleston - solo & partnered. Up until this point, I've very much disliked Charleston because it just wouldn't click in my head as a rhythm. Finally, I began it get it. We ended the day with a Lindy Hop class, restoring my by-then waning confidence that I could actually dance at all. Not just because it was moves I knew, but because we covered more ground - Lindy is easier, which at least explains why I found the Charleston so hard the rest of the day!

The highlight of Saturday was the Jumps & Lifts taster class. I think 5 of the 15-20 beginners were brave enough (or stupid enough?) to give this one a go. We all coped, and most of us managed to put them into practice on the dance floor later. We had a further Jumps class later on Saturday, and covered one of them AGAIN on Monday evening, so they're now firmly in the repertoire, at least for partners I've danced with before and feel confident that they won't drop me!

Sunday was mostly Lindy Hop and some styling elements, as well as getting the hang of following the different styles & confidences of the leads. Following is not something I have found easy in the past. I had a couple of social dances on Saturday night with guys I didn't know, and had never seen before, let along danced with. Somewhere in one of those, it finally and completely clicked in my brain how do to it. Switches between moves and rhythms I'd never managed smoothly before fell into place and stayed there. And it was GREAT. There was a also a dance with a coursemate where we did almost nothing (other than the lifts) which we'd been taught, but still had an exhilarating time with him leading and me following steps and rhythms I couldn't repeat now.

It's not plain sailing - just because I know I can do it doesn't mean I always go on the dancefloor in the right state of mind. But I know what it feels like and Sunday was definitely better than Saturday in terms of following the guys' leads. Also for the first time, I found a partner where it very much clicks in dance terms. It'll be interesting to see if that connection persists when we haven't been dancing together for two days!

Finally, here's a video of the Charleston routine we did in front of the entire festival on Sunday night. 1 hr of tuition and a further hour or so rehearsals scattered through the day.  We're pretty damn good!

Now, if I can just justify spending the money on the upcoming Swing weekend in August...


  1. Oho you've got the bug! I've been feeling the need to get back to Swing dancing. I'm more drawn to WCS but I was really enjoying Swing last year and there's a big scene out here. I suspect you and I will have many friends in common if you continue to dance and do weekenders.

  2. Totally bitten! I did try WCS with Cat when I first moved to London, but it didn't grab me the way Lindy has. Plus, two of the leads there took it upon themselves to critique the finer points of my style when I'd had an hour and a half of tuition and was still struggling with the footwork...not exactly welcoming...

    I don't think not dancing is an option for me any more. I know you said you had quit swing when you moved to the states, but can it really last???