It’s all about The Dance!
In an age when most people spend their days sitting in front of screens, and so much interaction is online, the appeal of swing dancing is just as strong as it was 100 years ago.
The first time you see swing dancing, it absolutely takes your breath away – be it walking into the grandest ballroom in a city with hundreds of dancers, in tune with the beat of a jazz orchestra, or simply watching a few people making the most of a postage stamp sized floor in a tiny bar.
What you see is a physical conversation between friends, a space containing nothing but pure joy, and not a smartphone in sight.
Unbeknown to so many, the swing dance community is very much alive and kicking all over the country.
Once you step through the door of a class, you realise just how much happens in this thriving, unknown world.
You can dance almost every night of the week in Manchester alone —not counting events happening in towns less than an hours drive away from the city.
Some people find swing dancing through a love of the music, or through vintage clothing, or even in an alternative way to keep fit, that’s not in the gym.
But, when you talk to the dancers, so many people have turned to swing dancing in really hard times — they’ve looked for a way to improve their mental health or a way to find friends in a new city, or used it as an hour of joy a week when they’re struggling with loss or grief.
Whatever their reason for seeking out the dance, the overwhelming consensus is: “going to my first class is the best thing I ever did.” Above all else, it’s the community that keeps people coming back.
Again, when you talk to dancers, you hear nothing but statements like: “Every single person is kind, friendly, helpful and open”, “I was welcomed with open arms” and “it’s brought so much more into my life than just fancy footwork!”
Norma Miller, an original Lindy hopper and the community-appointed ‘Queen of Swing’, said: “It’s the greatest dance in the world because everybody can swing, and the inclusivity is the heartbeat of the dance”.
Manchester dancer Samantha Smith said, “The wonderful thing about the swing dance community is that you won’t be judged. It’s OK to learn at your own pace.
Once I realised that I knew swing dance was for me.” Jocelyn Harvey added, “The teachers break everything down into bite-size chunks, so it’s manageable, realistic and exciting. “It gives you satisfaction from the very first class of being able to do it. And If I can do it, anyone can!”
The scene is run by committed volunteers, with so many people pitching in and giving up their time to sit on the door, DJ, teach, pack down events, finding new venues, replying to emails or even just keeping Facebook events up to date.
The scene is kept alive by the passion of the dancers, and you can feel that in the atmosphere of the events. Everywhere you go, you’ll be greeted by smiling faces who are so happy to see new dancers and more people finding a love for the dance.
People that dance often seems to become addicted to it — this could come from the dopamine from the physical activity, or oxytocin from the connection of partner dancing, or even the sense of trust and belonging in a community.
Something has kept swing dancing going for so long, and today’s dancers are following the heart of swing beating more strongly than ever before.
What’s stopping you from unplugging, switching off your phone, and taking a step onto a dance floor that is filled with nothing but friendship, laughter and joy?
Have a go:
Manchester Lindy: manchesterlindy.com
SwingOut Manchester: swingoutmanchester.com/
Swing Dance Leeds: swingdanceleeds.com
Cheshire Swing Cats: www.cheshireswingcats.com
Mersey Swing: www.merseyswing.com
Author – Georgie Rastall