As a child, I learnt to dance in my village’s scout hut. We practised new routines for months until we perfected them: waltz, quickstep, foxtrot, tango. Every summer, we made our curtsies and took our exams in the church hall. I learnt how to hold my frame, when to rise and fall, how to position my hands and head, how to follow. The next year, I started to learn Latin dances, too. It was love at first step. The year I stopped dancing, I won our dance school’s award for the highest exam score in the Latin section. Age 12, I started playing women’s league hockey, quit dancing and that was that. I didn’t have proper dance lessons again for over a decade. Last year, I picked up swing dancing and got bitten by the bug right in the get-down.
It’s true what they say: Once you hop, you just can’t stop! (Disclaimer: people probably don’t actually say that)
Here are 10 reasons why Lindy Hop is the new love of my life (and why it might just be yours, too):
- Learn your lesson: Lindy has a fascinating history that should be remembered and celebrated. Lindy Hop is the beautiful love child of African and European dance styles. It’s a wonderful hybrid of partner and solo styles: Charleston, Black Bottom, Cakewalk, Tap… This black magic in Hellzapoppin’ was brought to buzzing life in a society that still segregated people because of the colour of their skin.
- Circles of love: The swing community is one of the most welcoming, eclectic, supportive, bonkers and joyful groups of people I’ve ever had the fortune to slot into. ‘Circles of Love’ celebrate not only a collective love of dance, but birthdays, weddings, new beginnings… And, if you fancy showing off your slick steps, a jam circle might be in order…
- Sweatsville: Lindy Hop is a hot and sweaty business. If team sports and treadmills don’t turn you on, try Lindy. Exercise you can enjoy, hot damn. Plus, it’s a culture not centred around drinking alcohol, which is a total health bonus! Please swing responsibly.
- In safe hands: There is a lot of emphasis placed on making sure everyone feels comfortable – consent is the foundation of all classes and social dances. It is always made explicitly clear that each partnership is entered into willingly or not at all and that (shock horror) consent can be revoked at any time. If you don’t want to dance tandem, you don’t. If you don’t like to dip, you don’t. Seems simple. Refreshingly, it usually is.
- Old dog, new tricks: The swing scene is delightfully diverse in terms of age. Whilst it’s raging through universities across the land, Lindy has a devout following in a nostalgic older generation too, as well as everyone in between. Swing knows no boundaries (apart from those of personal space and nice manners).
- I believe in music: Banging tunes about food and sex – what’s not to love?
- Monkey business: Well, just how exactly did you think one became King of the Swingers?
- It’s a shim-sham: Amongst all of the jazzy beats know to Lindy Hoppers, there are a few tunes that will always cause a reaction: from the stuff of flash-mob dreams – the Shim-Sham (danced to this banging tune) – to the jam-circle jam of choice – Sing Sing Sing…
- All gear, no idea: Dressing up is highly encouraged. I may be a novice dancer, but at least I can dress like I know what I’m doing. Swing dancers come in all shapes, styles and sizes, but they do love to get footloose and fancy-free. Fancy-dress and bow-ties as standard – be still my beating heart.
- Sensible and silly-billies: First rule of Lindy Hop is THERE ARE NO RULES (apart from that immortal rule: don’t be a dick). Lindy hop is playful, energetic, joyful, silly and, more than anything, FUN.
And remember: In the immortal words of Katie Brooks, ‘If in doubt, wiggle something!’