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Mum’s Journey to Swing

“When you’re a full time Mum it can be really difficult to find time for yourself.”

“I had my kids young. My first one, Riley, came when I was 21 and before I’d got over having him I was pregnant again with Jessie.”

“I was just beginning to get used to juggling my household duties with raising these two when I got pregnant with Sasha.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: none of this sounds like very good planning and you’re right.

The truth is at the age of 21 I’d not even begun to understand what I wanted to with my life and then, before I knew it, I’d met someone and gotten myself a family. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was busier than I’d ever been in my life, desperately trying to keep a 4-bedroom house clean whilst raising three young kids and getting dinner on the table every night: needless to say I didn’t have time to think about what I wanted to do. It was all I could do to keep my head above the water in those early years.

You might think that as a young Mum with relatively little life experience I would’ve struggled, that the pressure would inevitably get to me and I would break down, but the opposite is true.

Mothering became my craft. I knew the best times to catch my kids unaware with their baths, I planned dinners weeks ahead of schedule and I had the low down on the best oven cleaners, so my spotless home was soon the envy of the neighbourhood. I was a full time Mum in every sense of the word and that experienced armed me with a huge variety of skills.

Of course, as all wizened Mothers will tell you (usually with a sardonic yet tragic tear in their eyes):

‘They don’t stay young forever.’ 

I spent the best part of 20 years raising my kids, keeping the house clean and maintaining a relationship with my husband, during this time I’d become a master strategist and logistician, however there was one thing I didn’t see coming. I’d spent so long looking to the future of my kids that I’d neglected to think of what to do with myself when they left home. At the age of 42 I had at least another four decades to look forward to but nothing to do.

Thankfully it was at this time that I discovered Swing Dancing.

Jessie was home from Uni for the weekend and wanted to go shopping at a Vintage Fair that was in town, so I went along with her. As we browsed the clothes and knick-knacks we heard some lively jazz music spring from the corner of the room. I left Jessie thumbing through records and drifted over to the source of the music. As I turned a corner I saw a flash of polka-dots and an array of bright white smiles. There were four couples whirling, jumping and jiving – I was surprised initially, I didn’t think young people danced like this anymore. Then I looked closer and saw they weren’t young, they were my age!

I took a flyer from one of them after the show and the next week I was learning the Lindy Hop with all of them. In a moment I’d found a group of new friends and a hobby that would keep me busy for the rest of my life.”

Summer Swing Festivals Galore!

Fancy testing out your swing in a fun environment?

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog then you might have already seen how we like to encourage dancers to get out and about as much as possible, as early as possible. 

Swing Dancing was built around the concept of socialising, so it only makes sense that you should take your new found skills into a social atmosphere to test them out. It can be stressful taking your dancing out of the classroom and into the public arena for the first time, but don’t worry, dance events are less about judging each other and are more about participation.

We’ve already suggested a handful of Dinner & Dance events that you can attend, but if you’d rather start out at somewhere even more relaxed then you can try booking yourself into one of these Swing Festivals:

IpSwing Vintage Music and Dance Festival

This festival is in its very first year and promises to take guests back in time celebrating music from the 30s right the way through to the 60s. There’ll be live bands, singers and DJs playing a unique blend of upbeat vintage tunes giving you plenty of opportunity to give your newfound dance skills a test run in a fun environment. The lineup includes Katie’s Crooked Swing Band and Tessa Smith and the Applejacks.

Bristol Shag Fiesta

This popular dance festival is not just for Shag dancers! All kinds of swing dance is welcome at the Bristol Shag Fiesta and there’s always a good supply of live bands to keep you swinging. There’s a fantastic atmosphere of inclusivity here too, so you’re guaranteed to feel welcome whatever skill level you find yourself at.

JATS Brighton Swing Festival

JATS stands for ‘Jump At The Seaside‘, this is a fantastic location to dance at and the number of skilled teachers will be able to put you through your paces and hopefully bring your swing dance game up a few notches. There are always plenty of dancers in attendance, so you won’t have to worry about finding a partner either.

Leeds Swing Exchange

All types of Swing are welcome at the Leeds Swing Exhange, an event that prides itself on its bubbly dancers and variety of social events. There’s plenty to see and do besides dancing whilst you’re here including tours, picnics and lots of live music.

Bal Extra

Balboa might not be as popular as the Lindy Hop, but it still enjoys popularity around the world and is particularly well loved for its vibrant rhythmic weight shifts and lead-follow partnership. Due to its lack of ‘flashy’ or ‘showy’ tricks Balboa is considered a dance for dancers rather than a spectator sport, which makes it particularly tricky to learn, thankfully there are teachers on hand at Bal Extra to take you through it.

London Throwdown

Organised by the massive dance community, Swing Patrol, the London Throwdown is a perfect introduction to the world of competitive dancing that doesn’t require newcomers to compete. There are plenty of opportunities for social dancing here in between watching some of the best competitors from around the world throwing down against each other.

Hire Swing Dancers For Your Event!

Are you looking to make your next party or event that extra bit special?

Hire one of these fantastic Swing dance troupes to bring a bit of pizzazz to your next event.

Organising a party is no mean feat; it involves time, effort and commitment to pull together a great event but there are a few shortcuts to party success that you can take in order to alleviate some of the pressure. The task that any events coordinator is up against when organising a birthday party or anniversary celebration is concerned with a simple question:

How can I make this event unforgettable?

Having a brilliant spread of food should certainly be on your agenda, as should drinks and live music, but have you considered adding that ‘something extra’ to really make your event one for the books?

It can often be the little touches that make a party truly stand out from the crowd,  these ‘little touches’ don’t necessarily have to cost you a fortune either! Seemingly simple decorative centrepieces such as beautifully carved ice sculptures or flower arrangements can be affordable if you shop around and might well make the difference in your guests’ opinions. However, if your budget is a bit bigger then you’ll be able to afford to pay live performers which are certain to turn any simple event into a full-on spectacle!

These Swing Dance troupes offer some of the best live entertainment in the country, check their websites out to find out more:

Swingdance UK

Simon Selmon and Anna Lambrechts founded Swingdance UK in 1986, they’re experts teachers who run numerous weekly classes in addition to offering their services for hire.

As a duo they can either perform a 10 minute-2 hour show, or even teach your guests how to dance themselves.

Swing Patrol

Swing Patrol are less a performance troupe and more of a Swing Dancing collective. Ranging in ages and styles, they are a true community of well over 1500 dancers who perform, take fitness classes, teach swing and hold competitions.

The Swing Era

Based in Birmingham, this dance school was started by Martyn Nelson in 2014 who is a relative newcomer to the game himself having only been dancing since 2008!

In addition to dancing, Martyn also plays in his band ‘Martyn Nelson and the Rhythm Remedies‘, you can hire them as a band in addition to a dance troupe associated with the Swing Era for the complete package.

Jive Swing

Having performed up and down the country in some of the biggest venues in the world (including the Royal Albert Hall and Canary Wharf), Jive Swing are well known for their energetic live performances that have wowed audiences all around the world. They dance a range of styles such as the Charleston, Cake Walk and Lindy Hop.

Down for the Count

This professional collective of musicians and dancers provide a huge range of performance options, but top of the pile has to be their Vintage Swing Collective. Their popular Swing Orchestrea comes complete with The Hotfoot Strutters making for a pitch-perfect night that will be sure to make your night one to remember.

Swing Dance Legends

The History of Swing is a long and illustrious one…

Although ‘swing’ dancing is now considered to be just one style of many types of modern dance that are related to ‘ballroom dancing’, its origins could not be further from this current reality.

At the peak of its popularity Swing dancing was performed in hundreds of styles. Only a handful of these styles are still practised today but it’s where these styles originated that is most interesting. The Lindy Hop, Collegiate Shag, Charleston and all the other styles of Swing have their roots in African American culture. The originators of swing dance were recent descendants of slaves and former slaves; so, much in the same way that blues music had its roots in the tribal music of Africa, you can draw a straight line between the ritualistic vernacular dances of Africa and swing as it appears today.

As with all movements, Swing’s existence today is thanks to a number of innovators who exemplified the very best of the style:

“Shorty George” Snowden

One of two famous Georges associated with Swing dance, George Snowden was bequeathed his nickname due to his diminutive stature, he stood at just over 5 feet tall. ‘Shorty’ danced with Big Bear, a similarly talented dancer who was much taller than him, their act would often end comically with Bea lifting Shorty over her shoulder with ease. Snowden was considered to be the top dancer at the Savoy from its opening in 1927 until his ‘dethroning’ in 1935 by a man who would revive Swing for a new generation altogether.

Frankie Manning

Alongside ‘Shorty George’, Frankie Manning is often considered to be one of the founders of the Lindy Hop and although it would be impossible to credit him completely with its beginning we can certainly thank him for contributing to its revival and continued popularity. Frankie wrested the title of top dancer from ‘Shorty George’ in 1935 when he debuted the ‘air-step’ to a packed crowd at the Savoy. After spending three decades working for the Postal Service he was coaxed out of retirement in the 80s and helped revive the movement.

Jack Carey

An unsung hero of Swing, Jack Carey was born in 1927 in South Carolina. He learned to dance swing at a very young age which allowed him to purse a career in show business. Amongst a slew of successful competition runs with his wife Lorraine, the pair also performed in movies, most famously appearing in the Jerry Lewis picture Living It Up. Jack would later go on to promote Swing by organising his own competition and coining his very own style: West Coast Swing.

Leroy “Stretch” Jones

Often considered to the flipside of ‘Shorty George’ Snowden, Leroy Jones stood at over 6 feet tall and danced with a much shorter partner, Little Bea.

Despite being a huge influence on the likes of Frankie Manning and other Lindy Hoppers, Leroy Jones’ career was blighted by repetition. His fellow dancers noted his lack of enthusiasm as the years went by and he grew tired of dancing the same routine for the enjoyment of others.