“Swing dance” is most commonly known as a group of dances that developed with the swing style of jazz music in the 1920s-1950s, although the earliest of these dances predate “swing era” music. The best known of these dances is the Lindy Hop, a popular partner dance that originated in Harlem in 1927 and is still danced today. Lindy was a fusion of many dances that preceded it or were popular during its development but is mainly based on jazz, tap, breakaway and Charleston.
I love dancing. And one of the items on my bucket list is to try as many different types of dances as possible, although I must admit, I have not been very successful at fulfilling it so far. But among the few dances I’ve tried is swing dancing, which I have been going for on and off the past few years – though it has been more off than on, mainly due to work and other commitments.
So when I found out about LindyKL’s open event at Publika, I thought, hey, why not just go and get back into the groove?
I invited my friend Chooi Ling (who had tried swing dancing once before) to join me, and we went over to take a peek as to what the event was about.
Using the large open air space outside the shopping mall, the regulars of LindyKL started with a few swingouts to grab the attention of wandering passerbys. Then they invited everyone to come in and join their beginner taster class at 8.30pm which was free and open to all.
Led by Lionel and Nabihan, the beginners formed a huge circle around them and we were paired up to learn the lead/follow steps for the East Coast Swing. Having some experience in leading, I offered to lead as there were too many follows, and I was paired up with Rachel, a sweet young girl of 14 years old.
(In partner dancing, the “lead” is the person who controls the routine of the partnerwork, typically the male dancer; the “follow” is the person who follows the routine guided by the “lead”, typically the female dancer. It’s quite normal to see a pair of ladies dance together as partners, but it’s very rare to see ladies lead and men follow in a partnership!)
They started out with the easy basics, getting everyone used to the steps and the rhythm of the dance; then they went into the basics of leading and following, which are important for any partner dance. They also taught the crowd some patterns which they could use in social dancing. They started first with an easy pattern, leading up to an interesting one called the Mini Dip which ends with the pair holding hands, each with a foot raised in the air. You could see the excitement of the beginners when they practised the moves, they were dying to try the fun move! Most beginner swing dance taster classes I have been to tend to stick to very basic, easy moves, which might be boring to some; so I think this was a great idea on Lionel and Nabihan’s part to grab the crowd’s attention.
The beginner taster class took about an hour, after which everyone was free to stay back and join the social dancing which went on until about 11pm. Many of the beginners stayed back to practise their new skills, and you could see that they were hooked. Even Chooi Ling said that she would like to give swing dancing a try once again.
Towards the end, some of the “experts” in the group got together and did a mini-performance, which was part of their Frankie 99 video project. Frankie 99 is a worldwide effort by the global swing community to commemmorate what would have been the 99th birthday of the late Frankie Manning, who was one of the pioneers of Lindy Hop.
All in all, it was great fun. Maybe I should switch my swing dancing mode back to “on”.
Swing socials are held weekly at Sid’s Pub in Bangsar South on Tuesdays by KL Swing and Shivz Grill in Bangsar on Fridays by LindyKL. For more information, please visit their respective Facebook Pages.