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Dancing the winter blues away

Students let themselves go at a swing and jive dance event. One style of dance, Lindy Hop, is apparently taking off

Students are beginning to gather, and their faces are showing a mixture of anxiety and excitement.

They are about to embark on a 45-minute long introduction to ”Lindy Hop”, a trendy partner dance, as a part of the free introductory swing dance lessons held on the first sunday of every month at at Kulturhuset Indre By in Copenhagen.

”I’m very excited to try this!” says political science student, William.

The event brings a varied mix of students, adults, and professionals, all looking to let loose and explore a new style of dance.

The lesson starts, easy enough, with a solo exercise: Walking around, and ‘bouncing’ with your knees with the beat. As everybody begins to warm up their bodies and get a feel for the music – mostly 1930s jazz – more and more smiles appear on faces.

No matter the weather, be happy

After some exercises with the basic steps, it’s time to start dancing with a partner. Some female faces show confusion, as more women have showed up without partner than men. But the two teachers are able to provide relief – dancers change partners by rotating often, and some of the women decide to take the role of ‘lead’, to balance the group.

As the lesson progresses, other dancers who were using a nearby room stop by and watch for a while. One of them, Monika, who has been dancing for six months, says ”I have danced other styles before, also partner dancing, but there is something special about Lindy Hop. You can’t be unhappy when you come here, no matter the weather.”

And indeed, after a period of dancing, everybody is enjoying themselves, and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. As the dancers switch places every couple of minutes, they shake hands and introduce themselves. When they part, they give each other a smile, say thanks, sometimes exchange a high five.

Lindy Hop revival

The historic jazz music is not chosen by coincidence. Lindy Hop evolved in the 1930s in the black community in Harlem, New York, and was danced mostly to live music played by smaller jazz combos and larger orchestras, or big bands. After World War II Lindy Hop was almost forgotten, and not high in popularity, although it inspired a number of other dances, such as Rock N’ Roll and Jive.

However, that changed in the 1980s when dancers from primarily the US and Sweden began to reignite interest in the dance style. Today, Lindy Hop is danced in most big cities in the US and Europe and is popular in Urban centres all over the world.

In Copenhagen, the first Lindy Hop beginners’ workshop was held in 2002, and since then the trend has accelerated, and the Lindy Hop scene has grown massively. Check out this video from one of Copenhagen’s swing dance clubs, Swingshoes,

[video: width:525 height:380 align:center]

Happy, sweaty faces

As the 45-minute long class draws to an end, everybody has learned a pattern of basic steps, and four to five different ”moves” using these patterns. The couples separate into an ”open position“, get together again, spin and turn, and move around the floor.

When the teachers ask if the last minutes should be spent by exercising or adding something new, almost everybody is eager for more.

Afterwards, the lights are dimmed down, a dj sets up some music, and the event transforms into a social dance. Many of the beginners stay for a while and try their new moves. So does William, and says jokingly ”let’s see how much we can f*** this up”. As other, more experienced, dancers join the newcomers on the floor, the temperature rises, and the room becomes filled with happy, sweaty faces.

Swingin’ Hepcats

Copenhagen has two major groups organizing events and teaching for the scene – ”Swingin’ Hepcats” , and ”Swingshoes”. Around 500 dancers participate weekly in classes, and approximately one third of them are students, making it the perfect way to meet people both within and outside of their student network.

Beginners who want to take up regular lessons can participate in a beginner’s workshop that each group holds once a month. Along with this free monthly beginners introduction, the other opportunities to dance out of the classroom are plenty, and most are free.

More information and links can be found in the fact box above right. Also check out the gallery of photos from the event here.

Want to see even more dance photos? Check out our article about USG’s burlesque dance group, here .

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