It seems like we can’t get enough of dancing in South London; there are just so many dance classes and social dance events, you could go to a different one every night of the week for months! So far this year we’ve been to Disco, to Salsa and to Jive, and now we had a go at Swing.
‘Swing’ dancing is a term for a group of dances that became popular in the 1920s and 30s based on the big band swing jazz music of the era. In fact there are four main dances, the most popular being Lindy Hop and Charleston, along with Balboa and Blues.
As Swing has become more popular, various dance schools have sprung up to cater for the demand and the most well-known of these is Swing Patrol because of its appearance on Dragons’ Den in 2014, when school founder, Scott Cupit, persuaded dance enthusiast Deborah Meaden to invest in the business, a year after her appearance on Strictly.
We went along to Swing Patrol West Dulwich, based in the beautiful Belair House, Gallery Rd. SE21, where classes take place every Tuesday, with beginners at 7.30 and improvers at 8.45. The first evening it was beginners Charleston; we were welcomed by the teachers on arrival and asked to write our names on a sticky label, which we wore for the evening. That was a nice touch – knowing the names of your various dance partners of the evening made it somehow more sociable and friendly.
We partnered up, and after a demonstration by our teachers, Kate and Karolis, we got going with the basic steps, which I found relatively easy. The instructions were clear and straightforward and each move was demonstrated from different angles. Changing partners every few minutes, we soon built up a little routine of 4-5 moves, which most people were able to master and it was great to actually put it all together when Kate put on some music.
The second evening it was Lindy Hop – this proved to be more challenging, for me at any rate! The rhythm and steps are more difficult than the Charleston and it took me a while to get the hang of it. However, our teachers broke each move down with a clear demonstration as before and eventually I was able to put together the small routine we were given.
Overall it was a fun experience, with good teaching and a great location with a really nice bar for after-lesson drinks. It costs £8 for one class, £12 for two. Swing Patrol have classes all over South London and organise social dances too – check their website for details. For all Swing classes and events check Swing Out London.
Here are 10 of the best Swing music tracks, compiled from a playlist kindly provided by our teacher Kate Wiseman (you can follow her on Spotify):
1. My Baby Just Cares for Me – Nina Sinone 2. On the Sunny Side of the Street – Dizzy Gillespie 3. This Can’t Be Love – Naomi & Her Handsome Devils 4. Alright OK You Win – Count Basie 5. Apollo Jump – Lucky Millinder 6. Spinnin’ the Webb – Chick Webb 7. Kissin’ Bug – Duke Ellington 8. Begin the Beguine – Artie Shaw 9. Walk ‘Em – Buddy Johnson 10. Love Me or Leave Me – Boilermaker Jazz Band