The swing craze made its revival back in the mid-90s but I never took to it. So it was about time to try it out and get some rhythm. I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to try something new, even if it probably meant making a fool of myself.
I’ve seen and heard about the whole swing scene but I still didn’t know what to expect. To my content, the Concordia Swing Society put on a fine show. A combination of good hospitality and dance made it a festive night.
The Concordia Swing Society has held ‘swing night’ every Monday since September 1999. It is totally funded by the CSU and hopes to attract more participants every week. The lessons, food and fun are completely free.
Another reason to go is to check out the avid dancers, those who go to practice their moves and show off their fancy footwork. Thomas and Sandy, the couple I glimpsed dancing in the distance, said that “they go to the swing night because they can practice their moves.” They also explained to me, the first-time swing
dancer, the different styles and music to check out.
Swing dancing came to life in the 1920’s, but became popular between 1930 and 1950. The origin of swing dancing comes about from the roots of the music of the same name. It was in the 1920’s, when people were dancing the Charleston on the dance floor, that a new style of dance was created. The roots of swing dancing
evolved from the neighborhoods of Harlem, New York.
It used to be the Fox Trot, the Charleston and the Boogie Woogie. Now, the swinging styles of the Jitterbug, the Ballroom Jive and the East Coast Swing have made a name for themselves in Montreal dance clubs. There are many different forms of swing dancing but the first to emerge was the Hop. The Hop was eventually coined the ‘Lindy Hop’- it was a mix of many influences and improvisation.
Gradually, other styles began to emerge with all different music counts, such as six counts or eight counts, and many diversified moves came into play.
The art of swing dancing isn’t just about moving around – it is about a lot more, which is really hard to describe. I had this impression of the people and the style of dance when I first walked in, but my attitude changed when I walked out. In that, I appreciate this form of dance and the talented people who use
this sort of dance as an expression and as a type of activity.
The night began at 8 pm when the girls and guys were separated into their own lines just like we had to do in elementary school. Then the dance lessons began.
As the group was shown the basic steps you could see the smiles and hear the laughter as one person got it right and nailed the move. But then you’d hear the stomping of feet and a grunt, knowing that another person messed up or couldn’t get it right. I was one of those people till I was taken aside and given a
mini-lesson to put me back on track.
As I was continuously practicing my “rock side, side, step back” to try to get it down pat, I caught a couple dancing in the corner of my eye. I watched in awe as these talented individuals moved to the music and witnessed the
graciousness of it all as the girl was flipped over the guy’s back.
I had no idea how many people were going to show up, especially since publicity
has only begun to become bigger this semester. To my astonishment, there was a huge turnout and I wasn’t the only person surprised by it.
Anthony Pappada, the swing-dancing organizer said that they “usually don’t get this many people, normally we get eight at the most, one night.”
Another huge surprise for Pappada was that “for the first time there are more girls than guys, usually it’s vice versa.”
When Pappada told me this, I was shocked, but this time the girls outnumbered the guys which made it more challenging because you got to change partners every so often. The only problem with this was trying to dance a new beat with a bunch of guys you’d never seen or danced with before.
This was a whole new experience for me as I was twisted and turned in many different ways. I got to learn the basic steps but I still need a little more lessons before I head out to a swing club- I don’t want to torture some guy by
tripping over his feet.
As the night went on, I got a bit better but it didn’t really matter to me because the music made me dance in all different ways. It didn’t matter what I looked like at this point. The objective for me was to learn something new and
have a good time. I did.
So, if you are willing to test ou your dancing shoes, try a little swing dancing. Don’t worry about making a fool of yourself, if anything goes wrong there are many people there who do know what they’re doing. On the other hand,
if you are ready for the bigger scene, Montreal has a list of dances clubs dedicated to swing dancing.
The Concordia Swing Society holds free lessons every Monday night from 8 to 10 pm in H-721.
Clothing photos courtesy of www.daddyos.com and www.swingwear.com
Just a few tips
-Wear shoes with a smooth sole. There’s nothing worse than being in mid-turn and almost falling over because your shoes gripped the floor.
-Wear light clothes. You’ll get hot fast.
-Deodorant! I can’t stress this enough… A partner who’s afraid to breathe won’t be a very enthusiastic one.
Club 48 – 4848 St.Laurent (below St. Joseph. Home of the Saturday night ‘Swing
Ring’. Thursday’s is Lindy hop night.
Jello Bar – 15 Ontario (two blocks east of St. Laurent).
Monday nights is 40s/50s night with live bands and a free jive lesson is usually given.
Le Swimming – 3643 St. Laurent. Usually on Saturday nights, but it’s not a regular event. Check the paper first.
And don’t freak out if you don’t have a partner, just find one there. Everyone
is there for the same reason.
Everything you ever wanted to know about Montreal’s swing scene – where to
learn, how to dress, what to drink…