14. A Shortcut to happiness: Swing Dancing in London

Want to get fit without trying? Meet fun friends, pretty girls and fine young men? Laugh out loud? Well these are all common side-effects of swing dancing!

When I first came to London seven years ago, knowing no-one and keen on anything that didn’t cost much, I turned up shyly to a free Christmas concert in the Royal Festival Hall ballroom. With a whirl of live big band music and a roomful of people grinning with pure excited energy, my love of swing dance was born.

I’d always loved the dancing of classic Hollywood, and don’t mind throwing myself into new things, but finding the swing scene was a revelation to me. For one, the dancing itself, a bunch of dances that developed along with jazz music from the 1920s-50s, like the Charleston, Lindy-hop, and Jive, is just the most amazing, let-loose fun.

Some people take it seriously, learning until they’re technically excellent, competing and even dancing professionally, but for many, it’s just an exciting way to relax, socialise, and keep fit. And there’s no pressure to be perfect! For me, it’s one of the few things I do where I don’t think about anything. Just pure enjoyment.

And then, I’ve never met a group of people so friendly and non-judgemental as the swing crowd. Everyone is welcome, and gets treated with respect - everyone has been a learner and known the trepidation of unknown classes, of being unable to remember steps, of thinking you’ll never get it. Nobody gets laughed at or judged. Experienced Swing Dancers are all just really pleased to see new people getting into the fun swing dance brings.

Seven years after the Royal Festival Hall I’m still dancing every week and the scene has expanded hugely. It’s quite possible to dance every night of the week, at more than one place – and some people do. Check out www.swingoutlondon.co.uk, where links to all the main sources of swing info can be found.

I’ve never met anyone who said they ‘used to’ swing dance. It feels so good, people just keep coming back. As they say, “there are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.”
Author: Ann Griffiths


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