Trending: Swing dancing hops back into fashion
A retro trend from the 1990s resurfaces in Vancouver, with plenty of classes and dance nights to keep you moving
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Tucked into an unassuming East Van bar, a tight band plays New Orleans style jazz and ragtime to a packed house. Adorned with jaunty hats and vintage dresses, dancers twist and spin in perfect rhythm. Swing dancing is back.
Born out of the jazz scene of the 1920s and 30s, swing came out of the ballrooms of Harlem with the Lindy hop, and has continued to evolve ever since. In the 1990s, the neo-swing scene saw a revival of the music and dance moves, and Vancouverites flocked to swing nights across the city.
These days, Vancouver is once again drawing swing dancers with an irresistible mix of energetic live music and retro glam. Fans can get their fix on almost any given night, from swing nights at local bars to a multitude of classes for dancers of every level.
Lucy Falkner, owner, operator and instructor at Rhythm City Productions, is a cornerstone of the Vancouver scene. Smitten with swing from her first drop-in lesson in 1999, she explained that “partner dancing was such a new physical experience for me, and it was magical having these increasing and improving skills and creating unexpected patterns with another person. It was always new and different and exciting.”
After teaching for several years both locally and abroad, Falkner decided it was time to open a school “devoted to the study and enjoyment of vintage jazz dance.” Rhythm City runs weekly classes, mainly in Lindy hop, for beginners through to advanced-intermediate dancers. They also host a weekly social dance, free for beginner students, with music by swing DJs. Once a month, they feature a local jazz band, and once a year, they produce Rhythm City Mess Around, a swing dancing festival with workshops and nightly dances.
When people discover swing, in Falkner’s experience, “They are electrified. It’s fun, sociable and liberating.” She especially enjoys the messages she gets from students who say swing dancing has changed their lives. “There are married couples and children in this world because of connections made in my classes.”
The city is replete with top-notch swing bands, events, and classes, from Vancouver Swing Society which actively promotes the city’s swing scene, to UBC Swing Kids which hosts taster events and classes in Lindy Hop and West Coast swing. The B.C. Swing Dance Club, Hot Club Swing, and Urban Beat Sunday Swing Mixer are just a few of the swing-focused groups. The Jen Hodge All Stars, who play swing every Wednesday night at Guilt & Co., will be having their CD release party on February 22 at Rhythm City.
Falkner has seen interest in swing dance come and go, pointing out that pop culture is an influence, such as an uptick in popularity after the Great Gatsby movie. But she sees the appeal of swing dancing as timeless: “It offers essential things we don’t get elsewhere in modern life: connection, movement, and spontaneous joy. It’s unpredictable in bursts and moments, but it’s comfortably constant in structure and patterns. At its best, you know what you’re doing, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s exciting!”