First, it’s time for a background story. I still remember the first swing dancing lesson I took. It was my senior year of high school and the leader of my small group at church thought it would be fun for our little group of three to go dancing together. So, on a Tuesday night, we finished our study early and drove over to Southside Preservation Hall in Fort Worth, Texas.
The first swing dance I learned was Balboa, which was strange for a first experience. There I am, an awkward, introverted senior in high school learning the balboa, a dance where a close embrace is key. Honestly, I didn’t really like Balboa at the time (love it now!) but after the lesson a guy named Riley taught me the east coast swing and danced with me a few times. We were around the same age and it was definitely nice to have someone who knew what they were doing to dance with. It gave me a taste of how fun swing dancing can be if you stick with it, and I did!
From stories I’ve heard other people tell who are now long-term swing dancers, nearly everyone has a Riley who took the time to dance with them when they were just beginning to learn and showed them just how fun swing dancing can be. I hope I’ve been a Riley on some level to a few people as well!
Now, why do I love dancing?
Like many of you, I first fell in love with dancing because it’s fun and that’s the main reason I still dance today.
I also think dancing is a great life long hobby to adopt. Partnered dancing combines a lot of things that are important to overall health in one activity – physical exertion, mental astuteness, creativity, coordination, a sense of timing and balance, collaboration with others as well as a certain level of social awareness. After all, what a great example of this we’ve seen with the lindy hop ambassador himself! I can only dream of being as active as Frankie Manning was at 92 when I first saw him at Lindyfest.
I also feel there is a lot of value to dance communities since historically dance has been such an integral part of many human cultures. I’ve met a lot of people through swing dancing – doctors, lawyers, developers, architects, business consultants, designers, teachers, filmmakers, musicians, artists and more. I think that the community as a whole has a lot to offer to each other and that these smaller communities are important in our modern culture where people often don’t as easily form tight knit groups.
Swing dancing is also one of the first truly American dances originating from one of the first truly American musical genres. I think this makes it something definitely worth preserving!
In the coming years…
In the coming years I would love to see the swing dancing community in Austin continue to grow and become more professional and streamlined while still maintaining the sense of community where everyone is welcome, regardless of life stage, skill level, etc. Basically, I hope that we can make a lot of our processes and marketing more professional and establish our organization as an important part of life in Austin, Texas while still keeping a friendly atmosphere where someone greets you at the door and answers all your questions with a smile on their face.
Something I think the swing dance community struggles with currently is helping newer dancers easily find opportunities and the motivation to improve themselves. We provide the lessons and venues for practice, but we aren’t great at bringing them “into the fold” and making them feel like they have value in the community. Like I mentioned before, most people who have danced long term had a “Riley” early in their dance life. That’s why I’m really excited about the dance ambassadors program we’re trying to get going.
That’s it for now! I hope all of you are as excited about the blog as I am and will also share your dance stories!
Tags: Member Stories
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