What exactly is this “Lindy Hop” and swing dancing?
A swing dance is any dance form that is danced to swinging jazz music, the popular music of the 1930's and 1940's (though we're not too purist about it, so covers or new swing songs by modern bands are good too).
Lindy Hop is regarded as the ‘daddy’ of swing dancing, and is where most people start. We also teach other vintage swing dances such as Balboa and Collegiate Shag which are still going strong today. These are all partner dances, where two people dance with each other. We also teach solo jazz, which as the name suggests, is danced without a partner.
Where do I start?
The Tuesday drop-in lesson and dance is a good way to get a taste of what swing dancing is about and to try it out to some music. If you can't make Tuesdays, we also have the Wednesday Beginners classes, though these have a monthly block structure so you'll find it easiest to start at the beginning of the month if you're a complete beginner.
What's "social dancing"?
It's dancing done to socialise! (As opposed to dancing in a competition or as a performance for an audience). Most of our lessons are focussed on teaching you to dance socially with anyone you'd like to dance with.
On Wednesdays, the lessons are each followed by some practice/social time, and on Mondays and Tuesdays following the lesson we run weekly social dance evenings ("socials") where it's normal for people to ask each other to dance and to dance with many people (though it's always fine to turn down a dance, too). We like to invite local bands to provide live music for socials about once a month, as well as having music from our DJs.
We also run events which often have social dancing as part of the event.
(If you're interested in the performance side of things, check out our Performance Troupe).
Do you teach Charleston?
Yes, our Lindy Hop classes teach partnered Charleston as part of our Lindy Hop teaching, both in the 1930's "side by side" style and the 1920's style where you face your partner. Every third month, our Beginners and Intermediates Wednesday classes will be Charleston themed, and our Tuesday classes also keep Charleston in the mix.
What happens in a lesson?
If you've never been to a dancing lesson before, here's what typically happens in our beginners' lessons:
We stand in a circle with the teachers in the middle so everyone can see them. We'll do some sort of warmup to get everyone moving, by copying something the teachers are doing.
We ask people to choose which role (leading or following) they want to do for that lesson. At CSD, this role is not linked to gender, any gender can dance any role. The teachers will usually teach or recap a "basic step", that is, one of the common patterns that the dance has as a sort of default when nothing else is happening. The teachers will ask you to find another person of the opposite role to dance with. The teachers will teach for a bit, and then get you to try what they've taught with your partner, maybe with a bit of music playing to help, then teach a bit more, and so on.
The teachers regularly ask all the dancers of one role to move around one place in the circle to a new partner. This is so that you get to practice leading or following different people and so that, if there's not enough people dancing one role or the other, everyone gets to try dancing with a partner (but see the note about staying with a partner on the question below).
The teachers will ask you how it's going and will ask whether people have questions or problems. While you're practicing to the music, they might come over to help or offer to dance with you if you don't have a partner. At the end of the lesson they'll recap what they've taught and maybe mention any exciting events that are coming up. After the lesson, there's typically either some practice time, or one of our social evenings.
Do I need to bring a partner?
No. Because swing dancing is a social dance, in our lessons we like to keep students rotating so that they learn to dance with different partners throughout the classes. Sometimes things which don't work with one partner will work with the next! That said, we're aware that with COVID still around, you may want to stay with someone you came with, and this is fine too. (Teachers will ask about this at the beginning of the lesson, but feel free to remind us if we forget).
What should I wear?
Loose fitting clothing is best, and be warned: swing dancing is a decent physical workout, so you will get warm in most classes, and may want to bring a change of top. Jewellery can scratch and get broken, so wear as little as possible.
On your feet, flat soled trainers are perfect, and it’s not necessary to wear leather soled shoes. We generally advise students to avoid open-topped, split-soled or high-heeled shoes for swing dancing.
Do I have to start at the beginning of a monthly block?
We don't have blocks for our Tuesday classes, so you can just turn up to those.
The Beginners and Intermediates classes in Lindy Hop on Wednesday do have a monthly block structure to aid learning – the classes will follow on from each other each week, allowing you to build on the concepts from the previous classes. If you are a complete beginner or are making the jump from beginner to intermediate for the first time, you'll find it easier to come along at the start of a block, but we'll briefly recap the previous week at the start of the subsequent lesson.
The Shall We Dance? courses on a Wednesday require pre-booking as a complete course and will follow on from each other week to week.
Can I pay in cash?
It's a lot easier and safer for our volunteers on the door not to have to deal with cash, so we only take card or contactless payment (including Apple Pay/Android Wallet). If you turn up without that, you may well be able to give another attendee the cash and have them pay for you, though.
Can I help out?
Yes please! CSD relies on volunteers to run. Your help is what makes it possible to put on classes and social dances. We’d love it if you could help us out occasionally at one of our regular events by volunteering to look after the door. You will get our undying gratitude (and free entry on that night)!
Can under 18s join in?
We're a small voluntary group which isn't set up to provide safeguarding for children, so unfortunately people under 18 years old can't dance at our classes and events. From time to time we have events where kids supervised by a parent or guardian are welcome in the venue, but not for social dancing.
Our Tuesday venue is a working pub which requires under 18s to leave by 8.30 pm. If you look young, you'll need ID to buy drinks or attend the social dance.
Do you run classes over the holidays?
Yes, our classes run all year round, including some Bank Holidays, except for a couple of weeks’ break at Christmas. Keep an eye on the website or Facebook for more details.
Do you teach air steps/aerials?
Not in our weekly lessons, but we run occasional workshops where we get professionals to teach air steps in a safe way, so keep a look out for those. Note that we don't permit air steps on the social dance floor unless it's in a jam circle or part of a performance or competition, where people nearby can stay out of the way of flying feet.
Why don't you teach this thing?
We try to teach a wide range of material at our classes to keep you interested, while still concentrating on improving the basics and technique. However, if there is something you feel we’re missing, or you’d prefer it if we did things a different way, then please do contact us and let us know. We love to hear your feedback and we are always looking for ways to improve our classes for you.