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A dancer is born! Alistair's journey into swing dance

In the latest edition of our series, we're featuring our residence tapper and dancer, Alistair!

We spent time getting to know Alistair, how he got into dancing, what he enjoys about dancing (spoiler: a lot of things), and more.

Two people dancing
You're bound to see Alistair at any Cambridge festival, like CLX 2023 in the photo above

Q. Hi Alistair! Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Alistair: Hello everyone! I'm a retired software engineer. I make a little money from teaching swing dance, but it's mostly for fun. I started dancing at 34 and lived in Cambridge since 1993 when I came here as a student.

Q. What are you doing when you're not dancing?

Alistair: When I'm not dancing I'm often programming or playing board games.

Q. What styles of swing dance do you dance?

Alistair: Mostly Lindy Hop and Tap Dance, with a bit of Blues, Solo Jazz, and recently some Balboa. I've tried to learn Shag but it didn't stick.

Q. How and when did you start dancing Lindy Hop?

Alistair: I started here, in Cambridge, in August of 2009. In those days we danced on Mondays in the Man on the Moon (now called the Blue Moon) on Norfolk Street. I remember it being dingy and sweaty there, but still great!

Q. And at what point did you fall in love with the dance?

Alistair: It took only a few weeks! I found leading to be quite scary as a beginner, as I'm sure other leaders can relate. But, the Lindy Hop community is very welcoming, and by about the fifth week, I was enjoying myself, and improving.

Q. Do you have a dance-related party trick?

Alistair: A few 😉 My top party trick is Lindy Hopping in tap shoes. I haven't seen anybody else do that yet.

Q. What is it that you enjoy most about swing dancing?

Alistair: So many things. This answer has changed as I have, but there's always been something to keep me coming back.

Early on I liked the new friends, and then I quickly got hooked by the feeling of progression and the doors that were opening for me, like new songs I could handle and new people I could dance with. Also, I was (and still am) amazed that leading and following works as well as it does; fascinating!

After a few years, I already felt I could dance with whoever I wanted, but I started to get into teaching, which I still find rewarding. Lindy Hop and other swing dances are an obligate oral tradition, so I feel that person-to-person teaching is important.

And then I started to love the music. And then the artistic expression. About this time I was making some progress in tap dance, and I've enjoyed working out how to combine it with my other dances.

And, finally, performing. I joined the CSD performance troupe for a few years, which was a great experience, and taught me a lot of new skills and culture, though I can no longer spare the time. A new joy is tap dancing with a band; I'm just about able to do that now without embarrassing myself. I don't often get the opportunity, however.

Q. You've been dancing for 14 years. What's your favourite dance memory?

Alistair: I think probably my first week in Herräng, back in 2011. It was the first and only time I was in the same class with 3 other people from Cambridge! Shout out to Mark Wilson, Maria Drout and Carissa Sharp.

Q. What do you like about the dance community in Cambridge?

Alistair: I like that it's very friendly and welcoming, which makes it really easy and friendly for people who are new to dancing.

[Editor’s note: You can learn about our classes, workshops and more on the Cambridge Swing Dance’s website.]


We hope you enjoyed that piece and getting to know more about one of the dancers from our scene!

Swing dance is fun and easy to get started with Cambridge Swing Dance.

We run classes for Blues, Shag, Balboa, Lindy Hop and more. The easiest way to get started is by joining one of our classes or following us on Facebook to keep track of our classes and events.


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