If you’ve been to Kensington on Thursday nights over the course of the summer, you may have notice a group of people cutting footloose on the floorboards of Poppy Plaza form 7 to 10 p.m.. It turns out that this group of dancers is actually part of Midsummer’s Night Swing, a swing dance class put on by Top Cat Swing that teaches different styles of swing dancing every Thursday night, and anyone is welcome to drop in. We asked Top Cat owner and artistic director Andrea Rudiger what you need to know to get you swinging in no time.
What is swing dancing?
“Swing dancing is quite a large genre. It’s a bit of an umbrella term that encompasses a lot of different styles. Swing is mainly done to music between the 1920s and the late 1940s and early 1950s. There’s Lindy Hop, which is what we focus on. Then there is the Charleston and the Balboa.”
What are some of the different styles of swing dance?
“The Charleston has a few styles – 1920s Charleston and 1930s Charleston. The 1920s style was before prohibition and it’s sort of a solo dance, but can be danced with a partner. The 1930s Charleston, when prohibition was going on, was a little more risqu. People danced it in the clubs. The Lindy Hop developed out of Harlem in New York City during the mid-1930s and early 1940s.”
“Swing dancing came from the streets. It’s from Harlem and more of a community atmosphere. I wanted to bring it back to that feeling. During the school year, we do community dances, but it feels sort of artificial because we do a lesson and then people show up and dance. It’s not the same atmosphere as people just wandering by and joining in, which is really where dances like the Lindy Hop came from back in the 1920s.”
Should you bring a partner?
“You don’t need a partner. We teach you to partner dance, but we rotate through the partners, so even if you do come with a partner you don’t stay with that partner the whole time. It’s a nice way to meet everybody in the lesson and make some new friends. If you come solo, you won’t be standing by yourself the whole time.”
Why should people come out?
“It’s a great way to meet new people and I personally love the music. We play music from the 1930s and 1940s, like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman – all the classics. You’re right by the river, so even if you’re not dancing, it’s a nice atmosphere. And, you get to watch some people who’ve been dancing for years and done a little bit of a show as well.”
Midsummer Night’s Swing takes place at Poppy Plaza in Kensington every Thursday night from 7 to 10 p.m. until September 3. For more information, visit http://www.topcatswing.com/.