So what's the big deal? Isn't swing dancing just something you learn in a high school P.E. class or something you try that one time you were at a jazz bar?
Buckle your seat belts, friends. Swing dance has been a big part of my life for over five years. I want to share why it's been such a positive and valuable part of my life. My hope is that it will inspire you to go back to that second swing dance class or finally go with that one friend, who won't stop inviting you to swing dance events.
- SELF EXPRESSION -
I know dance lessons start out feeling awkward, clumsy, and even ridiculous. At that point, it’s hard to imagine that these new steps you’re learning could be the means for you to unleash the creativity within you. Shuffling around the room with a group of other goofy folks seems like the last activity that would lead to you being able to sink into your body - for you to embody and express the many feelings, ideas, & stories that make up you. How wild that tripping over your own feet for a time could be the way you discover a whole new part of yourself. But keep learning! Your body has a story to tell and these skills will enable you to explore & express it.
- HUMAN CONNECTION -
Feel uncomfortable creating a genuine connection with others once you’ve put your phone down? Dancing allows you to connect with people even if you don’t speak the same language. Dance and music are universal languages. As you learn a specific dance, the connection with others who know and love that dance as well becomes even more meaningful. For me, this type of interaction is an exciting and delightful way to meet new people and build relationships with old friends.
- EXPERIENCE CULTURE -
One of the reasons I love traveling is to go beyond the textbooks or wikipedia pages and really engage with a culture, understanding of the world, and different traditions. I’ve found that this experience doesn’t have to be through a plane ticket. As I’ve learned different styles of dance, I’ve learned so much about past and present cultures. Dance styles are created by people to tell a story or express a part of their shared life. One of the most engaging ways to learn these histories and cultures is from music and movement. Participating in dances from cultures that are not my own is an extreme honor. I try not to take it lightly. I encourage everyone to discover and embrace all aspects of a dance, especially its roots and the people who made it possible.
- ALL AGES WELCOME -
Everyone on the dance floor is young at heart! The dance floor is one of the few places I’ve seen people from 1 years-old to 70+ years-old interact & enjoy each other’s company. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how you move your body, or what moves you know. If you want to dance, there’s a place for you on the dance floor. I may be biased, but I feel that the swing dance scene is an especially welcoming community. The majority of dancers I’ve encountered are more than happy to share a dance with anyone - regardless of age - who’s respectful of others and excited to express themselves through movement. There are dance moves and styles to fit any body type and ability!
- PRACTICE MINDFULNESS -
Being “mindful” is all the rage right now! It sounds like a great idea. Get out of your head and be present to the moment. Don’t make judgments but simply observe what is happening as it unfolds. But it’s not so easy for my over-active mind. However, I’ve found that one place I regularly practice mindfulness is during a dance. Once I’ve reached a certain comfort level with the dance steps, dancing becomes simply attention and response to the music and my dance partner. This happens moment by moment. At times, I’m tempted to judge the steps I just took or try to anticipate what will come next. Sometimes my mind even floats to what I’m going to have for dinner or how many cups of coffee I’ve already had that day. But my favorite dances always happen when I’m able to let all that go. My attention is 100% on the present moment: what’s happening in the music and what my dance partner is creating. It's actually liberating and rejuvenating. It’s a feeling of freedom that I’ve found in few other places.
- IT'S MORE FUN THAN A GYM -
I’m lazy. I can’t run for two minutes without my entire body begging me to stop and never do such a thing again. But turn on the music, and I’m bouncing, running, & shuffling around the room all night long. There’s something about the music and the creative expression music inspires that makes me fully embrace and enjoy every hop, skip, & jump. I often get to the end of the song, panting for air without even realizing how energetically I’ve been dancing. Anyhow, if you hate treadmills as much as I do but want to challenge your body - try swing dancing!
Of course, these are just a few of my personal top reasons that I love lindy hop, balboa, the charleston, east coast swing, and the many more swing dances. I'm sure you'll find your own meaningful reasons to keep up the practice and to keep getting on the dance floor. Check out Abbey's blog for eight more reasons you should start swing dancing!