Posts Tagged ‘Swing Dance Durham’

  1. Learning The California Routine

    April 18, 2016 by Joo-Lee

    This classic routine was originally choreographed by Frankie Manning for the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. There is a great deal of discussion about its origins as today’s version bears no resemblance to the original showing in Hellzapoppin’.  I’ve been reading a blog post on its origins on Swungover and if you’d like to know more I’d suggest you read it too.  I also came across this video which also shows how the dance has evolved over the decades a bit grainy, but still fun to watch.

    For most dancers it is the social dancing that attracts us, so why do we bother to learn the routine? It is a great way of improving on the basics and also gives you some great combinations of moves for the social dance floor.  As a high-energy and dynamic dance it will also bring confidence to your social dancing. Then, as you get more confident it is also a great opportunity to take part in performances and show off your skills.

    Our California Workshop on the 8th of May is a good way to either start learning or tweak your technique. We have structured it so that all levels of dancers can gain something from the day. Simply choose the classes that you best suit you. Although do bear in mind that this workshop is not for complete beginners. However, if you’ve been attending classes for about 12 weeks then you’ll be fine as in the improver-intermediate workshop we will be breaking everything down for you.

    For those of you who may need a little more confidence in dancing the routine or maybe aren’t sure if you can remember all the steps in the right order, then why not come for all the sessions? Just think, by the end you can polish off those moves with the advanced dancers.

    Hopefully those of you who consider yourselves as advanced dancers have been practicing the routine regularly and will be ready to put the icing on the cake for each of those moves as well as the jam circle.

    The California routine traditionally includes aerials, but we’ve replaced these with alternatives and will leave these to another day. Have a look at this video for a version without the ‘proper’ aerials.

    For some inspiration, here’s our final example with aerials!

    Ready to tackle this iconic dance and wanting to book your slot? Or want more detail on how the workshops will be run? Just ask us during class or head over to the website.

  2. Social Dancing – What’s It All About?

    February 16, 2016 by Joo-Lee

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    If you are new to Lindy Jazz or brand new to swing dancing, you may wonder why we ‘rotate’ partners in class and why we dance with different people. You will also notice that although some people come with a partner, many of our members come on their own or with a group of friends.

    If you’d imagined that partner-dancing involves dancing with one partner all evening then it may come as a surprise to you that you don’t need to bring a partner to join our class and that we ‘rotate’ partners after every few minutes during the lessons.

    Of course, visitors who are new to social dancing and would feel more comfortable staying with their own partner all evening are allowed to, but we find that within a week or two they soon relax and enjoy meeting and dancing with other members.

    At Lindy Jazz and most swing events all over the world, social dancing is about dancing with a partner in a ‘freestyle’ fashion to music you would hear at most social events. The term ‘freestyle’, commonly used by Modern Jive dancers, means to dance freely as you wish without having to memorise a choreographed routine. In the swing dance community we often use the word ‘improvise’ when we don’t memorise a routine. Usually the term, ‘social dancing’ is used to refer to dancing with different partners and meeting new people through dancing in a sociable way.

    So what is the difference between dance performers and social dancers? Typically, dance performers dance to entertain and they would learn and then perform the same routine to a song, with a partner they have chosen in advance. Social dancers would focus on learning skills and moves so they can dance  ‘freestyle’ to music they hear at the social events they attend. For example, when they hear the band play a song that they like they will ask someone for a dance. They also dance with a variety of partners as this provides an excellent way of socialising and meeting new people.

    In your Lindy Jazz classes you will be learning some exciting moves and fantastic skills that will lead to some incredible dance experiences. Just ask any dancer who has been dancing for a while and who has attended weekend workshops and amazing swing dance festivals such as DJam you will soon find out why everyone who loves social dancing always look so happy and full of life!

    These moves and skills that you learn are like learning a new language. You are not learning just a few set phrases from a phrase book in preparation for a weekend break. You are learning a wonderful new language, starting with the basics so you can build strong foundations and be able to truly understand how to feel the music, connect with your partner and communicate your personality through this incredible medium of dance. If you learn a set of moves in order to memorise a routine to dance with your own partner, that is fine of course, but you are performing, not social dancing.

    If your aim is to learn to social dance and be open to the possibilities of meeting new people, coming up with new moves and dancing to music you have not chosen in advance then be patient and focus on enjoying the classes and practice afterwards.

    If you are new to social dancing, don’t worry about perfecting your moves with one partner. You may find that although your dancing works with that one partner, they may not work with others unless you practise with other people too. The more people you dance with and the more often you dance, the faster your progress will be and more confident you will feel about social dancing.

    It goes without saying, the more people you can dance with the more fun you will have!

    If you are excited and want to learn more, why not book a private lesson with a teacher you enjoy working with or schedule a 10-minute call to find out more about private lessons.

  3. Should I Stay or Should I Go? 4 simple steps to finding your ideal dance class

    December 30, 2015 by Joo-Lee



    How do you feel when you decide to do something new, like learning to dance? Do you feel excited; maybe nervous? Hopefully, not panicky!

    Do you find that as soon as you get to a new class, you have these thoughts going through your mind:

    –       Do I like it?

    –       What’s going on?

    –       I want to leave!

    –       Hallelujah! It’s not too bad!

    –       Shall I give it another go?

    A new experience can be uncomfortable. This is quite understandable as there is so much that is unknown and you’re probably out of your Comfort Zone!

    Over the Christmas break I enjoyed being very comfortable. Getting up late, watching DVDs, eating tasty food, staying under the duvet for a whole morning, doing what I wanted when I felt like it . . . . that was very comfortable indeed! The Comfort Zone is where things are familiar, where we feel comfortable, where we don’t have to take any risks. So why come out of our Comfort Zone?

    When we want to learn something new or get to know the unknown, we have to leave our Comfort Zone and in doing so we discover the Learning Zone, which lies just outside of our secure environment. In other words, the Comfort Zone is where things are familiar so that is a very comfortable place to be. The Learning Zone is where things are new and unfamiliar so this can feel quite uncomfortable. We need to come out of our Comfort Zone a little in order to grow and learn.


    Some people are accustomed to feeling uncomfortable and have learnt to be comfortable about being uncomfortable. Some people are less used to this and can feel anxious and even panic when they venture into the Learning Zone.

    Being in the Learning Zone will bring new experiences, with so much that is unknown. You may have several questions such as . . . . will I keep up, will I look foolish, what will everyone be wearing, what do I need to be able to do before joining in . . .. the list goes on.

    One of the best ways to feel comfortable about something you don’t know about is to get some information. Make a list of questions that can stop you from trying a new dance class and contact the organiser for information. We get new members joining us at Lindy Jazz every week and I love answering their questions. So instead of imagining or speculating about something you as yet, have no experience of, just look up the contact details of a dance class or dance teacher and ask questions.

    Well, here’s the other bit of good news. After trying a new class for the first time, you’re no longer new. The next time you come along to the same class, it’s no longer your first time and you will find that you will be so much more relaxed as things would now be more familiar.

    As I am writing this in the lovely quiet period between Christmas and New Year and thinking of a couple of new things I want to check out, I want to share with you a few easy steps to trying a new class.

    – Step 1: Shop around – Pay a one-off visit to a couple of classes.

    – Step 2: Stay for a while – Find a class that suits you and stay the course; whether it’s a drop in class or a 6-week course, decide how long you want to commit and stay the course.

    – Step 3: Review – Tried this for a few weeks, stayed for a course and found that it’s not for you? Then try a different class and start exploring again.  Love it? Then stick with it.

    – Step 4: Persevere – I believe that the secret of success is ‘stickability’. Once you’ve identified your favourite class, persevere with it. Don’t let one single experience among the natural ups and downs of your feelings from week to week dictate your decision to stay or go. If you want to learn a fantastic skill, go for it!

    If you are new to Lindy Jazz and want to learn to dance, give it a go with a First Free Visit and download the Welcome Pack so you can check out the information you need.

    Happy New Year! And Happy Dancing!

  4. The Art Of Dance: It’s incredible how things can change

    November 5, 2015 by Joo-Lee

    Ailsa Victoria Miller, a talented artist and Lindy Jazz dancer, captures the vivid colours of nature beautifully in her work. I’ve been incredibly moved by her dance story and am really excited to share her guest blog with you.


    I feel so lucky to have turned my life around and have more reasons than most to Keep Dancing!

    I discovered Lindy Jazz when I joined Whey Aye WI, a group aimed at younger women. I went to make new friends and found a new passion, swing dancing! Joo-Lee came to show us the Charleston and I was instantly hooked! A friend agreed to go with me to the Gosforth class and offered to drive. After the first lesson she said it was wasn’t for her and I realised I would have to go on my own. This meant I’d have to overcome some major challenges.

    I’d suffered with stress and anxiety for many years and was unable to do normal everyday tasks like driving and going out on my own. I had been living in a stressful environment with my parents and sister who is bedridden (and has been for many years) with a severe case of M.E. There were other contributing factors too as I’d found out I had arthritis when I was in my twenties. This was an ongoing problem, which meant I had to be on strong medication. To get back into a working environment I volunteered in a Marie Curie charity shop where I dressed the window. This increased my confidence and reawakened my creative side.

    After counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy I was able to do most things again. Driving in busy areas like Gosforth was still something I avoided. I’d found something I really wanted to do and was determined not to let anything stop me, the end result was far too valuable, to be able to swing dance and make some lovely new friends.

    Dancing has completely transformed my life, I’m amazed that now I go out on my own and dance for hours! When I started the class I didn’t know if I’d physically be able to do it. Being on strong medication and needing to be regularly monitored at the hospital. On top of this I often needed to have my knee drained and regular steroid injections. When it was bad I could hardly walk and struggled to get around the house.

    I gained the confidence to use both legs equally (pretty essential in dancing!) and got stronger and stronger. I realised I’d been fine since I started dancing and had not needed any steroid injections etc. I told this to my specialist last October, he said I could try coming off the medication and see how I was. He said I should definitely continue dancing as it could be controlling my arthritis. I’ve now been off all medication for a year and am so happy! I cannot believe the dancing I love to do has actually made me better.

    My confidence has grown massively and I’ve now started my own business as an artist with the encouragement and support of my amazing husband. I’ve always loved colour and it’s therapeutic effect. I’m so uplifted by the vibrant colours of nature and this has been my inspiration. I photograph whatever inspires me and then create pastel drawings capturing the vivid colour and feeling of the subject. My background is in art and design and as I recovered I began drawing again and the glowing colours made me feel better.

    Other people kept commenting on how my artwork had a positive emotional effect on them. This was a revelation and I was amazed that I could make people feel better through my colourful artwork. This encouraged me to want to share my artwork, which is effective both visually and emotionally. I now regularly attend art markets through LoveArtNorthEast who have been very supportive and are an absolute pleasure to work with. I’ve even been part of a Festive Fair at The Biscuit Factory which was a charity event for Children North East. I really enjoy these events and am meeting lots of lovely people all the time. I’ve had some fantastic opportunities and have just been featured in an art journal Sachet Mixte Edition 7.

    It’s incredible how things can change and I appreciate everything! I feel so lucky to have turned my life around and have more reasons than most to Keep Dancing!

    Check out Ailsa’s beautiful art work on her website or Facebook page. The art journal she has been featured in is now available on Amazon – how cool is that!

  5. Push & Shove: How Lindy Hop video clips can be a blessing and a curse

    September 27, 2015 by Joo-Lee

    When watching amazingly fast and energetic Lindy Hop clips on Youtube, it’s easy to assume a number of things. For example, it can look as if the dancers with their ultra fast swingouts are forcibly whirling their partners round then pushing them out, using a lot of arm tension and strength to achieve the impressive results that often inspire us when watching these clips.

    This is all an illusion – in fact, it’s the opposite of what’s really happening. It’s the followers’ momentum and energy that is powering the move and the leader is simply using that momentum, redirecting it. It’s this collaborative effort that makes the move feel and look impressive.

    So if we don’t understand this basic concept of relaxing our muscles, stretching ourselves and releasing our partners at key moments, we can end up pushing and shoving each other. Pushing and shoving is exhausting compared with stretching and releasing. So how do we unlearn the ‘Push and Shove’ habits and discover the exciting possibilities of the ‘Stretch and Release’ techniques that so many of the top dancers use?

    Learn your basics as well as possible. The skills are easier to learn than they look. If you do it by the right path and you practise it well, you will prevent rigidity from setting in. When a dancer dances with stiff, rigid and forceful movements, it can cause their partner to feel the same as we all try to match each other in our connection. Before we know it, we start developing habits that prevent us from dancing fast and limit our improvement.

    Where do we get this idea of pushing and shoving in the first place? When we watch amazing top dancers on YouTube, we feel inspired by them and try to imitate what they do. However, we can make the wrong assumptions that to achieve that impressive move these dancers are using a lot of tension in their arms and body when in fact the opposite is true. They are relaxed most of the time, stretched at times and yes, strong and with some tension when needed, but to use muscle tension all the time throughout a dance will limit our range of movement, and it will block our connection with our partners. By being relaxed and using the right techniques, top dancers are able to lead and follow with instantaneous creativity, focus on the music and enjoy the playfulness of the dance.

    If we want to look impressive like those dancers in those incredible clips, we need to start with the basics, and learn about the mechanics of what’s going on with our own body, and the effect our movements will have on our partners.

    Learning and revisiting basics are key to improving our technique and maximising our enjoyment of the dance. That’s why we encourage everyone regardless of our dance experience to continue seeking out opportunities to practise all the little things that seem simple but will make our dancing much easier and more enjoyable.

    Look out for ideas on how to ‘Stretch & Release’ in my next post.

  6. A Lindy Life

    August 12, 2015 by Joo-Lee

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    “If I didn’t know you I would have bought a caravan”

    Like many swing dancers, I spend a lot of my time, energy and money on dancing weekends. I am always looking out for the next opportunity to dance.

    Recently a dance friend and I were on a long journey to the Hen Do of, yes you guessed it, another dance friend, when she simply said, “if I didn’t know you I would have bought a caravan”. This got me to thinking, what did I do before I got into dancing? And what would I be doing now if I hadn’t got into dancing?

    So, what did I do? I was a school teacher, so apart from working on weekdays and marking books & writing reports at the weekends, I used to play in musical ensembles and orchestras. I even did some housework and DIY!

    I couldn’t wait for the school holidays, so I could learn to dance and meet like-minded people. In the early 1990s, before there were so many swing camps in the UK or local classes, I used to travel regularly to Edinburgh, London and Sweden to dance.

    And what would I be doing now if I didn’t dance? Perhaps going to fitness classes? There again, would I have become interested in fitness if it wasn’t for dancing? Maybe I would do more D.I.Y, try some martial arts classes or go to the pub.  If I hadn’t got into dancing perhaps I would sit on the sofa every night and watch TV, who knows?

    I cannot imagine a life without dancing. I have met so many wonderful people, been to so many wonderful events, become a lot more aware of keeping healthy and enjoyed so much good music. Sure my social life is a little out of control, my house is not as tidy as I’d like it to be and sometimes I long to have a weekend off… but I wouldn’t change a thing.

    So how about you? What would you be doing now if you hadn’t got into dancing? Email and let us know!

  7. Measuring happiness

    May 13, 2015 by Joo-Lee

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    Have you ever tried to measure happiness? Is this even possible?

    In 2010, I was given the opportunity to take part in an NHS project called, ‘Arts into Wellbeing’, which required me to do exactly that!

    This fantastic new project enabled target groups to participate in a variety of arts activities, such as dance, music, drama and drawing, for 6 weeks for free. So, I took a leap of faith, put together a proposal and presented it in front of a panel of people from the NHS.

    Dancing makes me happy so the focus of my project was on how swing dancing in a sociable atmosphere can help to make us healthier and happier people. I was over the moon when I received a letter telling me that Lindy Jazz was one of the groups selected to take part!

    I had different groups of people to work with, from carers and parents with children under the age of 5 to anyone with mild health conditions, and each participant had to fill in a questionnaire to assess their level of happiness before and after the 6-week course I’d provided.

    I taught mainly easy jazz steps with some groups taking part in partner dancing. I was able to share the joy of swing music and of dancing to so many people who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to try it; it was such a great project to take part in.

    When the project ended 18 months later, nearly everyone claimed they felt healthier (although ironically when I was interviewed on BBC Look North about the project I had a bad cough and cold) and happier, with two groups of ladies deciding that they’d like to continue! And so began SwingFitness…

    The ladies were aged between 55 and 75, enjoyed swing music, doing some movement and meeting up with like-minded people for a cup of tea. They found that learning to dance ticked all these boxes and increasing their fitness & flexibility whilst making friends had a positive impact on their lives – now that’s how you measure happiness!

    Five years on there are three SwingFitness groups a week, each lasting one-hour. During this hour we dance through about 18 routines without stopping and although there’s some tuition on movement skills, the main focus is on enjoying the music & dancing. The ladies simply follow my hand signals and silly facial expressions.

    If you’d like to find out more about SwingFitness simply visit our website or check out this short video of one of the Friday morning classes.

  8. Flattening your fear – Why it’s okay to have two left feet!

    April 17, 2015 by Joo-Lee



    How do you feel about trying something new? Like dancing?

    Every week new people come along to Lindy Jazz and for many it will be their first experience of trying a dance class.

    It’s often assumed that you need to be a naturally good dancer, have a special talent or previous dance experience to learn to dance as an adult, but this simply isn’t true. Anyone can learn to dance!

    One of the things I love doing most is to teach people who feel they cannot dance. If you’re new to dancing and wondering where to start take a look at my top four fear flattening tips! Hopefully they’ll remove some of the fear and mystique around dance and help get you started.

    1. Gather information

    Ask questions. This may seem obvious but we can waste a lot of time anticipating every possible answer to that question we’re desperate to ask! By contacting the organiser you can get a better idea of what to expect plus lots of other helpful information like what clothes & shoes to wear. Being prepared can make ‘the new’ feel much less daunting.

    2. Start with your comfort zone

    Make it easy! Make it manageable! It’s easy to be put off something new if we “bite off more than we can chew” in the first place. Look out for classes that are for total beginners or beginner-friendly and build up from there. See, I didn’t say stay in your comfort zone I said ‘start’ with it!

    3. Move to the music you love

    It’s harder to dance to music you don’t know or don’t like. So look out for a class that plays music you can connect with, whether it’s pop, latin, jazz or blues. Once you’re more familiar with dancing come out of your comfort zone and try other types of music or styles of dancing, have an open mind, you may find a new love!

    4. Two’s company, three’s definitely not a crowd!

    And in this case the more the merrier! See if a friend will go with you, even if it’s just to the first class, as this may help you to feel more confident. Better still, go with a group of friends & make it a fun and sociable occasion. You don’t need a partner for most dance classes, even if it is a partner dance, but things are often less scary with a comrade.

    From Monday 20 April I’ll be teaching the first regular weekly classes in Lindy Hop & SwingFitness at Dance City and I’m so excited! If swing or jazz is your type of music, you love all things vintage or just fancy a taste of the cheeky Charleston, come and give it a go! Let’s try something new together.

    Find out more about Lindy Hop & SwingFitness at Dance City.

  9. The ‘Dance Clinic’

    December 11, 2014 by Joo-Lee

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    When I was training to be a musician at Birmingham Conservatoire each student was given one-to-one lessons with a specific tutor. Josef Weingarten was well known for being a strict yet transformational teacher and although he was not the tutor assigned to me, his name is one I remember in particular…

    I was curious about the way Josef Weingarten taught his lessons. When he taught his students on a one-to-one basis he issued an open invitation for other students to come and observe… just imagine your peers being invited to watch your private lesson, it was terrifying! These so-called private lessons did have various advantages, aside from encouraging the students to practice.

    Sometimes we can be so focused on ‘doing’ the task that we don’t have time to step back and ‘look’ at it. These students were given the chance to stand back and watch someone else undergo a lesson, which allowed them to identify any corrections that were relevant to their progress and draw lessons for their own improvement.

    In 2015 the Dance Doctor will be offering a series of dance clinics, which will be open to small groups of 6 dancers. The ‘Dance Clinic’ will be an opportunity for you to ‘look’ at your dancing using the mirrored studio provided, learn how the dance should ‘feel’, receive direct feedback from the Dance Doctor, listen to feedback given to other group members and perfect your technique.

    Without feedback our self-awareness is limited and without self-awareness, we can’t begin to improve. Sometimes we don’t need oodles of information, we need a simple awareness session that reveals just one area of improvement. Identifying that one little thing allows us to make an adjustment and could make a big difference to our dancing!

    “I feel that my aim is to become a good swing dancer and to get there I think the only way is to have your technique fine-tuned” Jonny Howe – Dance Doctor client

    So what are you waiting for? Email for more information and to book your appointment at the ‘Dance Clinic’.


  10. A Balanced Diet

    November 26, 2014 by Joo-Lee


    “I feel that my aim is to become a good swing dancer and to get there I think the only way is to have your technique fine-tuned”

    Jonny Howe has been dancing for around 15-years, attends swing dance classes and workshops regularly and has been taking fantastic photos of Lindy Jazz events and its dancers for as long as we can remember! In June Jonny talked to Joo-Lee about his photography, dancing and… a balanced diet, read on to find out more.


    Jonny has always had an interest in photography, saying he frequently takes pictures at family events and is often asked to help out at family weddings. He tries to take his camera with him wherever he goes, just in case “the shot” appears. Being a dancer helps his photography as it allows him to follow the music and movement of the dancers with ease.

    According to Jonny capturing the essence of a dance on camera comes down to patience, knowing the music and taking plenty of shots! “I think by watching the dancers you get used to the movement of them, of how they come together and then go out again and so you know that sometimes they’ll move around and it’s really just waiting for them to”.


    Jonny started dancing Modern Jive, with a hint of Salsa and West Coast Swing along the way, and travelled to out of town venues to learn. When Lindy Jazz started swing dance lessons in Durham he saw this as a good opportunity to dance locally.

    Initially he found changing dance and music styles a bit “frustrating” and “tricky” because of the difference in technique, music and resulting musicality, “when you move into a new dance, you don’t know quite how to move your body and how to move your partner, you can’t quite fully express yourself and you feel you’re not totally dancing to the music”.

    Despite this Jonny now feels he can transfer the skills he’s learnt, particularly in lead & follow where he says “you realise that you can lead your partner with a lot less energy and a lot less force, it’s more straightforward”. He also says swing dancing “seems to be a more relaxed style of dancing”, where you give your partner more freedom.

    Jonny has spent many a Saturday and Sunday at dance weekenders, including DJam, dancing with people from different areas of the country and even world. He says this has inspired him to try new things and not to be scared, “you see that you can be more extrovert and just let the music take you in a different direction”.

    Private Lessons

    Although he attends lessons and weekenders regularly, Jonny began to get frustrated with his progress and so embraced the help of the Dance Doctor. He says this has been a great way to perfect, amongst other things, his swing out technique and connection, “you get a better feeling for the dance with your partner. You can feel the transfer of energy between yourself and your partner as you’re dancing”.

    How does Jonny feel about receiving feedback from the Dance Doctor? He says it’s is all part of the learning process. It’s given him the confidence to dance with other advanced dancers, helped him to feel more comfortable ‘free styling’ throughout a full song and not be conscious of dancing incorrectly, as he can adjust his technique.

    A Balanced Diet

    Jonny feels that private lessons are great as a starting point and alongside regular classes. He says private lessons have given him “insight into the technique and the correct feel of the dance” and the class environment provides time to learn variations, practice, glean inspiration, and generally relax and enjoy being around other dancers.

    Jonny says there’s “not a magic formula and it does take time to sink in before your body starts remembering how to move”. His winning formula seems to be a combination of regular classes, private lessons and weekenders, or a balanced diet!