SwingFest 2021 - Events

SwingFest is a collection of events over the weekend. You can come to any or all of them - from one show to the full weekend of dance workshops and parties!

Here's the low-down

Saturday night - Swing Dance Party

Sunday night - Big Band Extravaganza

Sunday afternoon - Vintage Tea Dance

Saturday & Sunday - Swing Dance Workshops

Sunday afternoon - The Swing Debates

Shirt Tail Stompers

Saturday night - Swing Dance Party

7pm-12.30am

Dress to dance!

A raucous night of Lindy hopping to live music from the world-famous Shirt Tail Stompers!

There will be DJs and dancing in the Ballroom from 7pm whilst beginners can learn some fun steps with Martin & Kim in the adjacent Private Dining Room. No partner is needed for the class and it will be aimed at absolute beginners.

The band will play two sets - 8.45pm and 10pm - then swing DJs return to take us through to at least 12.30am.

SORRY SATURDAY NIGHT IS SOLD OUT

There are still places available for the workshops, The Swing Debates, and the Vintage Tea Dance!

Benny and Pete montage

Sunday night - Big Band Extravaganza

7pm-12am

Dress to impress!

The true Big Band experience as clarinet maestro and renowned bandleader Pete Long brings his 13-piece Benny Goodman Orchestra back to The Bedford for our Sunday night ball!

There will be swing DJs and dancing downstairs in the Club Room from 7pm whilst beginners can learn some fun steps with Martin & Kim in the Private Dining Room upstairs. No partner is needed for the class and it will be aimed at absolute beginners.

The band will play two sets - 8pm and 9.45pm - in the break and after the band swing DJs return to take us through to 12am.

Those wanting the VIP experience can take advantage of a limited number of reserved seats upstairs on the Mazzanine, with the best view of the band - and a drinks service!

SORRY SUNDAY NIGHT IS SOLD OUT

There are still places available for the workshops, The Swing Debates, and the Vintage Tea Dance!

Great Eastern

Sunday afternoon - Vintage Tea Dance

2.15pm-5pm

Dress for tea, dahling!

Afternoon tea the old-fashioned way...

There will be vintage DJs and dancing downstairs in the Club Room from 2.15pm whilst beginners can learn some fun Charleston steps with Nikki in the Private Dining Room upstairs. No partner is needed for the class and it will be aimed at absolute beginners.

The band will play two sets - 3.15pm and 4.15pm - in the break vintage DJs return to keep your toes tapping.

Well-behaved children (accompanied at all times) are welcome during the tea dance but are the responsibility of their parents/guardians. Please contact us in advance if you will be bringing under-16s.

The Mezzanine will be open for a relaxing view of proceedings as well as teas & coffees available from the bar.

Price - £15 in advance only. The beginners Charleston dance class or The Swing Debates are free with the afternoon booking.


Shall we dance?

Saturday & Sunday - Swing Dance Workshops

10.30am-5pm Saturday, 10.30am-1.15pm Sunday

A selection of swing dance workshops for all levels - Lindy hop, authentic jazz dance, Charleston, Black Bottom and Balboa - with experienced professional teachers.

Workshop/class levels

Beginner

No previous experience required!

If you've never danced swing before we are offering absolute beginners classes at all three dances over the SwingFest weekend - you don't need any experience at all for those and you'll learn some useful steps whilst having loads of fun!

For a more in-depth introduction to Lindy hop, we're also offering beginners workshops on the Saturday morning - no previous experience required!

Improver

Rough guide - less than a year of dancing swing.

You're not an absolute beginner - but you're not ready for intermediate classes yet. In the improvers workshops you will learn and refine many of the steps that intermediates are expected to know - see below!

Improver/intermediate

Rough guide - 1+ years of dancing swing.

You're in that transition stage where you know some intermediate steps but don't feel ready yet to join intermediate classes with any confidence.

Intermediate

Rough guide - 2+ years of regular classes and social Lindy hop dancing.

When it comes to workshops, intermediate level is for competent social dancers who can comfortably lead and/or follow at least the following steps on the social dance floor :-

  • A variety of 6-count with triple-steps and kick-steps
  • Swing out, Lindy turn, Circle, Texas Tommy
  • Side-by-side Charleston, send out into partnered ("tandem") back Charleston, crossover Charleston
  • You will almost certainly already know the Shim Sham

Intermediate/advanced

Rough guide - 3+ years of regular classes and social Lindy hop dancing.

Open level

Open to everyone - but perhaps expect a challenge or two!


Whatever level you are taking you will learn loads and have a blast - we have amazing teachers lined up! The teachers are all adept at adjusting the material to suit the particular class and will also be able to move people up or down discreetly if necessary.

Workshop size will be strictly limited to 12 each of leads and follows and partners may stay together or rotate throughout.

Dance styles

Lindy hop

Also known as "Jitterbug" or "Jive", Lindy hop was born in the dance halls of late 1920s Harlem, New York City, at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. As hot jazz music gave way to swing in the 1930s, Lindy hop evolved rapidly, especially at the legendary Savoy Ballroom, where the opportunity for the best dancers to entertain the tourists helped it become both a social dance craze and an exciting performance style! The music is happy and the dance is immense fun - a chance to relax and forget about other things in life!

Whether you're just starting out with Lindy hop or are well-and-truly hooked, SwingFest is for you!

Solo Jazz

Solo - steps done individually; without a partner.

Jazz steps are an intrinsic part of Lindy hop - and great fun whilst providing a healthy challenge, whatever your level! Steps like the Suzie Q, Boogie, Apple Jacks and Shorty George are essential knowledge for Lindy hoppers - but there are many many more.

Challenge yourself and improve your skills!

Solo Charleston

Solo - steps done individually; without a partner.

Lindy hop has many of its roots in the Charleston dance craze of the 1920s - many steps characteristic of Lindy hop are clearly derived from the earlier dance. With the move from hot jazz to swing music, dancers changed from a choppy, up-and-down style to a more fluid, horizontal style with a gentle bounce, so the steps can look very different.

Take this opportunity to learn the original Charleston style!

Shim Sham

The Shim Sham is a fun routine made up of simple jazz steps, generally done in a line, but often also in a circle. Originally the Shim Sham (Shimmy) was a tap routine choreographed by Leonard Reed - which was adopted universally by stage performers so that they could do a whole company encore at the end of a show rather than each act do individual encores. The Lindy hoppers of the 1930s and 40s took the dance and made it their own.

The Shim Sham is considered essential knowledge around the world in swing dance clubs, and is an excellent way to learn the most fundamental jazz steps.

Black Bottom

The black bottom, like the Charleston, became popular in the 1920s - the Roaring Twenties, also known as the Jazz Age, and the era of the flapper. It was danced solo or by couples. Originating among African Americans in the rural South, the black bottom was adopted by mainstream American culture and became a national craze in the 1920s.

This is a great opportunity to learn an authentic dance style that isn't taught as often as the Charleston!

Balboa

Balboa is a swing dance that originated in Southern California during the 1920s (though it may have started as early as 1915) and enjoyed huge popularity during the 1930s and 1940s. Balboa is a dance characterized by its close embrace and full body connection, emphasising rhythmic weight shifts and lead-follow partnership.

Balboa is a popular style today - join our intro workshop and get connected!


Prices - from £21 in advance

To book workshops, please take a look at our handy booking helper or book directly from the weekend schedule.

Angela Andrew

Photo: Lutz Winter

Sunday afternoon - The Swing Debates

1.15pm start, approximately 1 hour

Without doubt one of the highlights of SwingFest 2018 was Angela's informative and passionate conversation about the history, culture and current state of the swing dance scene.

If you are passionate about swing dancing - in particular Lindy hop - and want to know more about where it came from, the people who created, nurtured and preserved it for new generations - and how we can and should continue to strive to understand it and the culture that created it, don't miss The Swing Debates!

The Swing Debates©

A safe space for open discussions concerning issues regarding the Global Lindy Hop community.

Let’s talk about…What we're talking about.

Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, the global Lindy Hop community was catapulted into a season of acute introspection. The responses displayed the full palette of humanness: ‘I told you so’s, shame, ‘I’m part of the solution’s, denial, rebuttal, self-flagellation to righteousness and self-righteousness. A year and a half of reflecting on choices and decisions made.

Now we're back.

The Lindy Hop community recognises that the Black Lindy Hop originators lived a life of mandated segregation. It is interesting to note, however, that during that particular time frame, the British revelled in the abundant riches of the Empire and Swedish scientific thought informed school curricular that Africanus niger was biologically inferior to other human groups.

50 years later came the Lindy Hop Big Bang. The lived experiences, the generational infusions of culture, the distinct mores coming together. At the head of this movement, at the nucleus of the interactions of atomic proportions were Black people. The Black living legends were adored, they were adulated. They were aspirational models. Black teachers were few yet influential. As time went on, the living legends transitioned to ancestors. The scene grew in numbers whilst the relative proportion of black teachers decreased. How and why that is so has been part of discussions led by organisations such as Collective Voices For Change.

Meanwhile, in the everyday world outside our Lindy Hop bubble, bills have to be paid and children fed.

On 1 January 2009, the new Discrimination Act entered Swedish legislation. In 2019, the state of New York passed a law against hair discrimination, soon to be followed by other states in the US. Here in the UK, the 2021 Sewell report concluded that there was no institutional racism in the UK. How do these laws/legislations work at an everyday level? How does the individual, who is steeped in generations of implicit over and understandings apply these, if at all?

As members of the global Lindy Hop scene, what choices do we make? What choices are available? Perhaps interestingly, what mores obfuscate these questions?

35 or so years on from the Big Bang, Black legends have become mascots, black teachers are desirable commodities. Black is now the new black.

But what is black?

What colour is black? How black is black? Is black black? Is black just a trend or will it become a classic? Is “being black” worth the price tag?

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Created and facilitated by Angela Andrew, a veteran on the London and World Lindy Hop scene. She has a background in Informal and Community Education and brings her experience from working with grassroots groups and communities to her chosen profession and passion. Angela considers guardianship of Lindy Hop, and its derivatives, a key component to its longevity as a social, cultural and artistic medium.

Price - £10 or FREE if booked with the tea dance