As you walk into the freshers fair on the first day you’re overwhelmed by the sight of so many society’s stalls and the smell of free pizza. You may make a beeline for a set stall, or like me, you might want to try something new.
When I began university, I left the freshers fair with a bag fall of crumpled up pieces of paper about anything from women’s rugby to model UN. When I got back to halls, I started looking through the pile in an attempt to decide how I wanted to fill my first week at university.
Based on this decision, I turned up on my own, with a water bottle in my hand and trainers on my feet, ready to dive straight into my first ever swing dance workshop. Two years on I’m still delighted that, for some reason, I gave the Swing Dance Society a try. It’s wonderful now to see fresh-faced freshers coming to the first session of this academic year, with no prior swing dancing skills and knowing that, by the end of the year, they could be leading you onto the dance floor at the Royal Albert Hall ready to Lindy Hop and Charleston to live big bands.
‘But what is Swing Dancing?’ I hear you ask…
Swing dancing is an umbrella term for several different dance styles. It dates back to the 20s, 30s, and 40s, however, it has also been influenced by the period of ‘rediscovery’ which brought the dance styles back and has spread them across the world. Now you can find a range of interpretations, from Swing Dancers re-enacting a 20s style evening to a group swing dancing to electrofunk music in the middle of a club!
The University of Manchester Swing Dance society sessions consist of workshops teaching people basic steps and combination of moves from a number of these styles. Followed by social dancing to put what you’ve learned into practise. But unlike other societies, your week doesn’t have to end there! Manchester is lucky enough to have a vibrant Swing Dancing community, meaning every night of the week there are swing dance lessons and socials going on in bars, clubs, cafes, halls, and dance studios.
As a result of the diverse and widespread nature of the Swing Dance community, not only will you have saved yourself a gym membership, you will also access a whole network of wonderful people. The physical, social, emotional, and (optional) intellectual support leaves members winning all round! You can tell, I’m sold. But don’t just take my word for it. I met up with a fellow swing dancer to sit and chat about our experiences, and here’s what he had to say.
“You’re learning a skill which is going to benefit you so much in life, socially, musically and dance-wise. Even if you decide to try a different kind of dance later, that foundation is going to be really useful to you.
“We have awesome socials, an awesome community, awesome music, and DJs, we get awesome food and discounts at Revs, the list goes on! No matter what you want out of it, you will find it. Even if you’re not with the society, you will find that with swing, you will probably find a lot of things that you didn’t realise you were looking for or needed.”
Fancy giving it a go? Check out the Facebook group for times, and come along!