“Honey, I’m going swinging.” Unfortunately for my S.O, I like winding him up (teehee) and those four words definitely did the trick. In my defence, it wasn’t exactly a lie.
Last Wednesday, fellow Urban List writer Tash and I took a trip to the 1930s via a swing dancing class in Parnell. For the uninitiated, swing dancing is a vintage partner dance from the jazz age (get your mind out of the gutter), originating from Harlem and making its way across the globe. It experienced a revival in the ’80s and has now become a hip and happening thing to get into, even in our fine city at the bottom of the world.
Maya Shapira and Rupert Sanford-Scutt are the groovy duo behind Swing Out Central Parnell. They both started swing dancing five years ago and have taught in Tel Aviv and London before making their way to little ol’ NZ.
We rocked up to Jubilee Hall in Parnell expecting it would be just us and a handful of others. Wrong. So, so wrong. The hall was literally jam-packed with mere mortals like ourselves—around 80 per cent of them were giving swing dancing a crack for the first time with the rest using the class as a warm up for the more advanced one straight after.
After we all popped on our name tags and took a complimentary mint (stinky breath ain’t going to do you no favours), we shuffled into position.
The class was split into leaders and followers, typically this would be dudes and chicks but there were a bunch of girls taking the lead, which was pretty rad to see. Rupe and Maya had us doing rock-step kick-kick in sync until we nailed it. At this stage, everyone looked considerably chuffed with themselves, little did we know that we were about to be partnered off and forced to make it work with another human.
We were split into two circles, the music started and it was all go. If I’m being honest, my main goal was to not kick the person I was dancing with in the shin but the more we cranked out our rock-step, the more that worry disappeared. After all, most of us were total rookies.
The great thing about Swing Out Central’s free beginners class is that you don’t stick with the same partner the whole time. The leaders stayed put and the followers moved on every minute, giving their soon-to-be past partner an enthusiastic hi-5 as they went. That’s another great thing—everyone is so damn happy! There’s something about being in the same ‘I don’t know what I’m doing but YOLO’ boat as people that brings a smile to your dial.
Maya and Rupe added an extra move every five minutes—jump ins, jump outs, twirls, swapping sides…you get the idea. Their demonstrations were nothing short of impressive, triggering claps, whistles and ‘yeeeeeows’ throughout the whole hall.
The last five minutes of the hour-long class saw us doing the routine from top to bottom. Despite the size of the group, Maya and Rupe managed to break down the dance in such a digestible way that even those of us with two left feet managed to master the dance.
Once the hour was up, we posed for the obligatory class photo before the regulars turned up the music and kept on swinging. While Tash and I were banking on being out of there by 8pm, they couldn’t get rid of us. There’s something addictive about mastering something for the first time and Rupe and another seasoned swinger swept us to the D-floor before we would say see ya later.
It’s fair to say we both loved being swingers for a night (again—mind out of the gutter). Our hearts filled we happiness, we waved the friendly folk goodbye. Thanks for having us—we can’t wait to kick up our heels again soon.
Should you aspire to be a swinger yourself, Swing Out Central has several venues around Auckland. Check them out on Facebook. There’s still space available in their current six-week block with a class tonight (!) from 7pm at Parnell’s Jubilee Hall. And, if it’s your first time, the first class is free. So, what are you waiting for?
We also gave twerking a go. Read all about it here.
Image credit: MTL