You’ll Never Feel Happy Until You Try

How comfortable do you think you are with trying new things?

(a blog about Xpress Your Swing dance camp, and the joys of Hip-Hop, by Leanne Frank)

Seriously, think about it. In a world filled from its crown to toe top-full of financial instability and climactic uncertainty, it is easy (and understandable) to cling to the devil you know, better than the devil you don’t. But if you are reading this, you already buck that trend, simply by taking part in a pastime that is outside of the usual Friday-night pub antics that take place in every other part of the country. But… seeing as you’ve made it this far, why not go a little further?
That brings me to the topic of this post: Hip-Hop. Now, before some of you start rolling your eyes with disdain, envisioning scantily-clad women twerking in front of some overpriced, gas-guzzling monstrosity, please hear me out. Whilst in its modern incarnation, Hip-Hop is very much a ‘Marmite’ genre, there are tangible links between Hip-Hop and the great Jazz musicians of the past. Those links, if acknowledged, can add infinite flavouring to your dance and help you see Swing music for what it really is: part of a timeline for the development of African-American (and beyond) culture, a timeline that is the focus of a dance camp that takes place from the 30th April to 3rd of May 2015 – Xpress Your Swing!
Like most people, when I think of Swing music and dancing, I think of elegance, glamour, artistry and craftsmanship which lets me wander the hallways of my jazzy ivory tower, obliviously dictating what Swing music ‘should’ be and not what it really was, and is. Alas, it wasn’t all soldiers and sweethearts; sex, drugs and illegal activities were as much a part of life back then as they are today. With art imitating life, that was obviously reflected in the music of the time. If you don’t believe me, do some digging into the lyrics of Julia Lee (you’ll never look at spinach the same way again) or the life of Jelly Roll Morton to get a real feel for the sinister side of Swing. Whilst the lyrical content may not be as overt as Jay-Z (a Harlem alumni himself) making inappropriate comments about Tina Turner with his missus at the Grammys, the sweet sound of Swing can sometimes leave a sour taste, as can life.
But back to what we came here for: the dancing. As previously mentioned, a wonderful camp has popped up in Montpellier which has chosen to celebrate this musical timeline through a mixture of Lindy, Tap, Solo Jazz and – you guessed it – modern Hip-Hop classes. The camp motto ‘you’ll never be happy until you try,’ has never been more appropriate as the entire weekend is designed for you to dabble, to tinker and to flirt with other styles of dance in the hopes that you will see that they are all parts of the same musical puzzle. For those of you who read the ‘Flying Solo’ post from a couple of weeks ago (and hopefully working on all your new steps from Taina’s classes), you will understand the benefits of trying out new things and breaking out of Lindy. You may find that you are better suited to Balboa or Tap but both of those things feed in to your Lindy Hop, if you’re willing to try.
I attended this camp in February 2013 and I was amazed at the similarities between Hip-Hop and Swing. It pushed me, it tested me and in all honesty, there were some moments of ‘I-won’t-be-doing-that-again,’ as I left a studio. But I tried everything. I learned that the tradition of new moves being created, disseminated and exhibited on dance floors across the country (if not world) never really went away; the names just changed. Anyone who has ever mastered a ‘skate’ will be able to ‘crank that’ like Soulja Boi, anyone who has ever bust out a ‘shimmy’ mid-dance will be amazed at how quickly they pick up ‘the wop’ in a dance class. The possibilities and opportunities are endless.
Sadly, I wasn’t in attendance at XYS 2014, but there are at least four ML patrons who were and I’m sure they’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about the camp, the classes and the atmosphere. I have said this before and I’ll say it again, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is the most terrifying and rewarding thing you can do for your dancing. Dip your toe in the water, try a new class and let it add flavour to your social dancing. Alternately, you might hate it and decide never to do it, ever again. Ever.
Whichever you decide: you tried, and for that reason, you should be happy.

Leanne Frank

Will Smith and Jimmy Fallon – Evolution of Hip Hop Dance

Xpress Your Swing 2013 – Montpellier from RecStep on Vimeo.

XYS Promo Feb 2013