Committee Bio – Ben

Ben

BenA true gentleman of Manchester Lindy, Ben is the newest addition to the committee. A dedicated dancer, Ben is on the social floor at the start of the night still going strong when the rest of us are nursing our feet. Ben is one of the most considerate leads – he has a lovely habit of making you feel at ease when you dance with him which makes him a firm follows’ favourite. A Dapper Dan when it comes to socials, he’s often spied sporting his trademark jaunty hat/moustache combo when dancing (seriously, there is moustache wax involved). Introduce yourself, you’ll be sure to gain a new dance partner, drinking companion and friend.

When and why did you start dancing?

I started Lindy Hopping on 17th August, 2010. I rolled in to Manchester for a friend’s birthday drinks and a catch up with some old friends of mine (we started drinking about 4pm on a Tuesday, as you do). We headed over to the Locks (Lakota, later on called Missoula – where ML was based at the time) to grab some food and more drinks. At 8.30 and my friends turned around and said ‘we’d better head off; its time for our dance class soon… do you want to join us?’ Having had a few drinks I agreed, not knowing anything. I headed downstairs for the class and I’ve been hooked ever since. Next thing you know I’ve not missed a week in over 4 years (OK, maybe a few weeks off with a broken wrist). True story.

Has Lindy Hop affected you in ways you haven’t expected?

Yeah, dancing has really improved my confidence over the last few years. I used to be really shy and found it hard to start talking to people, now when I’m at a dance event I’ll happily chat to folks and ask them to dance. It’s also done wonders for my coordination, as I’m really clumsy (technically dyspraxic) but you’d never know from the dancing.

What made you decide to join the committee?

I’d never thought about it until I was asked to join. I guess I’ve had so much fun from it in the past It was time to put something back into it and keep the Manchester scene growing.

What are your favourite shoes to dance in?

My favourite shoes have to be my Aris Allen leather soled spatz. They are just so smooth/fast to dance in so I can get all the slides and spins in. But I’ll happily dance in my Dr Martins boots given the right floor.

What worries you the most during a social dance?

My biggest worry about social dancing is putting a slide or spin in and falling over without being able to style it out. It happened once at a dance camp and I broke my wrist, but I’d had quite a bit to drink and really I shouldn’t have tried it. But that’s another story for a different time.

If you had to put in to words what a good dance feels like, what would you compare it to?

Dancing is just the best feeling in the world. It makes you just so happy. You have this rush that just washes over you, giving you such a great buzz. It got to be the best high you can have. To quote Norma Miller, “dancing was our drug, it was our high.”

Name one difficulty you have faced learning to dance. How have you dealt with it?

One of the biggest issue dancers tend to face is what I call the ‘3 year itch’. I’m not sure why, but myself and a few other friends have felt it. Most Lindy Hoppers I’ve met, when they get to around 3 years of dancing, have this big worry that it’s not for them anymore and just stop for a bit and don’t know whether to continue. Sometimes work just gets in the way and you need a break from dancing. But most seem to come back even if it’s not as regularly as before.

What’s the number one rule any good Lindy Hopper must follow?

Don’t be afraid to do it, you need know to when the rules apply, and when you can just go ahead and break them. Mix it up. But always watch out on the social floor!

Who are your favourite dancers to watch?

I really love watching and dancing with Jeremy Pye from Lancaster. He’s just such a fun and unorthodox dancer you never know what’s coming next! Same goes for Jacqui (Madden) and Natalie (Goodwin); they’re just so happy and have got their own style. Leanne (Frank) and Amy (Miller) have some killer swivels.

Is there such a thing as a mistake in Lindy Hop?

There isn’t really a mistake on the social floor. 9 times out of 10, you can pull it off as another move or just style it out with a slide or some silly foot work. As long as you can keep the beat, you’re golden. Heck, a good 20% of what I do isn’t what was planned. I mean, yeah, of course I meant to do that…

What are your hopes for the Lindy community in the future?

I really want to see the scene grow, and see regular social nights come up at ball rooms like it did in its heyday with jazz bands and the like, back in the days of the Savoy.
What’s would someone say your signature move is on a social dance floor?
I’ve been told it that it’s a heel pop. It’s where you rock back onto your heels, and it can be used instead of the rock step. I was once told I did it 37 times in one dance. But I wasn’t counting!

Where do you like to dance outside of Manchester?

I’m lucky enough to live on the border between two scenes – Manchester and Preston. Preston have a great night called Swingaroo Vintage Dancehall, on the last Friday of the month. They always have a great range of bands on, playing anything from Rock and Roll, New Orleans-style jazz to classic Swing. Every month’s different and the floor’s great too. Hullzapoppin’ (Hull’s legendary dance weekender) has always seemed like second home to me – it’s where I first got to spread my (metaphorical dance) wings. Once you get Lindy Hopping it doesn’t matter where you end up. If there is a scene, you’ll always be welcome.

Ben Critchley was interviewed by Leanne Frank in 2015

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