Coping with Covid: A Guide for Reading Swing Dancers

Never fear, we will dance again! But in the meantime, I’ve compiled a few creative ideas and ways for our community to come together and look after ourselves and each other during these uncertain times.

These should only be considered in light of current medical and governmental guidelines with regards to containment, social distancing and social isolation and in all cases use common sense.

Volunteers: If anyone wants to take on any of these ideas as a project please feel free and let us know that you’re doing this so we can support you by spreading the word!

In all things please be safe and please be kind – we’re in this together!
Much Lindy Luv,
Jenn

Staying Active

Dancing Solo

Dancing with a partner might not be possible so it might be the perfect time to work on your own solo dancing. Learning Solo Jazz can help your partnered dancing but so can picking up some Solo Blues, Tap (you don’t need tap shoes to start with the basics), maybe try some Hip Hop choreography or Belly dance for something different? In the internet age the world is your mollusc. 

Dancing Chain Letter

Get playful with your Solo Jazz. Set up a Solo Jazz chain letter: 

  1. Choose a long swing song, ideally with Jazz phrasing if possible, and pick a main move we’ll call A e.g. Fall off the log and a break step we’ll call B, e.g. Shim Sham break and make a one phrase choreo of your selected main move x3 plus your chosen break step to create an AAAB pattern. 
  2. Film yourself dancing this once.
  3. Invite a friend to the game and if they consent send the clip them. 
  4. Your friend then needs to pick a main move and a break step to make their own phrase, just like you did. 
  5. They then film themselves dancing your phrase first, then their phrase. 
  6. They then need to send you their clip so you can see how the dance has developed and they forward it on to someone new to join the chain.
  7. Rinse and repeat until the song runs out.
Advanced Variations 
  • Instead of the AAAB pattern, try matching your choreo to the pattern in the phrase of the music you’re dancing to e.g.  ABAB, ABAC etc.
  • Instead of one move in an 8-count, consider splicing two or three moves together into a new 8-count combo.

Online Learning

With classes and events unable to run, there’s a lot of financial pressure on swing dance teachers and organisers. Please consider signing up to online classes and maybe buddy up with a friend or more to keep each other accountable virtually. 

Our Jenn Maghzal is looking into taking our Monday evening Solo Jazz classes virtual so make sure you sign up to the RSJ Solo Jazz & Charleston Class facebook group for updates, but there’s plenty out there to choose from – here’s just a small UK-based selection (more international offerings can be found on our links page):

  • David Zilkha
    David is offering 2-for-1 redeemable against a range of future events and classes with Swing Dance Bristol including their famous New Years’ Eve event.
  • Jenny Thomas
    The inmitable Jenny Thomas is setting up online learning, so keep an eye out on her website and social media for more info soon.
  • Sharon Davis
    Sharon’s going online too with her gorgeous swing style.
  • Swing Patrol Online Courses
    Check out this fab lineup of London teachers teaching online over the coming weeks.
  • Vintage Arts Asylum
    London-based dance collective supporting swing dance teacher, musicians, performers and artists offer online content and classes.

Cross Training

If dancing solo doesn’t work for you consider taking up another form of exercise such as running, yoga, calisthenics and cycling. It’ll be great for your mind and body as well as help you cross train ready for when we’re back dancing again. If you need accountability, buddy up and cheer each other on!

Walking

Great news! The National Trust has announced that although they’re closing their cafes and shops etc they’re aiming to keep open spaces accessible to the public. Getting out in nature is not only great for the body but also an excellent way to take care of your mental health too.

Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. Buddying up with one or two others to go walking outdoors could be an option. Head somewhere with space enough that you can keep a safe distance apart as you walk and talk and remember the usual guidelines of washing hands regularly, coughing/sneezing into your elbow and avoiding physical contact.

Stay Social

Watch Parties

There are a bunch of different ways you can watch films together, if not y’know together together. Reading University Swing Dance Society hosted a successful Netflix Watch Party of the swing documentary Alive & Kicking this week, which allowed participants to watch the film simultaneously and use the chat function to talk about the film in real time. 

Or perhaps you could take it in turns with your friends curate a 15min playlist of your favourite dance clips on youtube chat about as you watch via the Whatsapp desktop client…

Resources & Recommendations

If you’ve got time on your hands why not get stuck into the history and culture of the dances we so love and enjoy. We’ve got a long list of resources on our website to start you off on a swing and blues rabbit-hole journey of learning and discovery! From books to podcasts, films to blogs, there’s bound to be something in there to pique your interest and broaden your horizons.

Why not create a collaborative playlist on Spotify with your friends and broaden your musical horizons? We’ve got loads of past Reading Swing Jam DJ sets available on Spotify to mine for new musical inspiration.

Mobile Library

Not everyone has access or finances for Netflix, Amazon etc. Pool your resources to create a collaborative list of books, DVDs and CDs with the group and if one of you has access to a vehicle, consider setting up a mobile library that drops off and picks up books from each other’s homes.

Look After Each Other

Virtual Tea & Chat

Coinsider scheduling a weekly 30min tea time chat by phone, conference call or video chat with folks your community so you can check in with each other and check on how everyone’s doing. Perhaps try extending this to a remote card or board games session?

Community Wish List

I’ve set up a community wishlist [google sheet] where folks in our community can dip in and help each other by exchange goods and services they may require but not have access to receiving. Anything from spare loo roll to a cup of sugar, a trip to the post office or corner shop to walking a dog. If you have something you could offer or something you’re in need of take a look and see if you can help a fellow dancer out somehow.

Support Local Music Makers

Those who make their living from their music could do with a little extra love during this time. Consider contacting the following and purchasing a song, a CD or signing up to their Patreons perhaps…

Local Vintage Style Makers & Sellers

Small businesses are going to suffer during this time. If you’re able to spare a penny and do a lil’ online shopping, here’s a list of some local makers to consider… 

  • Hedgerow Home
    Local dancer Chantal Steer finds vintage treasures for house and home.

Cook & Share

If baking is your thing perhaps you could bake some sweet treats and operate a small delivery service to cheer up dancers nearby. If you know someone in the community is unwell, perhaps putting together a care package for them with supplies to assist them while they’re isolated (remember to always check in with them for any allergies or dietary restrictions). 

Online Classes – Solo Jazz & Charleston

Our Solo Jazz classes are going online and as an extra bonus we’re offering both a Level 1 and a Level 2 session! To join us you’ll need to download Zoom to your computers and register – it’s FREE.
Full details about our Level 1 class is already up on our class webpage as well as class events on our facebook page and dedicated class facebook group. More information about our Level 2 class is on it’s way to stay tuned!

Coronavirus & Our Community [Updated]

Socials

Given the current situation with COVID-19 and the close-contact nature of our partner dances, we’ve made the decision to cancel our monthly social, Reading Swing Jam, for the time being..

We have taken this decision in order to help limit risk of infection amongst our dancing and local community but also to safe guard vulnerable folks in the wider community and limit our impact on our beloved National Health Service.

We will reassess the situation at the start of each month going forward, so please keep an eye on our website and social media for updates regarding any changes there.

Classes

SOLO JAZZ & Charleston

Solo Jazz will be suspended until further notice. We are looking into the possibility and logistics of virtual sessions so please make sure you check our RSJ Solo Jazz & Charleston class facebook group for notifications and updates if we get these up and running.

LINDY HOP

Our Wednesday Lindy Hop classes have now been suspended until further notice. Please keep an eye on this website and the RUSDS facebook group for updates and possible future restart dates.

Coronavirus & Our Community

Socials

Given the current situation with COVID-19 and the close-contact nature of our partner dances, we’ve made the decision to cancel our monthly social, Reading Swing Jam, on Saturday 14th March.

We have taken this decision in order to help limit risk of infection amongst our dancing and local community but also to safe guard vulnerable folks in the wider community and limit our impact on our beloved National Health Service.

We will reassess the situation for our April social nearer the time, so please keep an eye on our website and social media for updates regarding any changes there.

Classes

SOLO JAZZ & Charleston

Solo Jazz will be continuing as normal for the time being. Once our current routine course finishes after Monday 16th March, classes will be taught individually (as opposed to in courses of multiple classes) much like our usual Summer Jazz A-Z classes with a mixture of repertoire, mini-choreography and improvisation classes. We will continue to monitor the situation and act accordingly, so please make sure you check our RSJ Solo Jazz & Charleston class facebook group for notifications and updates.

LINDY HOP

Our Wednesday Lindy Hop classes will be continuing for the time being as there are only two more classes left in the Spring Term before we break over the Easter holidays. That said we will be monitoring the situation closely for developments and will follow any guidance received from Reading University Swing Dance Society, the University of Reading or Reading University Students’ Union. Please keep an eye on the RUSDS facebook group for class updates.

General Precautions

We sincerely hope that there will be minimal impact to our classes and events but in order for this to be the case we need your help! Please help us limit the risk of infection among our dance community and beyond by following these guidelines:

  • If you are at all ill (particularly if you have a cough or a high temperature) or have been in contact with someone who has been ill please refrain from attending classes and socials and consider self-isolating for the recommended 7 days minimum.
  • If you have been travelling recently (particularly to a high-risk location) please refrain from attending classes and socials and self-isolate for the recommended 7 days minimum.
  • Please wash your hands thoroughly before and after classes with soap and water ideally or hand sanitiser with 60%+ alcohol content if the former is not available.
  • Please keep tissues on hand at all times. At classes/events where possible cough or sneeze into a tissue and not into your hand or elbow as these are common contact points in dance. If you do use your hand or elbow to cover a cough/sneeze please wash your hand/elbow before resuming dancing.
  • Please visit the NHS website for more information about Coronavirus.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation during this period.

Solo Jazz: Steps & Improvisation – 2 Week Mini-Course

For the next two week’s we’re going to take a little break from choreography to look at some fundamental repertoire to build our technique and then building in some improvisation exercises to develop recall and flow.

All welcome including absolute beginners – No experience necessary! 

WEEK 1 24th February
WEEK 2 2nd March

IMPORTANT: As with all of our solo classes, please bring with you a drink, a towel/fan, deodorant and a change of clothes especially if you’re staying on for the Balboa class after! A notebook is also highly recommended.

Mondays at 7:15pm | Upstairs at the Rising Sun Arts Centre.
Join our Solo Jazz Class facebook group for regular class updates and helpful links.

Learn to fly this February

Aerials with Michaela & Rupert

SATURDAY  8 FEBRUARY

Learn to fly this February with special guest teachers Michaela Delmonte & Rupert Sanford-Scutt from London. Aerials are an iconic part of Lindy Hop and this three hour workshop is the perfect introduction!

Over the course of the afternoon we’ll work through warm ups, jumping technique before starting with some simple air steps and increasing complexity as we build confidence and practice before finishing off with some Jam Circle work.

Bookings open now – Tickets include cake and refreshments + free entry to our Reading Swing Jam social in the evening. Check out full details on our webpage.

Next in Solo Jazz: The Tranky Doo

Next up on the routine rotation at RSJ Solo Jazz we’re taking at look at the Tranky Doo. The Tranky Doo is attributed to Pepsi Bethel, who can be seen performing a version of it in Mura Dehn’s documentary The Spirit Moves with Al Minns and Leon James. It’s a fun routine with lots of fundamental jazz steps and contains some super sweet musicality and variations that’s regularly performed at our swing social dances. Check out this contemporary version of the Tranky Stew performed by Remy Kouakou Kouame and Pontus Pearson – a mash up of the Tranky Doo and Mama Lu Park’s Stew (also coming up soon)!

All welcome! No experience necessary! Just wear comfy clothes and shoes that stay on your feet and bring a drink – a fan or towel might be useful tool.

WEEK 1:
27 January
Prep-Work – Getting a started by focusing on a couple of the trickier bits!
WEEK 2:
3 February
The Routine – Working our way through the choreo, part 1!
WEEK 3:
10 February
The Routine – Working our way through the choreo, part 2!
WEEK 4:
17 February
Finish & Polish – Finishing the routine and then practice, practice, practice!

 

Learn to swing dance with us!

We teach weekly swing dance classes on Wednesday evenings with Reading University Swing Dance Society, during term time. Our classes are fun, friendly and inclusive, an excellent way to meet new people and exercise your body and mind. Classes are followed by social dancing, a time to practice what you’ve learnt and get to know the community.

If you’ve ever wanted to give swing dancing a go, we’ve got two events this week that are just for you!

  • Absolutely no dance experience necessary for either event.
  • No need to come with a partner – we change partners frequently, so you’ll get to meet and dance with a variety of people.
  • Students and non-students welcome.

Free Swing Dance Taster

8.30pm, Wednesday 22nd January

Join us to find out what all the fuss is about and dip your toe in the wonderful world of swing dancing. This is a free taster, so why not just come along and give it a go!
Join the facebook event for notifications and updates.

Swing Dance Crash Course

11am, Sunday 26th January

We’re hosting this workshop for ANYONE wanting to join our Wednesday night beginner classes. It’ll be a crash course to get you up to speed and ready to join our Level 1 class part-way through the year. This 3-hour workshop is suitable for absolute beginners who are willing to dive in at the deep end or current students wanting to consolidate their fundamentals.
Join the facebook event for notifications and updates.

PRICE

Workshop is £10 for student/£15 for non-students.
Pay on the door (cash only please).

 

Both events will be taking place at the following venue:
Wessex Hall
Whiteknights Campus
University of Reading 
Whiteknights Road
Reading
RG6 6BQ

Nervous? Not sure? Need a little convincing? Check out these links:

Up Next in Solo Jazz: The Charleston Stroll!

For our next routine rotation we’ll be working through Sing Lim’s Charleston Stroll, performed to the Squirrel Nut Zippers’ ‘Put A Lid On It’. This is a great accessible routine with lots of staple Jazz steps, a good one for building up your repertoire if you’re new to Solo Jazz. All welcome including absolute beginners – No experience necessary! 

Class starts 7:15pm | Upstairs at the Rising Sun Arts Centre

WEEK 1: 13th January Prep Work – Getting a headstart on the tricky bits!
WEEK 2: 20th January The Routine – Working our way through the choreo!

NOTE: Wear comfortable shoes that stay on your feet (i.e. with laces or straps) and avoid heels (definitely no high heels/stilletos).  A change of clothes  is recommended especially if you’re staying on for Balboa after our class and especially a drink. A towel or fan may also be useful. 

December Swing Jam in support of Mind

In case you missed the announcement at our November Jam, we’re dedicating our next Reading Swing Jam on Saturday 14th December to raising awareness for mental health and donating our profits to the charity Mind.

We had enormous support last time we did this (check out the massive turnout for the survivor’s photo below!) and we’re hoping you’ll join us to make this year’s fundraiser even better!