Next at Solo Jazz: Remy’s Caribbean Shim Sham

RSJ Solo Jazz  returns to our usual haunt the Rising Sun Arts Centre on Monday 13th November and we’re heating things up with Remy Kouakou Kouame’s Caribbean Shim Sham. A full body workout, this Shim Sham is guaranteed to make you sweat and a smile in equal measure! Check out Remy leading the Caribbean Shim Sham at Lindy Focus.

All welcome! No previous jazz experience necessary!
Knowledge of the vanilla Shim Sham will be an advantage but not necessary as we’ll be teaching it from scratch.

IMPORTANT: This is a high energy class. Please bring with you a drink, a towel/fan, deodorant and a change of clothes if you’re staying on for the Balboa class after!

WEEK 1:
13 Nov
The Routine – Getting a started from the top!
WEEK 2:
20 Nov
Finish & Practice – Finishing the routine and then practice, practice, practice!

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.

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No Class: Wednesday 1st November

Our Lindy Hop class with Reading University Swing Dance Society is taking a break for this week only. We’ll be back in full swing next week.

In the meantime, you can get your dance fix with partnered Blues 7:30pm on Thursday downstairs at the Purple Turtle and on Sunday from 2pm at the Rising Sun Arts Centre with our Al & Leon Shim Sham workshop. Check out our Class webpage and Workshop webpage for details.

Learn the Savoy Shim Sham with RSJ!

The Savoy Shim Sham, choreographed by Al Minns and Leon James, is a wonderful routine full of core Solo Jazz steps and some fancy variations too and we can’t wait to teach it at our next afternoon workshop.

Here’s a clip of Lindy Hop legends Al and Leon leading their Shim Sham in the 1950s:

WHEN: Sunday 5th November 2017, 2pm

LEVEL: All welcome – Knowledge of the vanilla Shim Sham will be helpful. This workshop will move a little faster than our vanilla Shim Sham workshop last weekend.

TICKETS: £15 each, pay on the door.

VENUE: Downstairs at the Rising Sun Arts Centre.

Full details on our Workshops page. Be sure to join the facebook event for updates and notifications!

Learn the Shim Sham with RSJ!

Possibly *the most* performed stroll in the contemporary Swing Dance community, the Shim Sham is a *must-know*.

Join us for this 2.5hour workshop where we’ll be teaching it from scratch, making sure you have plenty of time to practice with us so you can nail this routine in one afternoon!

Here’s a clip of Lindy Hop legend Frankie Manning leading the Shim Sham at Lindy Fest 2007:

LEVEL: All welcome – No experience necessary! We’ll be breaking down every step from scratch so no previous Solo Jazz knowledge required!

WHAT TO BRING: Wear comfy clothes and shoes that stay on your feet. Bring a notebook, pen and plent of water – a fan or towel might be useful too.

TICKETS: £10 each, pay on the door.

VENUE: Downstairs at the Rising Sun Arts Centre.

Full details on our Workshops page. Be sure to join the facebook event for updates and notifications!

Alive & Kicking: Charity Film Screening

EVENT UPDATE!

A massive thanks to everyone that came to the film showing! It was great to enjoy the film with you all.

We raised £32.62 on the day and more importantly raised awareness and sparked many conversations about mental health.

11am, Sunday 15th October 2017
Art Department Lecture Theatre, UoR

In conjunction with World Mental Health Day this month, Reading University Swing Dance Society and Reading Swing Jam are hosting a special charity screening of the recently released Swing dance documentary, Alive and Kicking.

Alive and Kicking is a feature-length film that takes an inside look into the culture of swing dancing and the characters who make it special. It explores the culture surrounding Swing dance from the emergence of the Lindy Hop to the modern day international phenomenon. The film follows the growth of Swing dance from its purely African-American roots as an art form, to countries all over the world. Alive and Kicking looks at the lives of the Swing dancers themselves to find their personal stories and why this dance fills them with joy.

Join us for this special screening from 11am at the Art Department Lecture Theatre on the Whiteknights Campus of the University of Reading (map). Street-side entry via Earley Gate and best bus route is the Number 17.

Entry to the film is £2. No advance booking required just turn up an pay on the door. Correct change is appreciated. All money raised from this event will be donated to mental health charity Mind, who provide advice and support as well as campaigning to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. Further donations on the day are also gratefully received.

After the screening we’ll be walking down together to Sunday Swing at the Oakford Social Club to enjoy an afternoon of dining and dancing.

10 Reasons You Should Swing Dance!

1. Get Out & Meet New People

With Winter approaching, now is the best time to start a new hobby that’ll get you out of the house at least once a week and mingling with a new crowd!

Swing dancing attracts people from all walks of life. At our Swing dance classes we change partners regularly so you get to meet a lot of new people in a fun and friendly environment. During the social/practice time after class and indeed at all our social events, all dancers are encouraged to ask each other to dance, no matter what your level (beginners through to advanced dancers) and no matter your primary/preferred dance role (lead, follow or switch).

If money’s tight, our classes with Reading University Swing Dance Society are the best bang for your buck in Reading and every third Sunday of the month at the Oakford Social Club we host a FREE social dance. Our Sunday Swing event is a particularly great event to get to know people within our scene as we enjoy a relaxed afternoon of dancing, dining and discourse!

2. Good For The Body

Dancing in general is excellent for improving fitness, coordination, rhythm, balance, body and spatial awareness and each Swing dance style has it’s particular benefits:

  • Lindy Hop and Collegiate Shag are typically fast and physical, guaranteed to raise your heart-rate, increase your blood-flow and make full use of those lungs.
  • Solo Jazz and Charleston will vastly improve your body awareness and coordination as you build up your repertoire of moves and focus on how you move yourself as a solo dancer, with the double-fold benefit of subconsciously developing your partner dance skills too. They’re also great for fitness when you crank up the tempo!
  • Blues, particularly at it’s slower tempos, is excellent for balance and core stability.
  • Balboa will help hone your more subtle rhythmic skills and finer motor skills with it’s fancy footwork.

So much variety and so many benefits to be had! At Reading Swing Jam we run weekly classes in Solo Jazz & Charleston, Lindy Hop and Blues and can recommend classes in other styles too.

3. Good For The Brain

Swing dancing of all kinds has many fold benefits on the brain. The exercise alone releases endorphins and happy hormones, providing those delightful warm and fuzzies that can light up your mood. The partnered holds of Lindy Hop, Collegiate Shag, Charleston, Balboa and, arguably most of all, Blues give us a chance for happy and healing platonic human touch and connection, which it could be said is somewhat absent from much of contemporary culture.

Then of course there are the benefits learning to dance, partnered or solo, on the brain itself. Learning new physical skills, new ways of communicating, adding layers and levels of bodily coordination as you progress through classes, building up mental as well as muscle memory for moves, patterns,  routines and sequences as well as listening to and developing an understanding and memory of songs, melodies and rhythms, all help build new neurological connections in the brain that help to keep your mind as fit and active as your body. There have even been research studies that suggest dancing can reverse signs of aging in the brain.

4. Challenge Yourself

Convinced you’ve got two left feet? A little intimidated at how new everything will seem? Attending that first class is often a big enough hurdle but every challenge is an opportunity to learn, grow and develop. Remember, you don’t have to be Fred Astaire after your first class! Going to a class is the perfect place to make mistakes, ask questions and practice.

If asking a more experienced dancer to dance seems too much just remember that everyone was a beginner once, and everyone had a first lesson, a first social dance, a first workshop and a first dance weekender… Being a beginner is a good thing! Even experienced dancers often re-energise their dancing by going back to beginner level classes in dance styles they’re not familiar with, or changing roles and learning to switch, or experiencing classes with different teachers who have different material and ways of communicating.

5. Great Music

There’s nothing quiet like the upbeat happy sound of Swing. There’s just something about it that makes you want to snap your fingers and tap your feet and no wonder Lindy Hop is widely considered the happy dance!

Don’t worry if it doesn’t click with you straightaway. There are so many sub genres of Swing Jazz and Blues that there’s bound to be a style that’ll speak to you, it’s just a matter of finding it and going out social dancing is an excellent way to discover new music or even better yet, dance to live music! There are two great local bands who perform monthly in Reading, The Silver Heels on the third Thursday of the month at the Global Cafe and the Ding Dong Daddios the last Thursday of the month at the Purple Turtle, and there’s always a group of dancers in the crowd.

6. There’s A Style To Suit Everyone

Swing dance is a broad umbrella term for a family of dance styles that developed around the 1920s-50s and are mostly danced to the Swing Jazz of that era, but each dance has it’s particular flavour and we recommend trying them all to find out which best suits your personality. Of course, there’s also nothing stopping you from learning them all too, and you’ll regularly find Lindy Hoppers who Shag, Shaggers who Bal, Balboaists who Blues, Bluesers who Charleston and Charlestoners that Solo Jazz, sometimes all in a single night out!

7. Indulge In Vintage Threads

Whether you like your threads authentically vintage or newly designed, it’s easy to find a style that suits your personality and budget.  Whether you prefer the flapper style of the 20s through to the hourglass silhouette of the rockabilly 50s, there’s something about the fashion of the era that almost always looks sophisticated and classy.  And it’s not just a ladies game, the gents get in on the action too with their slick hair and dapper suits. Local and independent retail legends, Frock & Roll on Watlington Street, are a great place to start when looking a fresh new outfit.

8. Plug Into A Welcoming Community

Swing dancing is so much more than just dance classes. It’s a vast local, national and international community of diverse people who all come together for a common passion. The Swing community is rich with opportunities to engage with different community niches, like fashion, history and music, and there’s a plethora of ways to get involved and contribute in your own way! Events regularly need volunteers to help set up and set down, door people to welcome guests, as well as DJing for socials after class and at events. Or perhaps you’re a performer and want to get involved in a performance troupe or a keen event organiser who loves planning and managing events. Get in touch with us if you’d like to be a regular volunteer or have something in particular you’d like to contribute!

9. Travel The UK & The World

Reading is a growing Swing dance scene with some kind of class or event happening almost every night of the week! But there’s also a whole world of dancing to be enjoyed beyond the boundary of our little town. Reading dancers are also a travelling lot who regularly head out of town to enjoy workshops, socials and weekenders all over the country and indeed the world! Check out Reading’s Big Red Dancing Fun Bus group on facebook for notices of where local dancers are travelling to next, including discussions about group travel.

10. Dig In To The History

Swing dancing is saturated with history; the contextual socio-political history of the era in which it developed, the history of the music, the history of the dance’s development and of it’s revival and more recent global expansion. There’s the history of the original first generation dancers, their memoirs and interviews. There’s the history of the venues where it was first danced and developed. There’s history in the fashion of the time and even what we wear today. There’s history to the individual steps we do, where they came from, why they’re named what they are and who created them. There’s history in the films and footage that Swing dancing turns up in, why they’re different to what social dancing was like in the ballrooms and how they’ve shaped what the dance looks like today. There’s also the context of Swing dancing in the greater map of dance, it’s roots in African-American expression, influences from tap and it’s influence on Rock & Roll, West Coast Swing, Ballroom Jive and Modern Jive. There’s a lot to explore if you’re interested in history…

Lindy Hop Classes Start Again This Week!

Summer was wonderful and all but gee, have we missed you folks! But the wait is almost over; University’s back in session this week and so is Reading University Swing Dance Society (RUSDS).

Normal transmission for our regular beginner (Level 1) and improver (Level 2) classes resume from Wednesday 4th October. These weekly classes will be held as usual at Wessex Hall on the University of Reading’s Whiteknights Campus. We recommend you join the RUSDS facebook group for updates and notifications.

As well as classes the super active RUSDS committee have a plethora of society events planned including performances, charity fundraising and trips to dance outside of Reading! Further details can be found on the RUSDS website and we recommend you join the RUSDS facebook group for class updates and social event listings.

A Beginner’s Guide to our Lindy Hop Classes!

So you’d like to start swing dancing but not sure what to expect from class? Check out this lil’ guide to our beginner classes with helpful tips for how to make the most of your new journey into Swing dancing!

Full details about our classes can be found on our webpage and on the Reading University Swing Dance Society facebook group.

What is Lindy Hop?

Lindy Hop, also called Jitterbug, is a lively partner dance that developed in the United States from the Swing Jazz era of the late 1920s and had it’s peak between the mid-1930’s to mid-1940’s. Swing dancing was rediscovered in the 1980’s and has been enjoying a growing revival ever since and is now danced all over the world! What we teach is based on that original dance but of course it’s developed and evolved a little since then. On occasion we may teach a taster class or two of one of the related Swing dances like Solo Jazz, Balboa, Blues or Collegiate Shag for example, variety being the spice of life and all that.

All Welcome – Students & Non-Students

Our Lindy Hop classes are run in conjunction with Reading University Swing Dance Society, but you don’t have to be a student to join in, non-students are also welcome. Please see the RUSDS website for details about class prices and join the RUSDS facebook group for class updates and announcements.

No Partner Necessary!

Lindy Hop is a partnered dance but you do not have to come with a partner to join our classes! During class we change partners often so you not only get to meet new people but you improve your dancing by learning to adapt to different partners.

Lead or Follow?

In partner dancing there’s usually a Lead and a Follow. In broad terms, a Lead initiates a movement and a Follow completes it. Anyone can be a Lead, anyone can be a Follow and some people do both (often called Switches or Ambidancetrous)! You will usually be asked to chose to be either Lead or Follow for the duration of that class to keep things simple particularly when you’re first starting out.  

What to Wear…

Swing dancing is energetic, so the best thing to wear is going to be anything that lets you move freely and won’t make you too hot. Jeans or casual trousers are fine so long as you can move easily in them e.g. not too tight. Similarly skirts and dresses are fine too provided that they’re not restrictive, e.g. pencil skirts, and not too long that your heel could get caught in the hem. Pro tip: If wearing a skirt that flares out when you turn, having some shorts underneath means you can dance without care or worry over rising hemlines.

Shoes

What you wear on your feet is important too! We generally recommend flat shoes that will stay on your feet e.g. with laces or ankle straps. Canvas pumps or similar are generally a good place to start. Sandals, flip-flops and high heels are discouraged for your health and and safety and that of your partners too. You may find some rubber soles too grippy for comfort, so perhaps bring a second pair with a different kind of sole to try out.

What to Bring…

Spares

Having spare shirts/tops with you is recommended for your comfort and the comfort of your partners – dancers often change their shirts multiple times in an evening. Pro-tip: wearing a t-shirt or vest underneath a shirt helps absorb sweat before it comes in contact with your partner.

Extras

Water! Make sure you bring a drink with you. Good personal hygiene is a must, so be sure to brush your teeth before class and bring deodorant with you. You might also find a fan, handkerchief and small towel useful. Notebooks are encouraged – keeping a diary of steps, feedback and notes in general is super helpful for improving your dancing, especially when practicing outside of class.

Practice Makes Perfect

The fun doesn’t end after class, in fact we’re only just getting started! Once class wraps up, the music will continue so you can practice what you’ve just learnt – arguably this is where the magic happens. It’s also a chance to get to know the other dancers in the class and your teachers too so staying on after class is strongly encouraged.

Asking & Answering

Anyone can ask anyone to dance no matter your level, role or gender. All you need to do use your words, be polite and ask!  At the end of a dance it’s polite to thank your partner.

“Hi, would you like to dance?”

Feeling nervous? Let your partner know. Everyone was a beginner once and if you let your partner know your level when you’re nervous it’ll give them the chance to either say “Hey me too!” or remember what it was like when they were in your shoes.

“Yes, please!”

If you feel like dancing, accept the offer with enthusiasm. If you’re not already acquainted, introduce yourself.

“No, thank you.”

If you don’t feel like dancing – for any reason – you can decline with a polite “No, thank you.” If you can – and you don’t have to – give a reason e.g. “I’m sitting this one out”, “I don’t like this song”, “This one is too fast/slow for me”, “I’m having a rest”, “I’d like to watch for now” are all ok.
If you’d like to take up the offer later, say so and mean it: “I’d like to but not just now, can I come find you in a while?”

Feedback

Feedback is important to improving but it can be impolite to give feedback unsolicited, so it’s best to ask first. Giving and receiving constructive feedback can be something of an art but if you’re unsure stick to the following guidelines:

  • Stick to first person observations e.g. I’m feeling x or I’ve notice that I’m doing y when we do z.
  • Make suggestions one at a time e.g. Could we try this move with more/less x, I’d like to see if y happens if we z, could we try it? It’s easy to overwhelm someone with a list of things to improve.
  • Always be polite: be aware that everyone is learning and dancing doesn’t come naturally to everyone..

Floorcraft & Common Sense

During both the class and during the social time after, it’s everyone’s individual responsibility to look after themselves. That means things like taking a break when you need to take a break, stopping if anything hurts and having a drink when you need to have a drink.

When dancing it is the responsibility of both partners to look out for each other. ‘Floorcraft’ is the term given to navigating and avoiding collisions when dancing. That means:

  • Leads looking where they’re sending their Follow.
  • Follows looking where they’re being sent.
  • Both Follows and Leads watching each other’s backs especially when one or both dancers are moving backward and
  • Both keeping an eye on other dancers, non-dancers and furniture nearby.

Occasionally accidents happen and dancers collide. No matter who is at fault, you should acknowledge the others involved and where appropriate apologise. If it’s more than a small bump and someone’s been hurt, it’s courteous to stop dancing and make sure that the injured party is ok before continuing to dance.

Safe Spaces

It’s ok to stop dancing if something hurts or you feel that someone is doing something that puts you at risk, is dangerous or makes you uncomfortable. If you’re able, explain to your partner what the issue is and if you’re not it’s ok to stop dancing – you can just say “I’m sorry, I need to stop dancing right now.” – and let a teacher or RUSDS committee member know about the issue so they can address it wherever possible.

Reading Swing Jam is committed to providing safe spaces to learn, dance and socialise and we’ll do our best to insure that all spaces are inclusive and accessible to ensure the happiness, health and safety of everyone involved. As part of that commitment, we ask everyone attending any RSX class, workshop, social or event to be aware of and please abide by our Terms & Conditions, particularly the Code of Conduct.

No Jazz Class Monday 4th September

After all the excitement of the Reading Swing Exchange we’re taking a little break on Monday 4th September. Normal transmission resumes on Monday 11th September as we continue to explore our A-Z of Jazz Steps series.

We’ll be continuing to working through a whole range of jazz steps,focusing on technique, transitions, variations, styling as well as choreographing mini-sequences, practicing flow and improvisation and dance confidence.

Experienced dancers and absolute beginners welcome – there’ll be something for everyone to work on. Just wear comfy clothes and shoes that stay on your feet and bring a drink – a fan or towel might be useful tool. Notebooks strongly encouraged! Join our RSJ Solo Jazz & Charleston facebook group for more information and class updates.
7:15pm | Upstairs at the Rising Sun Arts Centre