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…