A Sloppy Swing

Posted in Life Lessons from Dance on May 12, 2012

“How’s your swing?” my dance teacher asked when I arrived for my lesson.

“I guess we’ll find out,” I said with a smile. There was swing music playing.

I love the swing. I love the happy playful innocence of it. My parents were teenagers in the fifties and so it is very much ‘their’ decade. Fifties music was often played in our home and many family barbecues ended with dancing in our backyard. I know all the words to songs by the Platters, Fats Domino and Elvis Presley. I often fell asleep to the Platters crooning my Dad’s favourite, The Great Pretender, as it drifted through the open window while the party went on in the backyard. Both my parents had younger siblings so my brother and I got to go to a lot of weddings as children. There was always dancing at the weddings.

I remember my Dad teaching me the jive. At first, I did it standing on his feet and then as I got a bit older, I did it on my own. He used to have to dance all hunched over to be the right height for me. I danced like most 8 year olds would dance with their fathers – with confidence, joy and unabashedness. I loved the twirls and the ‘hold me close’ tucks. And I loved dancing with my father.

Even today, whenever I dance the swing, it is the 8 year old me who dances and she has so much fun. I practically grin from ear to ear when I twirl and spin. I am a very happy, enthusiastic swing dancer.

My dance teacher interrupted my thoughts as we began to dance. Within about 20 seconds he let go of me and stopped. That can’t be good, I thought.

“O.K. We need to fix this,” he said.

Apparently my swing is sloppy. I have a happy, enthusiastic but sloppy swing.

He is so matter of fact in his corrections that I never feel criticized – only helped. We stand in front of the mirrors. I really must remember to wear flattering clothes for dance lessons. Those wall to wall full length mirrors are not very forgiving.

He demonstrates how my right knee must cross a little in front of my left knee and my right toe must turn out a bit in the right triple step. My first steps must be right next to each other and then I can step out for the final step. And then the same going back in my left triple step.

Yes, I can see why he thought my swing needed some fixing. I dance it bow-legged with my feet far apart.

He then shows me the hip action and I start to practice that. We repeat the triple step back and forth, over and over again until the action starts to sink into my body. We start dancing together again and even though I am concentrating on my feet, knees, and hips, my smile shows up again.

Perhaps soon, I will have a happy, enthusiastic and well executed swing!