Some cultures, in some places, are hard to preserve, but when it comes to Swing Dancing in Adelaide, one couple are giving it an almighty whirl. Luna Godfrey and Jarryd Reynolds run Swing Out Adelaide, holding Swing classes for all skill levels that are relaxed, social, and above all: fun.
Born in 1930 New York in the African American communities of Harlem, Swing is still alive and kicking today, and creating a real community of dance and music in Adelaide. Every Thursday night at the Estonian Hall in North Adelaide, intermediate, beginner and 'taster' classes run, ending with a session of free social dancing afterward.
"Swing Out is all about sharing our passion for Swing era jazz and the dances that accompany it, and we want our classes to represent this", says director and teacher Luna.
Swing Out's classes feature many different Swing dances from the well-known Charleston to the lesser-known, but intriguing Black Bottom (which is far less painful than it sounds, although it does include a step called the 'Break A Leg').
Luna took her first Swing class in 2006, after meeting a Swing dancer from Melbourne in 2004 and finding herself spellbound by YouTube clips. Since then she's danced all over Australia as well as in New Zealand and the USA, dancing mostly Lindy Hop and Vernacular ('Historical') Solo Jazz, as well as dabbling in Blues and Balboa.
"My favourite thing about travelling as a dancer is that you can go to almost any major city and ask a total stranger to dance, and even if you come from different backgrounds, speak a different language, or have different dance styles, you can share three to four minutes of music and create something unique to that moment, and I think that's incredibly magical".
If dance brings people together, Luna and Jarryd are living proof. They met in 2006 at a Swing class and fell in love, first with Swing, and then with each other before marrying last year.
"Jarryd took a few ballroom lessons before coming to swing classes, but didn’t really have any prior experience before that, besides busting out some pretty sweet moves at his high school formal. I feel very grateful that Swing dancing has brought such an awesome person into my life. He's one the best dancers in Australia (I know I'm bias, but it's true!) and he's really, really fun to dance with", Luna says.
Although Swing has come a long way from its origin, the core of it is still the same and it's still being celebrated in Adelaide almost one hundred years later.
"I think there would have been an energy back then that we can't replicate nowadays. They were dancing in ballrooms like the Savoy, to musicians like Count Basie, Chick Webb, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington. It really must have been something. We have a wonderful Swing community in Adelaide. There's dancing on almost every night of the week, and we're lucky to have some great live bands that play regularly as well'.
In 2016, Luna hopes to hold more small-scale events to focus on giving dancers a more intimate experience of Swing. There are also plans to strengthen connections with local musicians to encourage dancers and musicians to collaborate and share in their mutual love of jazz.
"I think we can all celebrate dance every day - even if it's just a little boogie on your walk to work, a toe tap at your desk, or an all out jam on a Saturday night. Everyone can dance if they just let go, and let themselves have fun", says Luna.
Header image via Brenton Edwards of Stories Well Told.