I've always danced something. First it was a bit of tap and a lot of ballet. Later, like many girls where I grew up, I did jazz all through high school. After the army, I discovered Salsa, which also exposed me to music, language, and culture that I love.
Frisking the Whiskers
Swing had always looked like fun to me, but I never gave it a real chance before. If I think about it, I'm surprised it's taken me this long, since it sounds like it would be a good match for me. I have a Billie Holiday poster on my wall and a closet (too) full of clothes that have been around longer than I have.
A couple of months ago, a friend and I finally decided to give it a try, and I've been absolutely infatuated ever since. We go to Dance Tel Aviv every Monday night for a lesson and the party that follows; sodas and snacks included. In Swing, it's perfectly acceptable for women to ask men to dance, as opposed to other couples' dances. Call me old fashioned, but I still prefer it when the guys approach me. Ok, or maybe I'm just lazy.
No Hinckty Jacks Here
People are always welcoming at Swing and no one will act all snooty if you don't know a certain move. I love Salsa, don't get me wrong, but the mood is just different. If I'd have to compare the two, I'd say that Salsa is like a super hot, but kind of stuck up girl, and Swing is the cute and cool girl next door. Having said how friendly they are, I'm still almost scared to out myself as a Salsa dancer, since loyal Lindy Hoppers tend to scoff at "that annoying music". If you don't hear from me by Tuesday morning, you know what to tell the police.
Rena Scharf Khayat is one of Dance Tel Aviv owners, and she is the one who brought Swing to Tel Aviv from New York. They started out with only three students (one of them being Rena's sister) three years ago, and now have over 120. She invited the legen-(wait for it!)-dary Lennart Westerlund to come to Israel for a special weekend of teaching workshops.
A Mezz Rug Cutter
Lennart is one of the dancers responsible for the revival of Swing in the 1980's. He traveled from Sweden to the States to learn from old timers like Frankie Manning and Albert Minns, and is one of the reasons the dance is still popular today. Lucky for us, Rena knows Westerlund from her dancing days in New York. Anyone can see that this kind, gentle man has great respect for Lindy Hop and that it's important to him to pass on what he knows to whomever is willing to learn.
I went to a couple of the workshops and to a lecture that Lennart gave on Swing. The first workshop was basic fundamentals, where I felt that I learned a lot even though we didn't actually do that much. That's a sign of a great teacher, in my book. The other class I attended was aerials, meaning I got flipped in the air! That was all sorts of awesome. During Lennart's lecture, he told us stories and showed us rare film clips that we would never had heard of otherwise. It was truly a privilege.
Joint is Jumping
Another special instructor at Dance Tel Aviv this month is the cheerful Ari Levitt. He came from Seattle to teach a month long class in Blues dancing. From what I've experienced so far, Blues is mostly about feeling the music and being v-e-r-y attentive to your partner. I think Ari should open couples therapy through dance, it would totally be a hit! Ari constantly has us laughing in class and will always make you feel like you know what you're doing.
An extra treat for the weekend of the workshops were parties on Friday and Saturday nights. For the first one, everyone put on their swankiest clothes and danced to the music of Eli Preminger and his Swingin' Quartet, along with songstress Yael Rassuli. To finish off the weekend, we headed over to the beach for a low key Swing and blues party.
If Lindy Hop isn't for you, Dance Tel Aviv also offers classes in Salsa, West Coast Swing, Tango, Ballroom and Latin dance. But remember: "It don't mean a thing..." If you've made it this far, you'll know the rest.