Martin Ellis is the Director of the Swingland dance school and events company with an Art Deco-styled Winter Ball coming up on December 16. The ongoing success of this venture that will soon be celebrating 20 years of business stands testament to the fact that Swing is bigger now than it has ever been. Ellis says that with the current trend dating back to the 1980s the revival has actually lasted longer than the original Swing era!
What is Swingland?
“Swingland is a dance school running drop-in classes, workshops and events in the swing dance styles of the early-mid 20th Century – primarily Lindy hop and Charleston and their derivatives. We are based predominantly in South and West London with regular weekly classes and dancing in Balham, Hammersmith, Brixton, Twickenham and Windsor, as well as monthly dance nights in the area and annual swing balls. We also offer private classes for individuals, couples and groups. Our classes and events attract people of all ages and walks of life – predominantly 20-50 age range. No partner is required and we rotate people around in all our classes.”
You have been going 20 years, what trends have you noticed in that time?
“Our classes have grown steadily over almost 20 years. We strive for quality and so are less affected by trends although clearly there is a cyclical nature to the popularity of the music and therefore the dance – when something wanes in the mainstream it waxes in the underground!”
Tell us briefly about your ball – why are you doing it and what can guests gain from it?
“Swingland’s Winter Swing Ball is a fun night out for everyone – from those who have absolutely no dance experience (we kick off with an absolute beginners class) to accomplished swing dancers. It’s a chance to put on the glad rags and enjoy a night of great, authentic swing music in a lovely period dance hall. It’s a great way to swing into the party season as it is on 16th December.”
Where to you should the balance lie between dressing and dancing? Do many people embrace both or do you see dancers in trainers and dressers hanging round by the bar?
“We like people to dress up for the ball – there will always be one or two who don’t make so much of an effort but by and large people really get into the spirit. I see it as respect for the music, the dance and above all, everyone else! There was much more of a problem with the idea of dressing smartly in the grunge era of the 90s – nowadays it’s back in fashion so to speak!”
Why do people want to embrace this era?
“I don’t think it’s about people embracing a particular era – of course the original swing era gave rise to the music and dance styles that we celebrate and promote but the current “renaissance” era (1980-today) – if that’s the right term – is now three times as long as the original swing era (1935-46) – although of course for Lindy hop the original era was the era of the Savoy Ballroom, 1926-1958. But either way the modern era is longer.”
Do you offer any other services?
“Through our network of dance and music contacts we can also offer a range of services including being able to provide or recommend DJ’s, dance groups, bands and more. We can also teach in schools.”
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