Author Archives: tinashield

Online Classes

You may be stuck in the house but you can still dance! We are now running pay as you feel classes on Facebook Live. You can tune in for the live streams, ask questions and chat with other dancers or you can watch the videos on your own schedule. Live streaming classes and videos from past classes are available on our Facebook page. Recap videos are on our Youtube channel.

It’s time for Charleston!

Charleston workshop at Underneath the Stars Festival

Our Saturday Hot Charleston workshops are now running weekly in your living room! Each week we teach a basic routine of vintage Charleston moves appropriate for brand new dancers with challenging variations for more experienced dancers. Timings are 15:30-17:30, every Saturday on Facebook Live. For these classes we’ve been using music from some of our favourite local dance bands including David Broad, Washboard Resonators, Red Canary Dance Band, Alligator Gumbo and The After Hours. The workshops are pay as you feel so you are more than welcome to join even if lockdown has put you in a tight spot. If you can do the class when its live you can join in the banter but if that’s not the best time you can still watch the class like a video whenever you like. Rob is also doing short recap videos for those who just want a quick refresher of routines from past weeks. You can find those on our Youtube channel

Wednesdays are for the classics

The Big Apple

This week we started a new virtual class series called Your Wednesday Routine! These classes will run 8:30-9:30pm on Wednesday evenings. We’ll be teaching a variety of vintage solo routines starting with the Tranky Doo. These are very interactive classes with opportunities to ask questions and lots of practice. Previous weeks’ classes will be available after the live stream ends so if you missed tonight’s class don’t worry. You can still catch up and join us next week!


Saturdays 3:30-5:30pm
Hot Charleston

Wednesdays 8:30-9:30pm
Your Wednesday Routine


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How to practice with a partner without falling out

Even though classes and dances have all been cancelled for social distancing some of you may be lucky enough to have a dance partner at home to practice with. If you do there is a wealth of material available for you out there. However we know that lots of couples struggle to work on their dancing outside of class because it ends badly. So we thought this would be a good time to give you our best tips for practicing with your significant other without falling out!


We think we are uniquely qualified for this because we dance and teach together and we’ve been married for 7 years. TLDR when we first started dating we had a lot of arguments about dancing. We’d been working together before that just fine but as soon as we started dating it became a real struggle. Eventually we developed our own process for avoiding arguments and we think it’s really effective. We’re both very stubborn so if this works for us it will definitely work for you too.

Why is working with someone you care about so hard?

Working on your dancing with someone that you’re very close to can be more difficult than working with someone that you hardly know. This is one of the many reasons why we rotate partners in classes.


A few possible reasons: Maybe we feel like we can be more direct with our partner whereas with someone else we might make an effort to be polite or try not to hurt their feelings. Your partner is someone you rely on to validate and support you when you are feeling vulnerable so getting negative feedback from that person can actually hurt more or make you angry or defensive. 


Our Four Step Process


To set the scene, let’s say you’ve decided to work on videos from workshops you’ve attended or a specific skill like fast dancing. You start practicing and sooner or later you hit a snag, something isn’t working. Here’s what needs to happen next:


1. Take Responsibility

Appreciate that problems are rarely just one person’s fault. This is true no matter what–no matter which role you’re dancing, even if one of you is much more experienced than the other. In a partner dance everything is connected so even if you’re certain that you know what your partner is ‘doing wrong’, they may be doing it in response to something that you’re doing–so who’s fault is it then? It’s not important! 


You must assume that both of you are partially responsible for creating the problem and that both of you can help fix the problem. If it helps it might be a good time to clarify your goals. If your goal is to dance well together, then, again, it’s not about who is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ even if you could accurately assess that. It’s about both of you doing what you can to try to make the dance work.


2. Don’t Blame Your Partner

If you have fully embraced step 1, then step 2 should be a no brainier. But sometimes we need to stop to make sure that our language reflects the idea that no one is ‘wrong’ or ‘right’. For example you might catch yourself saying something like: “You’re doing that thing with your arm again” or “No, you’re supposed to go this way”. Both of these statements are examples of partner blaming. As soon as you catch yourself saying something like this STOP. Remember that whatever you are noticing is partially your fault. Focus on stating the problem in a neutral way “hmm that didn’t feel quite right” or “I think we can do that better”. If this sounds like beating around the bush you may need to review step one.


3. Focus on Yourself

Once you’ve acknowledged that something isn’t working right (in a lovely non-blamey way) you can get to work on making it better. Instead of trying to ‘fix’ your partner you are first going to focus on yourself. Think of something that you yourself could try to do differently to fix the problem and then try it. Mention the things that you are trying to your partner. It’s important to talk about it so that your partner can appreciate that you are trying to make changes to your own dancing before suggesting that they change what they are doing. They can also make changes to what they’re doing and talk about what they’re trying.


If you have both had the chance to try fixing the problem by identifying ways to change your own dancing, at that point you may proceed to suggesting changes to your partner. However, you must always start by focusing on yourself first. You cannot skip that step.


4. Try All Suggestions

This becomes most important if you get to a point where you are suggesting changes to your partner. It is very important that both of you try everything that is suggested. If you are happy to suggest changes to your partner and expect that they will try those ideas then you must also be willing to modify your dancing in the ways that they suggest.


And that’s it :) The most difficult part is remembering these rules and sticking to the process. Practice until you get it right and you should be able to avoid most arguments. If this makes a difference to how you practice at home let us know. We’d love to hear from you!

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COVID 19 Update

In light of the announcement today from the government we will need to cancel all of our Wednesday Night Courses and Hot Charleston classes and workshops for the foreseeable future. Bella Balboa, Lindy Fridays and Moortown Swing Jive classes have also been cancelled as have most of the events we had coming up over the next few months.

It’s been a bittersweet evening for the Swing Dance Leeds team. In addition to putting the word out about all the various cancellations, we’ve also been overwhelmed with the kind words and messages of support we’ve received from you, our wonderful dance community.

We’re trying to come up with creative ways to keep you dancing (and keep ourselves afloat). This will probably take the form of video instruction of some kind. If you have any ideas of what would keep you going in isolation please let us know. For the moment we have vouchers available for courses, private classes and Hot Charleston workshops. If you want to give yourself something to look forward to when this all blows over get yourself or someone you like a Swing Dance Leeds Voucher.

Love Rob, Tina (and Talia)

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Let Yourself Go!

How do you go from executing moves to really inspiring others with your dancing? How do you know when to throw in cool variations? How do you dance to a song you’ve never heard before? How do you hit a break? How do develop your own style? We’ll tackle all these questions and more in our upcoming Musicality Course. This is a really special one that only comes around once a year!

Musicality Course
Wednesdays; 29th April – 20th May
8:30 – 9:30pm at The Dance Studio Leeds
£32 whole course

Once you have a solid grasp of the basics and a good handful of moves under your belt its time to start taking the moves and steps you learn in class and turning them into a three way conversation between you, your partner, and the music.

We take a practical and structured approach to musicality. We’ll help you break out of your defaults and bring more of your own personality into the dance. We’ll also look at how to work with a partner, and take inspiration from the music and those around you.

As with all our courses the class size will be small so we can answer any questions and give individual attention. No partner required but pre-booking is essential.

Email swingdanceleeds@gmail.com to book your place

Here’s a favourite clip of ours, showing how musicality doesn’t have to be choreographed polished routines but just making it up as you go…

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Bring on the Fun!

Adulting is hard! Sometimes the news is depressing, the future is scary, and work is just a bit…meh. That’s when you know its time to shake things up a bit! Get a little exercise, step outside your comfort zone, maybe even make some new friends. Our Lindy Hop Fundamentals Course is just the thing to add some spice to your life.

You’ll learn the basic steps and some core moves. Before you know it you’ll be swinging your heart out on the dance floor like the cool cat you know you are! You don’t even need a partner–just come as you are.

This course is appropriate for beginners, improvers, and anyone else who wants to build their basics. No partner required but pre-booking is essential.

Wednesdays 1st – 22nd April 2020
6:30-7:30pm
at Dance Studio Leeds
cost: £32 for the 4wk course

to register email: swingdanceleeds@gmail.com

For a full list of course dates visit our courses page

Have a look at this video for a taster of what you can expect on the course:

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Our Frankie’s Moves Course is Back!

frankie-Manning multi image.jpg

One of our most popular courses is back again featuring signature moves from lindy hop legend Frankie Manning.

Who was Frankie Manning? He was one of the greatest lindy hoppers of his time (he was the first to add air steps to the dance!). He was also hugely instrumental in the swing revival. As a young man he performed all over with Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, in his later years he traveled the world teaching at lindy hop events, large and small, nearly every weekend. He became known as the Ambassador of Swing and even got his own google doodle a couple of years ago. Come along and learn some of Frankie’s favourite moves.

The Frankie’s Moves Course is appropriate for dancers who are comfortable with the basics and ready to add some new classic moves to their repertoire.

Wednesdays, 1st-22nd April
8:30-9:30pm
at Dance Studio Leeds
cost: £32 for the 4wk course

Pre-payment required. To register email: swingdanceleeds@gmail.com

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Meet the Pioneers of Lindy Hop

Lindy Hop has been around a long time and has a rich and interesting history. Here are a few pioneers of the dance that you should know about:

George “Shorty” Snowden

George "Shorty" Snowden and Big Bea

The world’s first Lindy Hopper–often credited with inventing the dance after he and his partner, Mattie Purnell, did a breakaway step in the dance marathon at Harlem’s Rockland Palace in 1928. After winning the dance marathon he became a very sought after dancer and started the first Lindy Hop performance group Shorty Snowden Dancers He is also said to have come up with the name “Lindy Hop” though this may be an urban legend.

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Herbert “Whitey” White 

“Whitey” was a bouncer at the Savoy Ballroom (his nickname comes from the white streak in his hair). He convinced the management at the Savoy to turn a corner of the ballroom into a performance area where the better dancers could show off their moves in jam circles for the entertainment of wealthier patrons. Eventually Whitey started putting together a performance troupe, Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, that would go on to tour the world and appear in several Hollywood films including Hellzapoppin and A Day at the Races

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Al Minns & Leon James

Leon James won the first Harvest Moon Ball in 1935 (with Edith Matthews). Al Minns was also one of the more talented dancers at the Savoy. Both became members of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. They also went on to play an important role in keeping lindy hop alive and sharing it with later generations. In later years Al and Leon often performed together both solo routines (including their own version of the Shim Sham) and partnering with each other. Both dancers contributed to The Spirit Moves, a series of video clips filmed in the 1950s that were the primary resource for many revival era dancers interested in learning lindy hop and vernacular jazz before youtube.

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Willa Mae Ricker

I really wanted to include as many women as possible in this list. Unfortunately, because of the time period, it’s really difficult to find much information at all about the influential ladies of Lindy Hop (beyond just names). Willa Mae is one of the few ladies that I could find anything about at all. She was one of the original members of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers and appears in A Day at the Races and Hellzapoppin’. In the 1940s she went on to manage the Congaroos (considered Whitey’s greatest dance troupe). You may recognise Willa Mae from the 1943 LIFE spread about Lindy Hop. She also appears in The Spirit Moves.

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Frankie Manning 

Probably the most famous Lindy Hopper of all time and for good reason. Frankie was one of the more accomplished dancers at the Savoy Ballroom tapped for Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. He was a leader in the group and their primary choreographer. He also famously introduced aerials into the dance during a competition in 1935. Like Al and Leon, Frankie also played a huge role in bringing Lindy Hop back into popularity in the 80s and 90s. In his later years he was an extremely popular teacher and toured the world teaching at countless events. A lot of what we know about the origins of Lindy Hop come from Frankie’s stories and his autobiography, Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop

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Norma Miller 

At only 14 years old Norma became the youngest member of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers after winning a high school dance competition. She toured with the company and appears in A Day at the Races and  Hellzapoppin’ (she’s the one in the chef’s hat). Norma went on to start her own dance company in the early 50s and had a successful performance career through the decades including touring with Count Basie and Cab Calloway. She also helped bring Lindy Hop back, teaching at Herrang Dance Camp in Sweden until 2018 (when she was 98). The Trickeration routine is part of Norma’s legacy.

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For More Information about early Lindy Hoppers we recommend the Frankie Manning Foundation Archive of Early Lindy Hop and also Bobby White’s amazing blog Swungover

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