Hopping Happy: Life, Love, and Lindy Hop

It may surprise some of you to know that I have very few inhibitions. Okay, that doesn’t really surprise you. Those of you who know me well are fully acquainted with my outspokenness, my grandness, my gregarious and very personal dress sense, and my predisposition for stylish headwear (whatever the occasion might be). I like to think that I don’t only transition, but ‘sashay’ from one stage of my life to the next. You see, at heart, I am a musician – a jazz musician, to be precise – both literally and metaphorically speaking. Rhythm and syncopation are innate within me, and I have always had recourse to music whenever I’ve felt happy, or sad, or bored, or just plain hungry (which is most of the time). When I was a teenager, I went through a phase of writing jazz and blues songs. I have never been able to play an instrument (not for fault of trying), but I have always loved to sing, and I still sing, even though my songs aren’t as good as they used to be. The first NW LP was definitely the best, but that’s by the by.

Anyway, I have very little spare time in which to sit down and write songs these days. Sometimes I get a tune in my head when I’m travelling to and from the library, or while I’m out on a run, but that sustained ‘composition’ time just eludes me. So I have to be content with enjoying the music of others, and I do enjoy it – loudly, energetically, and enthusiastically. Music is in my heart and in my lungs, but it’s also in my body, and I can never seem to stop it from doing its thing whenever I hear that beat. Back in the summer of 2012 I started a Lindy Hop class run by the fabulous ‘Gypsy John’ of the Cinque Ports Lindy Hoppers, but unfortunately I had to give it up when I started my PhD. I always intended to go back, or to start a new class somewhere, but never got round to joining one. Last November, when I was in New Orleans, I went to a couple of Zydeco nights and learnt how to dance ‘Cajun. It was great fun, and it reminded me how much I had missed dancing with a group of people, learning new things, and celebrating the music in my life. I was determined to start dancing again when I returned to the UK, and, a few months ago, Julian and I joined Swing Patrol in Old Street.

Although we’ve not attended many classes so far, we’re having great fun learning the kooky dance moves, and have pretty much mastered the 8-count and 6-count basics, as well as the Charleston. We’ve also had the opportunity to meet, and dance with, lots of other fun-loving, uninhibited, and ‘musical’ types. Sometimes we’ll be at home and I’ll stick on some Count Basie or Glenn Miller and we’ll attempt to practice on the carpet of our tiny living room. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to go social dancing soon, and I can swing out in my best swing dress (I have a good few to choose from, after all). For now, though, I’ll keep practicing, and I’ll leave you with a snapshot of my fabulous classmates doing their thing at last night’s Swing Patrol class.

Swing Patrol, Old Street

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