Toronto Lindy Hop has emerged over the last two years as a major force in the Toronto swing dance scene (if I say so myself … I’m the President, so it’s hard to be completely objective). Our Facebook page is growing in followers, dancers have come to our events in droves, and people (like you!) have made their way to our website and our active new blog. But I still often get asked the question, “What is Toronto Lindy Hop exactly? What do you guys do?”
(For the TL;DR version of the answer, skip to the last paragraph of the post. For the full answer, keep reading).
I thought I’d answer the question by starting with a couple of stories. One is about Frankie Manning, lindy hop’s greatest champion and ambassador. In one of my favourite quotes from his autobiography, Frankie says, “Even though some people have tried to get me into drugs, I’ve never felt the need . . . Whenever I did feel a little bit down in spirits, I’d go to the Savoy, and before you’d know it, I’d forget about everything else. I get high from Lindy hopping.”
Another story is about a birthday jam at a dance I attended several years ago. As the jam ended, the birthday girl and her boyfriend were alone in the centre of the circle. With 100 people looking on, he went down on one knee and offered her a ring.
There are plenty more stories like these from our dance communities. Of the band that is so fantastic that every time you try to sit down, a song comes on that you just have to dance to. Of the thrill of an audience standing and cheering as you perform. Of the breakthrough moment when you get the new move you’ve been working on. Of deep conversations at the edge of a dance floor with someone you barely know, powered by the incredible shared experience of this dance.
That’s what swing dancing is. Not just an activity. Not just something fun to do on a Saturday night. An experience.
That’s what Toronto Lindy Hop is, too.
TLH has been a fixture of the Toronto swing scene since at least 2001. It’s been redefined and reinvented a few times along the way, and when we met to refine our current mandate, we started from the premise that swing dancing is an experience that goes beyond the basics of dances and classes. TLH’s role in this community, its mandate, is to improve and enrich that experience.
So we brainstormed all of the things that contribute to the dance experience. Lindy hop means different things to different people, but we settled on six focus areas that we believe capture the main things that make this experience special to our community.
For some people, what sets lindy hop apart is the warm and welcoming community itself. Our Social area encourages that with programs like the Dance Ambassadors at Dovercourt (to help welcome newcomers to our community), and events like Lindystock and the Imperial Pub nights which allow us to get to know each other as people, not just as dancers. TLH has also been taking a lead role in improving the social dance experience through programs targeting floorcraft and other issues, and of course, our Facebook updates and Calendar keep you up to date on the many social dance opportunities across Toronto.
For some, the core of the dance experience is pushing yourself to the next level. Our Education area brings in top teachers from across the continent and the world for workshops that will push your boundaries and grow your skills. We launched our workshop series with the wildly successful Swedish Meatballs workshop in September 2012, and plan to run at least two large workshops in Toronto each year. Don’t miss the next installment, Montreal Smoked Meat featuring Alain Wong and Gen St.-Lo, just next weekend!
For some, swing dancing is about being immersed in the music. Our Music area is dedicated to exposing Toronto dancers to the best musical talent our city has to offer, and also to encouraging training and practice opportunities for our DJs.
Often the most intense swing dance experiences happen at major out-of-town events. The Toronto scene can be enriched when our own dancers travel, get inspired, and bring their new motivation and talents back home. Our Travel area will be promoting a series of trips to expose Torontonians to great dance events in neighbouring scenes and across North America. We will also be assisting Toronto dancers to find other affordable travel opportunities.
The thrill of performance and competition is yet another intense experience that defines lindy hop culture for many dancers. Our Comp & Show area aims to provide performance and competition opportunities to dancers of all levels. The TLH Cabaret, which showcases our community’s non-dance talents, is already one of Toronto’s most popular events, and TLH has been running casual competitions at our monthly Dovercourt Theme Nights. But we also have plans to introduce higher-level competitions in the coming months. Stay tuned!
Finally, one of the great things about our dance is the way it allows us to step backward into a bygone era. Our History & Fashion area is working to educate the Toronto community about the fashions of the swing era and the history of the dance, both locally and globally.
Social. Education. Music. Travel. Comp & Show. History & Fashion. Enriching and improving the Toronto dance experience. That is Toronto Lindy Hop. And if you are interested in getting involved in any of these focus areas, please feel free to speak to any Board member, or send an e-mail to: info at torontolindyhop dot com.