It was Hong Kong Swings’s 10th year anniversary last week, and it also marked the time where I have been swing dancing for almost 8 years. It is a long time for any kind of hobbit or interest or sport, and I feel like I should write something about it.
Only few took it seriously when they first heard of swing dancing. Some due to the gratuitous euphemism of the word “swing”, some due to the general impression of any form of partner dancing as boring, uptight, and somewhat old-fashion ballroom dancing. For most, they would be really confused or clueless, as it is not the kind of dance you’d hear every now and then like salsa or tango.
Well, in all fairness, that was probably what I thought as well.
It was December 2008 when my colleague, Hardik, has his farewell party. He picked Grappa’s Cellar in Jardine House for the dinner with the team. It was a busy night. Like, 120%-full-house busy. What we didn’t know was, Grappa’s was (and still is) the place to host the swing dance social night. And since it’s December, it happened to be Hong Kong Swings’s Christmas party night too. My colleague was actually a pretty good swing dancer, and he went straight to the dance floor after the first course.
Now for a table of 12 people, none of us knew what was going on. We tried hard to understand, but it seemed so much couples were dancing randomly on their own. Mind you, for those who have been to a regular Wednesday night, it was such a busy night they didn’t have any free beginner lesson. So there was absolutely nowhere to start. And I started.
I remember it was Michelle, Christine and Mike who encouraged me to dance. I don’t think Michelle even remember that, but I do. It was the first time in my life to be so committed to do something so embarrassing. But the ultimate reason was even simpler than that. I wanted so much to dance with this particular girl. And since I was in an age that testosterone controlled all lesser (or better, retrospectively) decisions in my life, I did ask her to dance and we danced. It was simultaneously the best and the worst 3 minutes of the night, but it was worth it. It was how it all started.
But it was ever since more than that. Swing dance fitted me. I didn’t like choreographed dances. I often felt ballroom dances were too rigid. Salsa and tango came with a lot of sex appeal, and it was not something I was looking for. And I am probably saying it with huge amount of bias.
Swing dance, on the other hand, check all the boxes. It is casual. It is fast-paced. It is fun. It has a lot of science (physics) in it. And most importantly, swing dance has a fair bit of cheekiness. Or smugness. Or try to mix something new or make a synchronized move, with a partner you have just met 30 seconds ago. On the dance floor you don’t see a sad swing dancer. Everyone is happy in a very particular way. Some people may treat swing dance very seriously of course, and some people may on the other hand over-do the cheekiness, always try to be under the spotlight of the floor and such. But if you have the right amount of playfulness, it always brings you and your dancing partner smiles.
I am very thankful that I have been part of this community in Hong Kong. I’ve seen people complaining about how boring Hong Kong is, while it really isn’t. I am sure a lot of salsa, tango, hip-hop, dancers do share the same feeling, being in a small but really close community enjoying the things that they all love. Or the same as cross-fit groups, book clubs, ice-skiing groups, dragon boat teams, whiskey tasting groups, dodgeball teams and the like. The width of Hong Kong never stopped at cinemas and shopping malls.
Keep exploring. Keep dancing.