Hanna has dancing in her blood and learning came to her naturally. Most of what she knows today she acquired during social dances. Beginners are often really afraid of this step but it’s really important to take it as soon as possible. “Fake it until you make it,” Hanna would say.
Giedre came to the German capital from Lithuania, which has a thriving swing scene of its own. One of the best things she likes about Berlin is that anyone can dance however they want to. It’s not a big deal to see women dance with women, men with men or women leading men.
A really interesting fact I discovered about Michele was that he has been practicing kick-boxing and boxing for years. A surprising side-effect of dancing for him was that it has greatly improved the quality of his body movements and his awareness of the space on the ring. Who would have thought that these opposite activities would complement one another so well.
For Marie, one of the things that Swing dancing helped overcome was her fear of being physically close to a stranger, something many of us struggle with in the beginning. But the more she danced, the fear began to dissipate and she gradually became a more confident person that could start to really enjoy the connection she made with her dance partners. So much so that she has become a teacher and big part of her life is focused around dancing and vintage culture.
Carmen always dances with a smile on her face. She has a special energy and charisma that can change the charge of any dance social to a positive one. Her love of swing dancing often seeps into her other passion, graphic design. She actually works for ZAZOO, a magazine about Swing culture in Europe, which she helped create.
It’s hard to imagine Balboa in Berlin without Simon. He organizes Sunday dance events that have become an equivalent of going to church for some of us. He finds it very special to see how people who share the same passion but have otherwise nothing in common click together and grow.
We met on a Balboa social dance but like most swing dancers she started with Lindy Hop. She first encountered it on the streets of her hometown of Barcelona and it looked like so much fun that she signed up for classes. Her decision was the right one. Ever since then whenever she found herself moving to a new city, the dance was always there to help her build her life from scratch.
As a kid, Christoph dreamt of becoming a Ballet dancer just like his cousin. It wasn’t meant to be his love for dance resurfaced later in his life. He compared his relationship with dancing to a love affair that developed slowly but surely. When this photo was taken, Christoph was dealing with a broken leg which inadvertently brought this romance to a halt. I hope that by now he’s killing it on the dance floor, like he used to.
Tycho is right in saying that swing is the best-kept secret on the planet. It’s like a special club where members don’t necessarily know each other but the membership itself opens the doors to the world for you. Swing dancers will welcome anyone, anywhere into their midst if you know how to do a ‘sugar push’, ‘lollies’ or ‘fall of the log’, among thousands of other moves.
“[Swing dancing] attracts people who are nerds but are not squares,” is what Kate told me and she’s right on the money. She’s got the brains, the skill and she’s such a positive spirit. If you met her today, you wouldn’t think that Kate once suffered from depression and would have likely had to start taking medication for it. Fortunately, Swing pulled her out of it in no time and became her drug of choice. It completely transformed her life.
Florian has a contagious smile and amazing skills. Always chic, he typically wears vintage or retro-style clothing when going dancing. For him, it’s not only about practicality or looking cool — being in a room full of dressed up dancers makes him feel like being part of something greater and takes him back to the Berlin of the 1920s, a time when everything seemed possible.
Eva is a perfect example that you can have it all. A loving partner, a beautiful baby and a passion which she turned into a job. She compares the love of Lindy Hop to a virus which you can catch anytime. For her, it infected her one winter Wednesday night when she was out with friends and someone suggested Clärchens Ballhaus as a great spot to have a glass of wine. Little did she know that by going inside this unique ballroom her life would never be the same again.
Alex, an avid Balboa dancer, pointed out an interesting aspect of social dancing: being a dancer allows one to speak to an entire roomful of people. And if the conversation is not flowing you always can go: “Oh, I have to dance with that person,” which comes in handy. But on the other hand, when you're having a great chat sooner or later you will be interrupted by “Wanna dance?”, which is a bummer.
The local Blues scene has a lot to thank Leanna for. She is often referred to as Mama Goose coz she really wants to make sure everyone feels welcome and good at parties and events she organises. She would love to see more women and men speak up when their boundaries are being crossed during dances. Especially women, who are taught to be polite, should feel free to let their partners know if they are too close or crushing their hands. This will create not only a safe environment for everyone but will make better dancers of us all.
I can’t imagine going to a Sunday Balboa social and not having Zoë there. She is an integral part of the scene and a talented dancer in her own right. Swing has become a lifestyle for her that’s bigger than just a hobby. Nothing, not even a broken toe, could keep her away from the dance floor.
Johanna was pushed into dancing when she was a teenager by her mother, who thought she needed to move more. She started with solo dances like Jazz, and then Ballet and Tap but it wasn’t until after her beloved dance teacher died and she moved to Berlin for her diploma that she finally discovered Lindy Hop and Balboa. By day, she is a psychologist and has a PhD in neuroscience but, nevertheless, she would define herself as a Balboa dancer first.
I was really surprised to learn that Duc really struggled with learning in the beginning of his journey and didn’t consider himself a good dancer. It took him two years to finally go to a social dance, but when he did his mind went blank — such was his stress. I imagine that if you were to tell him back then that not only would he excel at dancing and become a teacher but also have a successful dance school he would probably think you’re just joking.
For many years, Claire has been a core part of the swing scene in Berlin. She has organized many local and international events, co-owned a school, taught classes and taken part in multiple competitions. She has now stepped away from it all and has gone back to enjoying Swing as a hobby. She’s really happy and hopes to combine her new diploma in mediation with the social aspects of Swing dancing.
Chris was terrified of dance classes where it’s a standard that you switch partners every other song. It wasn’t easy for him to make mistakes in front of women that he, as a guy, was predisposed to want to impress. Luckily, that phase was temporary and his anxiety is now in the past.
One of the most fun leaders to dance with. He will give you the space to experiment all the while laughing out loud. He would love to see more experimentation on the dance floor, fusing more styles, dancing in different configurations, with more interaction between couples and to a wider range of musical styles.
The man with the unmistakable beard has some of the largest resources of energy you’ll ever see on the dance floor. He can boogie-woogie the shoes out of you. If he had a tip for any fresh dancers it would be to learn and understand the music, ask yourself what the music is doing at any given moment and how you can let yourself be free.
A long time ago I was told that I’m not much of a dancer, a belief I’ve held up until my very first encounter with Lindy Hop. It looked like so much fun that this notion lost its hold on me and nothing mattered more to me than learning how to dance. I didn’t know so much would change as a result. I became a different person.
Taken by Marcin Stepien