By William Crooks
Local Journalism Initiative
Studio Swing Sherbrooke, a local swing dancing organization, held an event in partnership with Bishop’s University (BU) Nov. 14 in Bandeen Hall, accompanied by the Sherbrooke Jazz Orchestra.
BU invited the group as a part of its Humanities Week. The Sherbrooke Jazz Orchestra attended and practiced their big band tunes to accompany the dancers. Mathieu Desy, a BU music professor, organized a showing of ‘Swing Kids’, a 1993 movie drama revolving around rebellious teens swing dancing during the Nazi regime in Germany, the night before. The night of Nov. 14 began with a little class on the Lindy Hop style, Studio Swing Sherbrooke Organizer Pascale Rousseau recounted, followed by a short demonstration. At least 40 BU students attended.
“We’re a non-profit organization,” explained Rousseau; it was founded in 2005, with its official dance school opening its doors around 2015. It puts on events for its community every week, sometimes general and sometimes dance-specific.
The organization teaches many different styles of swing dancing: Lindy Hop, a style that was popular in the 1920s and 30s and accompanied by big band jazz music; Rockabilly Jive, a 50s/60s style accompanied by rock and roll; West Coast Swing, an evolution of the Lindy Hop that can be danced to blues and R&B; Charleston style and others.
These dances emerged from Afro-American culture, in places like Harlem, New York, Rousseau said, after many African Americans migrated north following the Civil War; also, Chicago and the West Coast. The dances evolved differently depending on place and what music was popular at the time.
Studio Swing Sherbrooke is planning its “New Year’s Party” for Jan. 20, but the details are not fully fleshed out. In Jan., March and April their regular class sessions will continue, and they are trying to organize more evenings with live music.
Rousseau insisted that the classes are fun, for those thinking of joining in, and that they are a very open-minded community. Unlike Latin dancing, which can be “seductive”, they dance with a spirit of friendliness. She is comfortable both leading and following, and many men there are too – the traditional norm that the man always leads is not adhered to. They offer a lot of dancing options, so that people can “find what music talks to them the best”.
Many English-speakers attend their classes, Rousseau said, though they are mostly given in French. Some Americans come up and dance with them every week and some of their teachers are English. It’s all body language, she said with a chuckle, and everybody is welcome.
Studio Swing Sherbrooke’s website, Facebook page and info letter can be consulted for more information.