…If You Ain’t Got that Swing

The lindy hop fad has officially made it to a nightlife staple: they’re calling it “hot as ever and cool as never before”

They rolled in on vintage Vespas and Schwinn bicycles, and took Polaroid pictures while pushing thick-rim prescription shades back on the bridge of their noses. Had I been teleported back a few decades, or was I witnessing a flash-mob?  Duke Ellington, pure and un-remixed, was spinning on vinyl. Through the yellowish tint of my Spritzer, I saw couples begin to dance beneath the chestnut trees in the Volksgarten Pavillon.  Not old-timers wading in nostalgia, but Converse-wearing hipsters – modern day-hepcats – jumping, trotting… lindy hopping.

Having recycled their grandparents’ poodle skirts and sweater vests, hipsters have dusted off old records and created a new hype. With the scene now in full bloom, it’s safe to say that old-fashioned swing is the next vintage thing…

 

Swinging to Ella Fitzgerald the dancefloor becomes a jungle gym for lindy hoppers | Photo: Ali Rabbani

Swinging to Ella Fitzgerald the dancefloor becomes a jungle gym for lindy hoppers | Photo: Ali Rabbani

Swing’s retro revival

I had stumbled into “Fruity Hop,” a Monday night meet-up put on by IG Hop, a swing dance club that branched out from Vienna’s largest swing community, Some Like it Hot (SLIH) in 2011. On their website, SLIH describes the Swing Renaissance as dating back to the ‘80s, when the last living dance legends of the era were still alive. Tobi Roschger, co-founder of IG Hop, told The Vienna Review that three to five years ago, a new wave of students started showing up. At first, it was “aficionados” of dancing schools and couples spicing up their relationships. Now it’s shaping up to be a full-blown fad. Last year IG Hop had 40 students take their classes; this year the number has tripled!

“On average, it’s mid-20 to mid-30-year-olds, but our youngest student is 18, and our oldest couples are over 50,” elaborated Christiane Beinl, dance director at IG Hop. “A lot of our students come from the art scene, but there are many IT students too,” Roschger adds. In fact, it was an IT student who first took yours truly to Fruity Hop. We met with her friend, a graphic designer, and my swing-dancing flatmate, who’s an organic farmer. It’s a diverse crowd.

Authentic with fresh swag

Partners in IG Hop classes aren’t designated as ladies and gentlemen, but rather gender-neutral “leaders and followers”. Yet regardless of who is leading whom, the steps are the real deal. Students are encouraged to watch old footage from the 30s and 40s of the originals, available on IG Hop’s YouTube channel. Electro-Swing is the fast food of the trend, joked Roschger, although he grew up head-bobbing to techno. I guess that makes lindy hop the home-cooked meal, or as Roschger said, “Swing and jazz just makes you really move authentically.”

It was the music that pulled Roschger into swing dance five years ago. “We play original tracks – although they can be scratchy – because it’s hard to find contemporary bands that have that special quality.” Despite the old-style tunes, the dancers make lindy hop look like fresh swagger. Some songs inspire solo dances: A man swings his partner onto his hips and then flips her over his back; real acrobatics! Think Cotton Club meets Dirty Dancing. IG Hop is not reinventing the genre, Beinl insists, but getting “to the core of that spirit of dancing”. Maybe that’s the ebb that gives the lindy-hoppers such flow.

 

Vintage vernacular 

Fads fade fast. This is more, Roschger explained: “What separates swing from other vintage ideas, is that you have to internalise swing and make it your own.” You can’t simply buy it, wear it, or take a Polaroid of it. Swing is a partnership, an interconnected social dance, and an elegant skill that can take years of practice to perfect, making it quintessentially personal. “If you make it your own then it’s authentic,” Roschger continued. There’s no need for the vintage label.

After Roschger and Beinl left me alone with my two left feet, I assessed the crowd at Fruity Hop. Guys sporting crafty hairdos paired with nonchalant moustaches and casual stubble were twirling gals wearing bobby socks with bicycle prints in New Balance sneakers. Singles sipping cocktails, couples on dates, and wistful older men smiling at their companions over a glass of wine, all laughed in the garden. A man in a spiffy suit with a newspaper in his lap bobbed his crossed leg to the jazzy rhythms. Everybody was feeling the beat.

The spirit alone is the only requirement and seems to entrance hoppers and non-hoppers alike. That swingin’ soul – that can’t be bought or worn – will keep the vintage dance in clubs for years to come.

 

Info for classes, clubs, and events:

IG Hop: www.ighop.at

Some Like It Hot: www.somelikeithot.at

 

Upcoming Events: 

Swing Sunday: Every Sunday Café Leopold

20:30, 7., Museumsplatz 1

 

Vienna Hot Swing Jam: 11-13 Oct.:

Tanzschule Chris, 2., Wehlistraße 150

 

Lindy Loft: 6 Sep.: The Loft 21:00

16., Lerchenfelderguertel 37 

 

Shuttle Cafe with Live Music: 18.Sept.:

Freihaus 19:00, 4., Schleifmühlgasse 7 

 

Pipers Swing Special: 28 Sep.:

Piper’s Ballroom 22:00, 6., Hofmühlgasse 23 

 

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