SLO Swing

Jump, jive and wail your way to fitness

Swing dancing is a timeless activity dating back to the early 1920s. Forever a fun activity, the act of swing dancing also has incredible mental and health benefits. Katelyn Holliday, President of the Cal Poly Swing club explains the pros of swing, “It reduces stress and depression, increases energy, improves balance, flexibility, strength and endurance as well as increases the mental capacity by exercising cognitive processes. The dynamic and rapid-fire decision making creates new neutral paths (taken from a dance study).”  She also adds, “The SLO swing scene is known all up and down the west coast as a friendly and fun scene. If you are looking for a great way to meet new people, dance, exercise, and escape back to the 1930s and 40s, then this is the dance for you.” With such a rich culture in SLO County, The SLO Swing scene has something for everyone.

SLO County residents of all ages are able to learn the age-old art forms and practice in numerous areas around the county. Holliday outlines the different options in the county; “We host weekly beginning and intermediate swing lessons for students and community members. These lessons take place on Sundays on Cal Poly Campus, Bldg 5 Room 225. No experience or partner is required. We teach 6 count and 8-count Lindy hop, Charleston, balboa, shag, and vernacular jazz moves. Each lesson is only $3. The intermediate lesson is from 1-2pm, beginning lessons are from 2-3pm, and there is free social dancing from 3-4pm.We also organize several workshops throughout the year whether with local teachers or nationally or internationally known Lindy hoppers.

We support swing dancing at the Madonna Inn on Monday nights that is run by the SLO Rugcutters (a group of community members). This is a free swing-dancing venue that is a great place to practice what you learn at the CP Swing Club lessons, meet people and just have fun! The first Monday of the month is vintage night. We dress up in vintage clothing or throw on our fancy clothes. Last spring we had a pink vintage night as a tribute and thank you to the Madonna family for allowing us to run our weekly dance venue.”

Swing is an exciting activity and Holliday adds, “After one lesson from the CP Swing club, you can get out on the dance floor and have a blast. Swing dancing is easy enough to learn the basic in an hour, but challenging enough to continue working on year after year. There are always more moves to master, styling to add, and technique to practice. It can be fun, silly, flirty, fast, slow, energetic, or relaxed. Just listen to some Benny Goodman, Cab Callaway, or Sidney Bechet and imagine how you would want to dance. We do Lindy hop, Charleston, Balboa, and vernacular jazz moves. We also do group routines that were done back in the day. What is so awesome about swing dancing is the connection between you, your partner and the music. A huge part of the dance is this connection and how you and your partner can improvise on top of the basic and communicate to each other without saying anything.”

Lindy Hop is the most exciting style of Swing, a name connected with Charles Lindbergh’s ‘hop’ across the Atlantic, and SLO plays host to a yearly Lindy Exchange (popular around the country). Holliday explains the non-stop, inspiring activities around the county the weekend of SLO’s Lindy Exchange, “The San Luis Obispo Lindy Exchange (slox) is the biggest and most popular event run by the CP Swing Club. It’s basically a weekend of nonstop dancing. We dance Friday, Saturday and Sunday night from 8pm to about 3am. On Saturday we spend the afternoon at Santa Rosa park playing fun swing dance related games such as donut dipping, banana balboa, and three-legged Charleston. Then on Sunday we head to Avila Beach to soak in the sun, play improv games, jam with ukuleles and dance in the sand. Dancers from all up and down the west coast come to San Luis Obispo to dance. This year our three bands are Glenn Cryzter and his Syncopators, Solomon Douglas, and SLO’s own Tipsy Gypsies. Along with the incredible live music provided by these bands, we also have DJs from up and down the coast who bring their awesome tunes to the 200 plus dancers that attend. We are very proud to say that many people say that the SLO Exchange is there favorite exchange!”

Swing dancing brings together people of all ages. In a county where physical activity and culture abounds, SLO Swing is the perfect crossroads for generations to have a straight up good time.

Brandi Stansbury - local writer and photographer