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Keep fit with Lindy
Dancing is one of the best ways to keep fit. Elena Cresci takes steps to get her heart pumping.
If the secret to successful exercise is to not realise you are doing it, then dancing to music with like-minded people is a perfect way to disguise a good workout.
Arriving at the Pure Lindy taster session in Pitcher and Piano in York, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The dancefloor is definitely not my natural habitat, however I soon found out that lindy hop, with its roots in 1920s Harlem, New York, was the perfect way to get into the swing of some energetic and fun exercise.
The truth is, I have two left feet and, if previous attempts at salsa have taught me anything, no one’s toes are safe while I’m dancing. But after a few hours triple-stepping to a mix of classic jazz and swing tunes, I found myself a little bit in love with Lindy.
Sian Mantovani, who teaches the Pure Lindy classes with her husband Julian said: “I find you can be busy dancing and not really be aware you’re exercising because you’re having so much fun.”
I can vouch for that – time flies when you’re having fun and lindy hop beats the treadmill by a mile.
Afterwards, I felt exhausted, but I’d had such a good time, I didn’t notice the aches until I got home.
Even if you haven’t heard of lindy hop, you’ve probably seen it. The fore-runner to jive and rock and roll, it’s a toe-tapping swing dance from the 1920s which began enjoying a revival in the 90s.
Back in 1998, it was featured in a famous GAP advert and has popped up in various music videos since.
Sian and Julian met on a salsa dancefloor and discovered lindy hop while on the search for new challenges. Sian said: “Five years ago, I had always wanted to learn this kind of dancing but I had no idea what it was called.”
Eventually, they found some classes in Manchester and became an integral part of the vibrant swing-dance scene there, competing in national competitions and heading to events dedicated to the art of lindy hop. They hope to replicate the same success with Pure Lindy in York.
“The aim of these taster classes is to give people a taste of the dance,” explained Sian, who used to be a sixth-form teacher.
“We are also running workshops to run people through the basics in more detail.”
In the taster class, Sian and Julian ran through some basic moves with the group, from the energetic Charleston to the more simple rock-step, so we could get a feel for the moves.
Changing partners often, this was the best way to get us used to the steps and dancing with different people.
As daunting as it may be to shuffle away with a complete stranger, any social anxiety was forgotten as soon as the music began to play. But the real fun began during the breaks, when people had a chance to freestyle with a partner rather than stick to a choreographed set of moves.
“We try to get people to dance socially as much as possible,” Sian told me. “It’s the best way to learn.”
Trust me, once you see how well Sian and Julian bust out those grooves, then you’ll be sure to take their advice.
I was lucky, because my first social dance was with an experienced lindyhopper from Durham, visiting York on a business trip.
He said: “I’ve been dancing for a few years now,” as he spun me around, “and I just thought I’d pop along for fun.”
There’s no doubt about it, lindy hop is a social dance and you’ll meet all kinds of people of all ages and abilities.
If you really get into the swing of things like I did, Pure Lindy’s beginner workshops are a definite must. For four hours, Sian and Julian took a more technical look at the basics, honing skills more precisely than during the taster sessions.
It’s not a dance which takes itself seriously and neither should you. Even when I got my feet in a twist, mixed up my steps and – yes – trod on a few toes, I couldn’t help but smile and just enjoy it.
Pure Lindy has big plans for York’s swing scene, according to Sian, who said: “When it gets bigger, we hope to put on an event in big hall with bands so people get the chance to dress up and dance away.”
One thing’s for certain, after the first class, you’ll definitely want to go back for more.
To find out more about Pure Lindy, visit their website at purelindy.com where details of their next workshop will be posted, or phone Sian on 07736 685050.
Taster sessions normally take place on a Tuesday at Pitcher and Piano at 7.30 and cost £4.