On Friday 31st March 2017 at Stratford Circus, East London Dance will be hosting a day of conversations, provocations and networking alongside a dragon’s den style pitching process as the bursaries from the Ideas Fund are awarded.
Sharon Davis will be pitching in front of a live audience and panel of dance industry judges, seeking funding to workshop a swing dance show and produce a short film documenting the results.
Tickets are available to attend the summit (here), so why not come for a day of dance inspiration and to support Sharon and JazzMAD!
Sharon Davis is forming a swing dance troupe in 2017! This group will be focused on creative projects for stage and film, and doing interesting collaborations with other London and international artists. The goal is to make beautiful art with jazz music and dance! What shape these projects take will depend on the particular group of artists we gather together. Does that mean you?
Joining the group will be on a voluntary basis to start with, with members making a small contribution towards weekly rehearsal space costs or helping with fundraising efforts to cover troupe costs. The ultimate aim will be to make the troupe self-sustaining and eventually profit-making, so that members do not pay to be involved, but are indeed paid for their artistic work. But as we grow to that stage, members must be willing to donate their time and contribute in this small way.
We are tentatively intending weekly rehearsals to be held on Thursday evenings, but this may change.
Sharon is calling for expressions of interest from Swing, Charleston, Jazz or Tap dancers based in London. We’d also love to hear from anyone who would like to be involved in any capacity whatsoever, or who has a related skill to offer (jazz singer, photographer, musician, filmmaker, costume designer, choreographer, director, scriptwriter, actor, PR, arts fundraising, moral support). Click below to fill in the form to register your interest:
This form doesn’t commit you in any way, and this is not part of any selection or audition process. It is purely to gather some information about who is interested and what their availability is. By filling in this form you register your interest, so you will get updated as soon as there is any news about this project.
Please forward this on to anyone who might be interested and help us spread the word!
One of the top questions JazzMAD gets asked is what shoes should I wear to swing dance class? Here Sharon Davis tells you what shoes work and her favourite brands…
There’s no real rules for swing dance shoes. You just want a well-fitting shoe that clings to your foot without rubbing. They should be flat or with a low heel, no higher than around 2 inches. Leather shoes breathe better and will last longer than synthetics, but cost more.
Traditionally, Lindy Hop was danced in street shoes – whatever you would wear to go out at night in the 1930s or 40s. Often this meant canvas tennis shoes (what we in the UK call plimsolls), or leather lace-up shoes like oxfords or brogues. Sometimes ladies would dance with a small heel or wedge. For dancing in heels you usually want a shoe that is closed or with straps, so it doesn’t come off your foot while dancing. Mary Jane or T-Bar styles were common. For balance, the heel shouldn’t be too skinny, so avoid stilettos or tango shoes.
The sole is the most important thing, but is really about personal preference. Rubber soles will be more sticky, which is good for dancing fast (you can grip the floor). Leather soles will be very slippery, so this is better for spinning and sliding. For smooth style dancing you want to be able to slide. Suede soles are somewhere in between. Some dance shoes have a leather sole, but a rubber heel, so you can slide on your toes but stop by putting down your heel. But if you want to do heel slides, you’ll need a wood or leather heel.
Shoes that are made for swing dancers typically have a leather or suede sole. Or you can buy street shoes and have a cobbler glue a suede sole onto it (sometimes called “chroming”). Or you just might prefer dancing with rubber soles.
The dance floor at JazzMAD’s studio is fairly slippery, so rubber soled shoes are usually fine for our class. If you wear your leather soled shoes in class, you will slide, but if that’s a skill or style you are working on then practicing it in every class is recommended.
If you’re interested in buying swing dance shoes, here are the most popular brands in Europe:
Remix Vintage, £185-£230 www.remixvintageshoes.com
Leather shoes that are recreations of styles from the 1920s-1950s. They aren’t officially dance shoes, but they all have leather soles and are beautifully made, so they are good for dancing in. These are stocked in the UK at Revival Retro Boutique (www.revival-retro.com), which is owned and run by a swing dancer. Beware, you will want to buy everything at Revival Retro!
Slide & Swing, €125-€135 www.slideandswing.es
These are shoes made specifically for swing dancing, and I like them a lot. Mens and womens styles. Nice designs, bright colours, comfortable and good quality. Order them online from Spain.
Swingz Lindy Shoes, €120-€140 www.swingzlindyshoes.com
These are ladies’ swing dance shoes produced by a company that traditionally made Flamenco dance shoes. So the leather is very thick and a bit hard, so they take a bit longer to break in. But once they are molded to your feet, they are very comfortable and also last an extra long time. Really pretty styles, with low heels suitable for Lindy Hop. Order them online from Spain.
Saint Savoy, €165-€220 www.saintsavoy.com
Another brand of shoe made just for swing dancers. Mens and womens. Also perhaps the leather is a bit hard on some of these styles, so will take a while to break them in. Lovely unique styles though. Order them online from Austria.
Keds, £40-£60 www.keds.co.uk
Casual canvas shoes very popular with swing dancers (today and also back in the 1930s and 40s). The company supports swing dance events too, so we like them! Keds are street shoes, not swing dance shoes specifically, so they have a rubber sole that can be too sticky for dancing, but gets more slippery as they wear down. Some dancers have a suede sole glued on to them by a cobbler.
Casual swing dance shoes that are fairly cheap. This brand does plimsolls (similar to Keds in style) that already have a suede sole. You can buy them in the UK at www.swingdancestore.co.uk
Share and tell us your favourite swing dance shoe! Have I missed any brands? Have a review of any of the brands I mentioned? Share on our Facebook page!
In March, Sharon Davis is teaching the Al & Leon Shim Sham for JazzMAD. This is a must-know vintage jazz routine for all swing dancers. It’s also a lot of fun, with sweet rhythms and plenty of opportunity to inject your own character into the choreography.
Here you can see Al Minns and Leon James demonstrating classic jazz steps for the August 1961 edition of Ebony Magazine:
Albert “Al” Minns and Leon James were both Savoy Ballroom dancers in Harlem, New York. They were members of the most famous Lindy Hop team in history, Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers.
Throughout the 1930s and 40s they performed on stage and film. They were both Harvest Moon Ball champions in the 1930s – Leon James in 1935 with Willa Mae Ricker, and Al Minns in 1938 with Sandra “Boogie” Gibson. You can see Al Minns dancing in Hellzapoppin (1941) and the Duke Ellington Cottontail soundie Hot Chocolates (1941). You can see Leon James dancing in A Day At The Races (1937), the Cootie Williams & His Orchestra soundie (1943), and Boy What a Girl (1947).
Leon James and Willa Mae Ricker are the black dancers featured in the famous 1943 LIFE Magazine article on the Lindy Hop.
Al and Leon were significant in keeping jazz dance alive, by performing it into the 1950s and 1960s on stage and television, and continuing to teach classes in New York City, when most of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers had retired.
They named themselves “The Jazz Dancers”, specialists in the history of authentic jazz dances.
They were both filmed extensively as part of Mura Dehn’s The Spirit Moves documentary in the early 50s.
Al Minns & Leon James attended the legendary Newport Jazz Festival of 1960, and can be seen in some of the footage, dancing by the stage and on occasion, invited onstage to dance with the musicians.
They worked together with dance historian Marshall Stearns in the 1960s, and appeared in a number of television specials with Dr Stearns, including on Dupont Show of the Week (1961) and on Playboy Penthouse (1961). These appearances are part dance history lecture by Marshall Stearns, part demonstration by Al and Leon.
Leon James sadly passed away in 1970, but Al Minns continued dancing and teaching into his sixties, and was an important part of the swing revival in the 1980s. In 1984 the Rhythm Hot Shots brought him to Stockholm to teach. He sadly passed away the following year, in 1985.
Come practice for free in our new studio!
Saturday 30th January 2016 • 1.30pm to 3.00pm
JazzMAD are so happy with our new home in the Academy Studios in Camden Town, and we’d like to give you another awesome – and free – reason to come visit us and see our new studio! The building is having an open day this Saturday 30th January, with lots of free classes and activities.
JazzMAD will be a running a FREE, open swing dance practice session from 1.30pm to 3.00pm. There will be constant swing music playing and our lovely dance floor and mirrors to take advantage of, so come along to have a bit of a practice and see the studio! Tony and I will be on hand to give free dance advice and answer any questions you might have. You can also sign up for upcoming JazzMAD courses on the day.
There’s also lots of other free music, dance and fitness sessions going on during the day, here’s just a few you might be interested in:
10.30am – 11.30am Body Awareness & Posture with Zahida
11.30am – 12.00pm Hip Hop Fusion with Lil J
12.30pm – 1.00pm Strength, Stretch & Tone with Molly
12.30pm – 1.30pm Jazz Improv Singing with Marta
1.30pm – 3.00pm Open Swing Dance Practice Session with Sharon & Tony
3.00pm – 3.30pm Bellydance with Claudia
3.30pm – 4.30pm Staff & Musicians Jam & Performance
4.00pm – 5.00pm Mambo with Phil
And did I mention it’s totally free? 🙂 There are limited spaces in many sessions, so reserve your free place at www.academybuilding.net
Thursday 28th January, Style for Lindy Hop Taster with Tony & Sharon, 7.30pm-9.30pm (2 hours), £9
15 Pratt Mews, Camden Town, NW1 0AD
Our new dance studio! All JazzMAD classes are now held in the heart of Camden Town (North London), just 5 minutes walk from Camden Town tube station.
Your teachers Tony Jackson & Sharon Davis are both award-winning Lindy Hoppers and internationally recognised instructors. They love to challenge their students and hold them to a high standard of technique, style and rhythmic precision, in a class atmosphere that is warm, light-hearted and fun.
Booking & Registration
There is limited space in each taster class. Booking is essential. Click on Courses to see what’s available and book today!
What should I wear/bring?
Wear comfortable clothing that gives you full range of movement.
No outdoor shoes are allowed in the studio, please wear non-marking dance shoes only.
Bring a bottle of water.
Lindy Hoppers of the world, let’s real talk New Year resolutions.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Lindy Hoppers. My kind of people, my community. I love being part of the international swing dance family. Lindy Hoppers are, in general, the best and nicest people in the world. But sometimes we can be a bit too focused on the swing outs, and miss the bigger picture.
Here are a few things I wish would be amongst all Lindy Hoppers’ New Year resolutions for 2016, including myself:
1. To look after my body as a dancer
To stretch and strengthen my body. To hold myself to a dancer’s standard of physical ability. To stay hydrated. To eat nourishing real foods to fuel my body. To get enough sleep for real healing. To take pain and injuries seriously. To rest injuries properly and let them heal. To invest in my body and value myself highly enough to pay for what I need (massage, physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic, gym membership, personal trainer, yoga or pilates classes, nutritionist, the healthy food my body needs, custom orthotics, or good quality dance shoes that fit me properly and look after my feet). In 2016 I will listen to my body.
2. To be social and behave like a human being
To ask more questions than just “Do you want to dance?” To ask the name of everyone I have a dance with. To have real conversations and meet real people. Leaders get to know other leaders, followers get to know other followers. To ask as often as I am asked. To buy a few drinks at the bar and support the venues. To not join the dance floor if it’s already over-crowded, but wait for the next song. To have good personal hygiene, even if that means taking clean-up breaks throughout the evening. To not expect anyone to dance with me if I am sweaty, wet or smelly. To learn how to say no to a dance – politely, truthfully and with compassion. To not take it personally if someone says no when I ask.
3. To practice. To actually, genuinely practice.
I will stop expecting to get better without practicing. I will practice my dance thoughtfully and deliberately. I acknowledge that taking classes is important, but it’s not practice. Social dancing is important, but it’s not practice. Weekend workshops and events are great, but still not practice. None of that counts. Practice is deliberately making the time to train my dancing in a systematic way. Projects, drills, repetition, filming, self-analysis and getting feedback from others – this is the good stuff. Focus is important – I will keep practice sessions as short as my focus span, even if that’s only 10 minutes. I will invest my time and thought and energy into real practice with focus and intent. And I will get better.
4. To listen and learn to listen.
To listen to jazz music just for me. To learn about the history of jazz so I understand the world that created this music and my dance. To read a book, watch a documentary, educate myself. To notice when there is a real band playing at a dance, not just a recording. To show my appreciation by applauding the band after each song, not just ignoring them as I hunt for the next partner. If there’s a killer solo, to notice and show my appreciation, even if I’m dancing at the time. To sometimes take a break from dancing and just enjoy the band. To vote with my feet – if I don’t like a song, DJ or band, I just won’t dance. But if I love it, I will dance non-stop until my feet bleed, then go shake the DJ’s hand or buy the band’s CD. If I love the sound of a musician in the band, I will learn their name and find out what other bands they play with. To not Shazam at dances – I will go ask the DJ instead, show my appreciation and have a real conversation. To not begrudge paying a cover charge to see a live band. They collectively represent thousands of hours of practice and training, passion and dedication, all to play for me. They are worth it, the experience of live music is worth it. I will value live music and support musicians and DJs trying to make a living playing the music I love to dance to.
5. To respect the artists in our community & their intellectual property
I won’t teach other teacher’s material. I won’t copy choreography. I won’t use photographs without asking permission from both the photographer and the dancers in the image. I won’t crop out photographers’ watermarks. I will only use images or videos of dancers to promote my school or event if I have their permission. I will include a photographer’s credit next to photos I use where possible. I will list all the artists on my event’s website, not just the teachers. I will value DJs and musicians, as much as I value the teachers. If I run a workshop or event, I will pay my artists what they are worth. If I can’t afford to pay them properly, I will accept that my event plans are too big for my budget and downsize until I can afford to pay everyone properly. I won’t undervalue performers. Performances are valuable – I will pay for them! I will treat my artists professionally and with respect. As an artist, I will hold myself to high standards of professionalism. I will not undervalue myself, or Lindy Hop. As a professional Lindy Hopper, I won’t undercut my peers by discounting my rates.
Lindy Hop is a legitimate dance, with a rich history and a strong international community of devoted fans and participants. This dance is highly technical and diverse, and takes years (even decades) of training and dedication to master. Lessons in Lindy Hop should not cost less than other dance styles. Teachers of Lindy Hop should not earn less than other dance teachers. Lindy Hop is a spectacular, accessible and crowd-pleasing dance that deserves to be on stage, film and television as much as any other dance style. Swing dance shows and performances have value, and should not cost less than other dance shows. This coming year, I won’t undervalue Lindy Hop.
Starting on 18th January 2016, JazzMAD is moving into a new home in the heart of Camden Town!
We are moving in to the North London Music Academy at 15 Pratt Mews, NW1 0AD. All JazzMAD weeknight classes will be taught here.
In our beautiful new studio we have sprung wooden floors and floor-to-ceiling mirrors… just 5 minutes walk from Camden Town tube station! We’re so excited to teach you in a professional dance setting and a central location – it’s a dream come true.
2016 classes and courses in our new venue will be announced soon! Make sure you are subscribed to our mailing list to get the updates.
We’re very excited to announce two new 2015 Fall/Winter classes starting in September: Lindy Hop on Mondays and Solo Jazz on Wednesdays. Two great venues too! Both with lots of space and lovely wooden floors, plus plenty of mirror space for the jazz classes. We have a new online booking system, so you can book ahead, or you are welcome to just show up on the day. Classes are £10 each, or you can buy a package online, 10 classes for £80 (that’s £8 per class).
Monday nights will be two Lindy Hop classes with Tony Jackson & Sharon Davis in the epic St John-at-Hackney Church in E5: