Bringing back the jazz fever
“What type of music makes people want to dance?” For dancers, this question is potentially influenced by a number of factors such as music preference, cultural influence, arousal level, dance partner and many others. However, this question is particularly difficult to quantify when applied to social dance forms like Lindy Hop which incorporates improvisational elements in both music and dance—a unique melding in combination of African-American partner dancing and African posture and rhythm.
Flash back to 1920’s; it is said that a someone looked over a crowded dance floor in Harlem and when asked nearby dancer about the dance form, the dance did not have a name yet. It wasn’t until 1928 when Charles Lindberg hopped across the Atlantic and behold, the Lindy Hop was born. This may be an apocryphal tale but it is believed to have some truth in it as this form of swing dancing did emerge from the ballrooms of Harlem. Though the scene of dancing is evolving in Nepal, Lindy Hop yet sounds to be a form of dance heard by only a few. But, so as the mythical unfolding of swing history, Tenzin Sherpa certainly has his own short history of yielding into swing dancing. With an invitation to be a part of swing dancing, TNM got to know a lot about Lindy Hop.
An enthusiastic dancer, Sherpa developed curiosity on swing when he first saw a small scene of swing in a video of Safe and Sound by Capital Cities. “Back in 2015, this form was just in its neonatal stage and finding classes in Kathmandu was definitely not easy. But, I got to know about Swing Dance Kathmandu which became a grandstand for me to dig deeper,” he shares. “They had foreign instructors who were giving lessons on Lindy Hop during their visit to Kathmandu.” He remembers Maria Lopez giving him lessons for five months after two years of gaining curiosity for Lindy Hop but that definitely was not enough.
Like people say, skill and curiosity finds its way, so did happen to Sherpa. Soon after he received lessons from Lopez he got the opportunity to learn Lindy Hop in Germany and then he flew to Sweden for the biggest swing event.
“I got mentored from the world’s best dancers dancing up to six to seven hours continuously.”
He also recollects a joyous moment from Sweden where one of his favourite dancers was strolling around the beach and he suddenly stopped him to say how a big follower he was of him. “He was shocked in the beginning but when I asked him to teach me, he said yes and later I got lessons from him,” reminisces Sherpa.
Despite the fact that his dance was improved, he still lacked the confidence to mentor others. “Again in 2019 I went back to Europe to learn more and to enhance my confidence to train others. Then we had the courage to start Swing Academy,” says Sherpa.
When TNM asked what’s easier—to learn to dance or to teach others to dance? “Some people are fast learners while some may find it difficult to cope with even the simplest dance steps. Teaching others to dance is a challenging task and is undoubtedly hard,” enunciates Sherpa.
One of the pioneers of Lindy Hop in Nepal, Sherpa takes the dance form not just as a dance but a social art.
“There is the coordination, there is respect and there is patience.
Dancers need to understand the values of each other following the rhythm for an astonishing Lindy Hop,” he adds. “In it, you don’t need to be too intimate. It is not gender specific; and anyone can freely dance with each other.”
Since swing does not require any specific clothing or dress code; dancers can wear any retro-themed dresses with flat shoes to swing along the beat of classic jazz, as per Sherpa. What it requires specifically is jazz music. “Swing evolved from Jazz music and should happen along with the music. It has a history and people should consider that, but people here try swing dance on any beat,” he comments.
Text by Prija Koirala
Photo by Hritik Shrestha