Swing Dancing in Montreal, Canada

The following article was written by a friend of mine based on her experience in Montreal and her love for swing dancing in Montreal!

It was almost 8 months since I had moved to the big city. At least for me, Montréal was/is that. It was the end of the first week of April and I threw out my whole plan to go back home to the land of anglophones (English Speakers) out the window. My parents, my friends, my colleagues, everyone was shocked. In all honesty, I was shocked myself. Me, of all people wanting to stay in the big city! But alas, I decided to stay and the big problem was that I had no friends.

My Lonely Dilemma

Well that’s a lie, I had one friend but they didn’t even live in the city, so essentially I worked, went home, and that’s it. Oh what a life! I needed to meet people, but how!?!?!?!

Once you’re out of school, in a big alienating city, it’s honestly so hard to make friends. The whole thing you see in movies about meeting people in cafes and just approaching and saying hi to a stranger… THAT DOES NOT WORK IN REAL LIFE!

People will just think you’re a creep, and that’s the last thing I need. So what was a person to do?

My Finding Friends Solution

Well… remember that one friend I just told you about, the one who didn’t even live in the city? She had brought up the idea of dance classes. But not just any kind of dance, social dance.

Now it’s very important to know that I am an introvert, but those almost 8 months in the city and the alienation were enough to get me to go alone, to a dance class. Some minor hiccups with my head being in the clouds, but I managed to register in the midst of classes and work.

Walking into the Dance Studio

I walked into the studio incredibly apprehensive, that whole strength in numbers thing is totally true and since I was alone, I felt like I stuck out and everyone was staring at me and pointing. They really weren’t, but that’s what was going on in my head, among other things:

Do I Speak English or French?

First concern that floated around in my head was language; French or English. Do I even bother attempting with my terrible French???

To answer your question, I cowered out and used English for the most part, let’s not make more problems when I had enough as it is.

Montreal is a pretty bilingual city so no one really minded that I spoke English.

The Problem of Going Solo

And then the real problem: going to a crowded dance studio, alone, trying this whole dance thing, and having to dance with someone in super close proximity. Something I’m pretty sure I’ve done once in my life for my grade 8 graduation.

Editor’s note: If you want more reasons why dance classes (any type) is great, also check out pole dancing.

The Awkward First Classes

I had to be extra and say my favourite dessert wasn’t ice-cream, but gelato. Big difference right? There is a big difference for me, but I am slightly picky….slightly.

I studied abroad in Italy and learned a bit of Italian when I was there so I just have a bias towards gelato, what can I say!

Awkward cannot begin to describe my emotions, but the teachers were amazing, which helped me get over my awkwardness.

swing dancing in montreal

My Motivations to Continue

Big Motivation: Money

Having paid for the classes in itself was a lot of motivation. In my opinion, once you pay for something, in advance, it is a big motivation to make sure you use what you paid for!

I didn’t know that than, but being a hard worker and having finally taken the step to pay and try dancing gave me enough incentive to continue.

Additionally, I’ve always been a saver, and along the way I have had to learn that it’s also important to enjoy life and find a balance. Little did I know that that balance was dancing.

Fun Motivation: Socializing

Also, I actually was talking to people! I can’t say I made friends tout de suite (right away), but I was talking and socializing with people and that was so EXCITING! The process of learning something new, something that requires using your body, your mind, following rhythm, and dancing with others all at the same time is bound to create some amount of confusion. And that facilitates conversation and bonding with others, you may not even realize it!

It’s a great way to talk to people while bypassing the awkward approaching of someone at a bar or meetup. You actually have a reason, so I don’t have to come off as weird or as if I’m trying to flirt with every single human being in the building.

Healthy Motivation: Dancing

Also, dancing! I am not good, but dancing is amazing and so much fun. It has so many benefits, socializing as I mentioned, but a great way to be active and to change things up. Dancing can often be really selective, competitive, and inaccessible and it should not be. I can’t speak for other dance styles without the same degree of certainty but this studio and this dance community was and is open to anyone from any walk of life.

Nostalgia Motivation: Music

Lastly, the music is life. I grew up listening and even playing this style of music. That’s the amazing thing, jazz is so varied and soulful. You’ve also got blues, orchestral components, big bands, fantastic instrumentals solos, and modern elements such as electric.

All of this put together and it kept me going and I finished my first class and had signed up for my second. I didn’t know it, but I had been officially absorbed in the world that is LINDY HOP, and oh am I glad I was.

Lindy Hop

So what is Lindy Hop? Simply speaking, it’s a big family and within this idea of vernacular jazz, that sort of stuff.

(On a side note: the history of lindy, jazz and all of it is super important and amazing but this post and myself are not experts to give that history justice, but it is absolutely worth looking into.)

It’s also a social dance. Whether you’re dancing with a partner or doing solo stuff, a large part of lindy is that social aspect.

  • Live music
  • Crowded rooms (definitely pre-CoVid-19)
  • Bunch of bodies shaking and jamming out to the rhythm!

Maybe it was my isolation, but this was just what the doctor called for. I don’t know if you’ve ever fallen in love, but I did fall in love with Lindy hop and the whole community, perhaps more colloquially known as swing dancing (puns galore, and oh boy have I heard them all 😉).

Join a community in Montreal

Now let’s get on to the specifics, how do you join this amazing community in Montréal and in general?

Research Online

YouTube is your library. There are so many artists and videos where you can learn or just watch in awe of this art form and it’s great, especially in CoVid times. Also, it’s free.

Dip Your Toes in the Water

Depending on where you live, take a class. I suggest searching for classes under the following terms:

  • Swing dancing
  • Lindy hop
  • Charleston
  • Balboa
  • Blues
  • Also just good old “jazz” often works

Socialize and Have Fun

What will eventually come to be the most important step and the one you need to keep on doing: SOCIAL DANCING!

Social Dancing

In fact, depending on how you learn and how extroverted you are (or become, like me) you can just skip everything and go straight to social dancing.

Now what do I mean by this? Well just like learning a language in a class setting there’s only so much that can do. At one point nothing replaces the experience of real life conversation and living in the language. You can learn the name of a move, but what’s the point if you can’t dance without your teacher?

Just like learning a language, it requires multiple methods to do so. With Lindy Hop, social dancing is really the heart and soul of the community. It’s where you dance without worry and just live in the moment. Look for live music events, bars/restos having special swing dancing nights and GO!!!!!

Don’t forget to: talk, interact, and mingle.

If you want to go from dancing to finding a home and really being part of something you’ve got to dance in the middle with all the people and not in the dark corner of the dance floor. And that’s essentially it, if you’re willing to put that one foot in the door you may just discover a new life’s passion.

Why it’s amazing

I’ve seen so many people find their best friends and even their soulmates all because they decided to go out social dancing. It’s the best way:

  • To meet people
  • Test out what you know
  • Experiment
  • Dance freely

It’s a social dance, so logically you need to go social dancing. You’ll never experience the wonderfulness that is Lindy Hop if you don’t go out dancing.

Things to make it easier

Now I know it’s easier said than done. I personally know how intimidating it can be to learn something new and in front of others. I dived straight in with partner dancing, but you’ve got some options to help prepare yourselves:

  • Bring a friend or a partner along with you
  • Try solo dancing first
  • Test out the waters with a trial class or drop-ins
  • Try to pick some moves from your favourite videos beforehand so you have an idea of what you’re doing and a backup move

But ultimately, you’ll have to step out of your comfort zone, as with most things in life, and just give it a go.

During a Global Pandemic

There are many places offering online classes to get you going until we can socialize once again. One in particular that I personally enjoyed is allswing. The benefit here, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are! Cat’s Corner also has their online classes for free on YouTube.

For those of you in Montréal, you’ve got options. My personal favourite is Cat’s Corner. Amazing owners, fantastic and welcoming community, and the dancing fever all around. This summer they had super affordable outdoor classes and during lockdown numero 2, they’ll be doing classes via zoom. You can also check out SwingConnexion, and Studio 88.

One Last Word

May I also just say, your experience will be your own but the lindy/jazz community is incredibly open, inviting, and just swell. There are many lindy hop communities in Ottawa, Toronto, New York etc. You would be surprised how big Lindy Hop is. There may just be an entire community you never knew about where you live.

In Montréal, we’ve got a pretty big swing scene and some options for dance studios. Each will have a different vibe, but I encourage you to venture out, challenge your horizons, and find yourself a Lindy Hop home.

Dance away friends. I encourage you to try and stay positive during these times, and do share your lindy hop experience with me!

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