Hello there, my name is Alex. Nottingham University has like, 200 societies and the kids at Impact thought it would be a laugh if I went and tried some of them out and told you all what I think. Not sure if you want to pay that membership fee? Whether it’s BladeSoc or BlowSoc, I’ll be there interviewing the president, attending the socials and getting involved so you don’t have to. You bunch of ingrates. 

Soc-umentary –   A factual article about a society, presenting the facts with little or no fiction.  As in, ‘Did you see that socumentary about Bellringing? That shit cray.’ 

Socumentary #4 – Swing Soc 

Rejection is a particularly hard pill to swallow, especially with an ego as big as mine, so you can imagine my dismay when one of Nottingham’s many societies last week rejected the opportunity to have their very own socumentary. I know. What the hell. They didn’t even give a valid reason, and I think that just hurts more. It’s like when my ex-girlfriend dumped me ‘because she didn’t love me anymore’…pfft. 

As you may have noticed I’m not naming said society, which you might think is an attempt at professionalism and journalistic integrity, but it’s not. Frankly, they don’t deserve the publicity. Maybe they’ve got some dark dangerous secrets they’re trying to hide? Who cares. It’s taking the biscuit; they can smother their faces in humble pie and I’ll have my cake and eat it. I hope that wasn’t too subtle for you.

In other news, last week I went to Swing Soc, a society for the appreciation of all things swing. I was going to one of their weekly dance classes, where members are taught swing hall staples such as the Lindy Hop and the Charleston. I was pretty pumped for this, I’ve been a regular attendee of electro-Swing events in town for some time; they’re good fun. You get to dress up like a waiter and do stupid poses for the camera – as I expertly demonstrate here.

I was hoping the class might help my conduct at such nights. No longer would I be your average swing-tourist, desperately flailing my limbs in an attempt to dance to songs written before Wikipedia was even invented (shudder), but instead a smooth moving criminal, charming the flappers and sipping moonshine from a jam jar whilst cutting some seriously SCHWING shapes. That was the dream.

When I first arrived I was a little disconcerted. The mood was subdued as a handful of people sat quietly at the back of The Den, looking a little bit miserable.

Upon reflection I think this might just be the effect the Den has on people. However hard the SU try to rebrand the place, it’s always going to be a lifeless, damp little room with the atmosphere of a wake. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was built on an ancient Indian burial ground or something.

The mood was significantly lifted when we were ushered onto the dance floor by president and dance teacher, Chris Johnstone and his partner in crime, treasurer Jessie Stockdale. Engaging, friendly and confident, Chris organised a line of boys and a line of girls and taught us the ‘basic’ moves for the dance we’d be learning that evening. I’ve put ‘basic’ in quotations because after half an hour I still couldn’t do it very well.

Thrown together with a member of the opposite gender, we then had to put our new found skills to test and try the basic steps with someone else. For everyone else this was child’s play, but as someone born with two left feet and a complete lack of rhythm I was finding it challenging. Luckily everyone there was super nice as I repeatedly screwed up the most simple of steps. More and more complicated elements were added to the dance; new moves were called things like ‘rock-backs’ and ‘suzies’. It looked great when you could do it; I just looked drunk and confused.

A good way I found of describing the evening was like a speed dating session but with more kicks and enforced waist holding. After the addition of a new move, the girl would move around the circle to the next waiting man and, after a brief bit of small talk, have a little dance. You can kinda see why middle-aged people used to always go sharking at dance classes before internet dating was invented. If you’re the kind of guy who gets anxious at the very thought of approaching girls, then I’d recommend some sort of dancing. You’re given carte blanche to get up close and personal and then laugh afterwards about how great/shit you were, before sweeping her off her feet and dancing her into the bedroom.

Clearly I wouldn’t be dancing anyone into the bedroom any time soon, but as I said all of my partners were very understanding, sympathetically telling me, ‘once you get those basic steps it’s much easier’. That is except one girl,

Me: (after completely forgetting what I was doing and nearly falling over) Sorry, I’m not very good!

Her: No, you’re not are you….

That said and done, I still had a great time attempting what I believe was a version of the Charleston. The dance itself was energetic and fun, the teaching was clear and the people were (mostly) very friendly.

Worn out and working up a sweat I sidled up to Swing Soc president, Chris, after the session to chew the fat.

Hey Chris, what is Swing Soc exactly?

Dance lessons like tonight are our main focus, but we also go to and promote events like Jitterbug, Itchy Feet and Swing. Joining our society gets you discounted entrance into all of these nights. We’re also in the process of trying to form a swing band, because I know lots of our members play a real mixture of musical instruments. We also have an occasional social dancing hour, which is just about grabbing a random partner and having a dance. A lot of swing moves are partner led, so that’s an important aspect of the dance. Soon we’re thinking of having a big event and inviting some of the other swing societies from other universities down to Nottingham and having a massive event!

We also take part in Lindy exchanges, where our members visit other unis, explore the city for a couple of days and go to dances in the evening. We all just sofa surf with other people from the swing community whilst we’re there, it’s a strong community.

Sounds good. What would you say to someone unsure about coming to Swing Soc?

I would tell them that it’s not a typical dance club, its lots of fun. There’s no competing, we’re purely here for the enjoyment. There’s no pressure to come back every week, you can just give it a go or throw yourself into it. It’s also great for meeting other people.

What’s your favourite dance? 

The Lindy Hop – there’s a lot of travelling and flinging each other around. It reminds me of those old silent black and white films which had loads of energy.

Why do you think swing music and its culture is so popular at the moment?

I think electro-swing sparked it, people wanted to find the roots of it. I personally first came into the contact with the music playing Fallout 3 which has a swing soundtrack. It just shows how it has returned to mainstream culture. Everyone likes dressing up as well.

What kind of people come to Swing Soc?

Weirdly lots of scientists! Some people who will have done dancing before, but it’s fun and relaxed in comparison to other dancing societies. We’ve had trouble sometimes in getting guys to come down, but the ones who do are very committed.

So how much will it cost you?

Classes are £3 each or you can pay £18 for the semester.

And finally, exactly how swing are you?

100%, swing out of ten!

***

I think the thing that makes Swing Soc such an enjoyable society is the fact that the whole culture surrounding it is so vibrant and fun. The music is always fast, the dance moves are energetic and the style so sociable. There’s also a surprisingly huge community gathering pace behind it, with three swing based groups in Nottingham alone. If you haven’t tried any dancing before don’t be put off, despite my complaints the moves are simple enough and after a couple of weeks you’ll be carving up the dance floor like a boss.

Now, seriously, what are they doing at Cake Soc?

Swing Soc

Good: If you wanna chirpse 1920s style and look great at Jitterbug

Bad: If you like looking cool and collected on the dance floor

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2 Comments

  1. Rachel
    December 8, 2012 at 13:02 — Reply

    Such a well written article; funny, interesting and (as a member of Swing Soc) truthful! The almost falling over on the dancefloor is all part of the fun 🙂

  2. Laura
    February 23, 2013 at 19:03 — Reply

    One of my friends mentioned the reviews you’ve been doing of the societies at Nottingham and as an alumnus I thought it’d be interesting to give it a read. I like the principle behind the “Socumentaries”; however given that the unnamed society declined to participate raises questions about how judgemental you are being. This is something I particularly noticed from your review of Hide and Soc, which features the quote: “It could be very easy to be judgemental about the people at Hide and Soc. Yes some of them seemed to lack basic social skills, and yes some of them maybe took the whole thing a little too seriously, but in a way Hide and Soc is the perfect place for them to meet like-minded people”. I find it quite easy to see why any society would decline an evening with you…

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