Swing dancers take relocation in their stride

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 08:29 16/01/2014
Swingtown Rebels
Monique Ford/Fairfax NZ

DANCE OFF: The Swingtown Rebels take over the Dance-o-Mat on Gloucester St late at night.

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Swing, Charleston, balboa and shag are alive and kicking thanks to the post-quake perseverance of the Swingtown Rebels.

The Christchurch swing-dancing group lost its venue in the 2011 earthquakes, and has been bouncing around town ever since, making use of dining room floors and local bars.

Swing is a style of dance that encompasses many styles of the art deco era and fed out of the popular Charleston dance movement of the 1920s. Dances include lindyhop, balboa, strolls, and everything inbetween.

Rebels founder Debi James says swing is still going strong in Christchurch and around the world.

Post-quake, James gave up her dining room to weekly dance classes when its venue, the Deaf Society Hall, was destroyed. Bar- hoppers might remember the Rebels from their weekly social evenings at Sol Square bar, Yellow Cross. That's gone now too.

These days, classes are held at the Hohepa Hall, back-to-back on a Tuesday night. After class, dancers descend on Cargo Bar in Addington where the tables are pushed back and they take over the place.

"Finding places to run classes and social events in Christchurch is so hard," James says. "We do tend to take over a bit."

When Cargo Bar is out of action, the Rebels fall back on a trusty Gap Filler project which has seen them through hard times - the Dance-o-Mat.

"The Dance-o-Mat is a saving grace for us," James says. "That thing is so awesome, we follow it around the city."

The group first started using it when it was set up on Manchester St, Re:Start Mall, and now Gloucester St. It's been a long winter when it wasn't available.

The Dance-o-Mat is a free space set up with speakers and a music dock. Users bring their own music and plug it in, making use of the stage and sound system. It attracts everyone from tourists to professional dancers.

The group made good use of the mat on Tuesday night when Cargo Bar was closed for maintenance. The beauty of the mat is, it's never time to shut up shop or send people home - it's open 24-7.

"A huge kudos to Gap Filler for that project," James says. "We would've been lost without it."

For those who haven't tried swing before, it's never too late to try. The Rebels offer beginner dance classes.

"It's a real workout," James says.

"You can either take it really slow, or extremely fast. It's really up to you and your confidence.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find a lindyhopper who's not smiling. It's so fun."

Keen on learning swing? The Swingtown Rebels have a beginner class starting Tuesday, 8pm-9pm with social dancing after. Email info@swingtownrebels.co.nz for more info.

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- The Press

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