Jovial, borderline raucous laughter can be heard from the bottom of the winding staircase that leads up to the third floor of The Learning Hub on Ngo Quyen in Hanoi. Inside the intimate studio, with shiny wood floors, couples hop and skip across the room to upbeat jazz songs. Smiling students twirl and spin each other as instructors Fiammetta Mancini and Vu Nguyen (known as Fi and Vu on stage) alternate from partnering members of the class to encouraging them from the sidelines.
Swing dance stirs up images of men swinging their partners around, throwing them sky high and catching them in impossible positions. To me, the fast swinging legs and acrobatic lifts always seemed more fit for a gymnasium than a dance floor. But this class is a Lindy Hop Beginner’s course. The moves are bouncy yet grounded and have a little bit more swagger than other typical partner dances such as salsa or bachata.
Although Mancini and Nguyen started teaching Lindy Hop swing dance just one year ago, it seems as if they have been dancing together for a lifetime. They partner effortlessly with each other, calling out the moves as they demonstrate them. Mancini says that although there is often an improvisational element to swing, every type of dance has a language that initially must be learned, and swing is no different.
“Swing dance is freedom. The moves come from the rhythm and groove of the music, but you still must learn the basic steps before you can play with it,” she says. Besides having fun, the goal of the class is for the students to get the steps or “vocabulary” down so they can speak the “language” with anyone on any dance floor. There is also the added benefit of burning around 500 calories per session, useful for those that want to keep in shape.
“Swing dance is a niche world but it’s vast,” Mancini says. The world of swing has a long history. Lindy Hop in particular dates back to the Harlem Renaissance era of the 1920s. Back then it took place in giant ball rooms where mostly black American dancers competed and perfected the art form. Although a large number of the dance halls were segregated at the time, venues such as The Savoy Ballroom boasted a non-discriminatory practice, and it is this inclusionary spirit that Mancini and Nguyen aspire to.
Mancini and Nguyen have also participated in several major swing dance festivals such as the Singapore Lindy Revolution 2018, Saigon Swing into Spring 2019, and Herrang Dance Camp 2019. They have also organized workshops with international teachers, including lately Shirley Osher from Israel and Lainey Silver from the United States.
If you are not able to join the weekday evening classes at the Learning Hub (Tuesday and Thursday nights), they also host an open social on Friday nights, previously at New York Sports Bar on Ba Trieu, but now at the Ivina Hub. There, the high ceilings and large floor space give the appearance of the ballrooms of old. The attendees show off their skills while clips of professional dancers play on a large screen behind them. The mood is light, cheerful and fun.
Mancini and Nguyen’s passion for swing does not just stop at the classes. They recently dazzled audiences at the JW Marriott hotel and although it is not a requirement of the course, they do urge their students to join in and perform whenever possible.
Room is made for dancers if they drop in on a class, but Mancini advises starting from the beginning of a course to reap the full benefits; the next class begins Feb.4. Prices are modest, about 1.5 million VND per eight class course (discounted for couples), but Mancini and Nguyen are keen for people to take swing dancing so they may offer special discounts depending on circumstances, saying: “We would like to keep the Lindy Hop value of inclusion and openness as far as possible, and encourage everyone to participate regardless of age, gender and economic status. It is entirely based on our own assessment of the person and situation.”
“It’s a really energetic and social dance. But it’s also good for making new friends, and improving your physical and mental well-being,” Mancini says. Swing dancing is something anyone can try and, of course, it is particularly useful if you want to get a little closer, quite literally, to that special someone. Why not give it a whirl?
The next Beginner’s course starts on Feb. 4. Contact the Swing Dance Academy to find out more.
The Learning Hub
14 Ngo Quyen, Hanoi
+84 (0) 94 929 00 98
Classes Tuesdays, Thursdays, 8.30-9.30 p.m.
1.5 million VND for 8 hour beginner course/ 1.3 million per person for couples
1 million per person for group bookings
Intermediate courses also available