The Swing Dance Night That Led Me To Move To Sweden

Stockholm was a major player in the Lindy Hop dance revival of the 1980s when swing dancing got its second birth. Even though Jazz music and Lindy Hop dance both originated in the US, several Swedes were part of the first group of teachers who undertook to get the rest of us to remember and learn this wonderful dance. They sought out original dancers such as Norma Miller and Frankie Manning, who had given up on teaching because they didn’t think the world cared anymore. These people brought them out of retirement to help create a revival and every year in the summer they have 5 weeks of classes, live music, and dancing in a little town called Herräng located a few hours north of Stockholm. And if you come to Sweden for Herräng, you always pass through Stockholm. So, I really felt I was in the epicenter for Lindy Hop.

As I sat down to think before jumping into dancing with someone else, I pondered the fact that you usually have to ask others to dance when you are new. This excited me because it gave me a chance to think about what qualities I was looking for in another dancer: a kind heart, a gentle lead, and space to improvise. I knew I should ask someone to dance, but I couldn’t help but want to pause and drink this all in. To observe and watch the dancers swinging out on that floor, with smiles on their faces, showed a mirror to my happy feelings in my heart. However, I knew the only way to truly experience swing dancing is to participate.

In the land of Lindy Hop, not everyone dances Balboa, so if you know this subset dance of the swing era, it’s like having a magic key to another ballroom that only those who know the secret password can enter.

Since no one was making any move to ask me to dance, I sat down near where he was dancing, to watch the close embrace stylings with quick shuffle steps. Having recently taken my first class in Balboa, but still not being proficient in the dance, I figured I would watch their feet closely to see if I could learn something new.

As I pause to answer, he gently takes my hand to lead me to sit at a table. I can feel the softness of his touch and the fingertip to fingertip of our hands. I’m holding hands with this man I just met and I don’t want to let go. I can’t remember the last time I felt such a gentle touch. I am getting a little starry-eyed at this point and thinking I need to talk to him more.

I pause, thinking about the experience of the week.

I smile at the thought. “Well, it’s not exactly a Nobel prize, but one given out by Karolinska Institutet. It’s a prize for Excellence In Medical Education Research. The highest international honor for his field, so still a really big deal.”

I start to talk faster and louder as I get excited.

‘This is a night I will remember for the rest of my life!’”

Mattias listened carefully, and then asked

“I could imagine myself being happy living here someday.”

Even after the words escaped my lips, I wasn’t sure why I shared that observation. Maybe to give him a hint of my interest, or maybe it was simply my heart speaking my future wish.

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