Swing 101

On this page: What is swing dancing? – What is Cat’s Corner? – What’s it like on a Friday night? – Do I need a partner?How do I find someone to dance with? – What’s the studio like? – What should I wear on my feet? – What should I wear on the rest of me? – What should I know about hygiene? – Where else can I dance? – How can I get better at dancing? – Where can I go for help in my search for creativity, self-expression, new types of movements, and strong connections?


What is swing dancing?

The short answer: It’s an energetic partner dance done to swing (jazz) music . Swing dancers on TV are known for doing cool acrobatic tricks like lifting their partner over their head.

The long answer: Swing dancing is an umbrella term for a variety of partnered social dances that share a common history and some fundamental techniques. The most recognized swing dance (and the one that most dancers start with nowadays) is called the Lindy Hop. It was invented in the 1930s by Black American dancers in the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York City and took America by storm. It grew in popularity and was danced throughout the 1930s and 1940s before decreasing in popularity in the 1950s as music trends moved away from jazz music and towards rock and roll. After a long period of decline, the Lindy Hop experienced a renewed popularity in the 80s and 90s as new generations of dancers became curious about old jazz dances, and especially when swing music made a reapparance in mainstream popular culture. These days, Lindy Hop is danced by thousands of people in communities across Canada, North America, Europe, and the globe. Many of the original steps, stylings, and techniques have been retained, thanks partly to studies of old video clilps, and especially to “old timers” who danced in the original swing era and taught young dancers starting in the 1980s. Key features of the lindy hop (and many other swing dances) include synocpated triple steps, a relaxed body posture and partner connection, and mainly improvised movements chosen on the spot. Lindy Hop is generally danced to swing music that can vary in tempo and style but is defined by certain kinds of syncopated rhythms and ways of playing the music.

What is Cat’s Corner?

Cat’s Corner is a community-oriented private organization that aims to teach, dance, and celebrate swing and blues dance in Montreal. We offer instructional dance classes, weekly swing dance parties, coached performance troupes, special events and workshops, and more! Our mission? A living dance. A living studio.A living community. In our collective mind’s eye, we see a place that is home to a vibrant and continuously evolving swing dance community.

A PLACE WHERE GENERATIONS MEET, relationships are built, energies are exchanged, history is preserved and created anew.

A PLACE WHERE PASSION FOR SWING DANCE IS BORN, is nurtured and where people are encouraged to reach new heights of self-expression.

A PLACE WHERE WE ARE KIND TO OURSELVES and kind to one another as we evolve and grow.

We see a thriving, socially responsible, sustainable business that provides the opportunities for people to be what they love, according to their abilities, talents and needs. A living dance. A living studio. A living community.


Friday Nights

What’s it like on a Friday night?

It’s a party, swing dance style! To get things warmed up, we start with a beginner lesson where new dancers can pick up some basics. You can come alone, with a partner, or with a group of friends. On any given night we usually have 20-40 people who are brand new or have only been a few times. During the lesson, the teachers ask the students to rotate every few minutes so that you can try your new moves with different people, and you can meet some other folks who are learning to dance. After that, we turn the lights down, put some music on, and then it’s up to you!

Do I need a partner? How do I find someone to dance with?

During the lesson, teachers will ask students to rotate partners every few minutes so that you get a chance to try dancing with different people. During the dance, typically, at the beginning of a song, someone approaches someone else in the room and says, “Hey, do you want to dance?” Then you try things out until the end of the song, thank your partner, and find someone new to dance with. You can dance every song or pick and choose. Some folks like to watch for a while to get a feel for things and that’s cool. But if you’re there, don’t be surprised if someone comes up and asks you to dance! It’s totally normal and encouraged to approach someone you don’t know and ask for a dance, and if you are asked, you’re encouraged to give it a try and also welcome to say no. It’s quite different than how you might interact with people in a dance club or on the metro, and for some folks it takes some getting used to, but often meeting new people is the best part!

What’s the studio like?

We have a big two-room studio at the top of several flights of stairs. The dancing areas have wooden floors, mirrors, and air conditioning, and we also have an unsupervised cloak room for shoes and coats, a set of gender-neutral washrooms, and a couple of hang out spaces with seating. On Friday nights, we sell bottled water and sports drinks, and no alcohol is served or permitted onsite.

What should I wear on my feet?

All dancers are asked to change from their street shoes into clean, indoor shoes. New dancers are encouraged to wear shoes that are flat (no heels) and comfortable, since you’ll be trying out lots of new and energetic moves. You’ll see lots of Keds, sneakers, oxfords, ballet flats, and dress shoes. Most people find it more comfortable to dance in shoes that are a little more slippery and a little less sticky on the bottom, but don’t worry if you don’t have the perfect pair. Bring something clean and comfortable and you’ll be more than ready for your first steps.

What should I wear on the rest of me?

Whatever you want! We recommend something you can move comfortably in and something you feel good-looking in! You’ll see lots of jeans, t-shirts, dress-shirts, blouses, skirts and dresses. Some people like to wear vintage-y type clothes inspired by the swing era. Some people come straight from work or school. Some people like to be fancy. You choose!

What should I know about hygiene?

You’ll be within conversation distances or closer to lots of people throughout the night. Bad breath or body odours can make it hard for your partner to enjoy a dance or engage with you, so please plan accordingly. Many people brush their teeth before leaving the house, bring chewing gum or breath mints, and avoid certain foods before a dance. Many people shower the morning or the evening of the dance and avoid vigorous activity earlier in the day. The dance space is air conditioned but still heats up when there are a lot of people, so consider how much you typically sweat during physical activity and that your partner may be putting their hand on your arm, your back, or your shoulder during the dance. Dancing with other people when you’re a bit sweaty or they’re a bit sweaty is just part of dancing. However, your partner may find it uncomfortable if your clothing gets soaked with sweat, if you send a sweat drop flying, or if your bare shoulder or arm is wet to the touch. Some people are fine in the clothes that they came in and others bring a change (or even two or three).

I had a great time! Now what?

Where else can I dance?

Montrealers are lucky to have access to so many great dance schools, venues, and events. At Cat’s Corner, we run weekly Friday lindy hop dances (with twice-monthly blues features), Wednesday night ‘guided practices’ for open dance time, and periodic special events. To learn more about the latest happenings in the city, talk to your teachers, your classmates, or your dance partners…it’s always changing! You can also check out Facebook groups meant for growing and sharing in Montreal’s Lindy Hop (https://www.facebook.com/groups/swinginginmontreal/) and Blues (https://www.facebook.com/groups/MontrealBluesNights/) communities.

How can I get better at dancing?

Let’s start on a philosophical note about the word “better”. Although there are some basic ideas and techniques at the core of Lindy Hop, here at Cat’s Corner we don’t aim to talk about the right and the wrong. There is no standard way to Lindy Hop that is right or best, so our classes are not about becoming “good” dancers who know the “right” way to dance. Instead, we aim to inspire students to express themselves through movement and music, to experience connections with their partners, and to be creative. That being said, most people’s way of dancing Lindy Hop evolves over time. We can help guide you to to try new kinds or ways of moving, to increase your vocabulary of dance steps, to have clearer communication and stronger connections with your partner, and to increase your familiarity with jazz rhythms and music.

Okay, so, uh…where can I go for help in my search for creativity, self-expression, new types of movements, and strong connections?

We thought you’d never ask. Some options:

  • social dancing: On Friday nights, or anywhere that you can find a partner and some music. Social dancing helps you practice real time improvisation and communication with your partner. Plus, it takes time for your body to develop muscle memory, and for your mind to incorporate all the new information you’re taking in.

  • practice: Alone, or with a partner. Practice the moves you know. Try new steps that you’ve seen. Put on a song and see what happens.

  • watch other dancers: Live, or from YouTube. See what’s out there and what inspires you. Even better, try it out!

  • take a class: Cat’s Corner has been teaching Lindy Hop for over 10 years. Let our teachers show you a thing or two.

  • take a private lesson: It’s just what it sounds like. You (or you and a partner) with a teacher for one-on-one attention, suggestions, and feedback. Ask your favourite teacher, or email the studio at info@catscorner.ca for more information.

  • join a project: Cat’s Corner runs a variety of projects, mainly aimed at dancers with intermediate or advanced levels of experience. Performance troupes focus on choreography and presenting group numbers to an audience. Other groups focus on experimenting as a dancer, increasing vocabulary, or trying out new ways of movement.

  • attend an event: Here in Montreal, or in dance scenes throughout the region, you’ll find dancers getting together to learn and to dance from local instructors and international dance stars. Workshop weekends tend to be learning-focussed with classes, instructors, and workshops and social dancing in the evenings. Exchanges tend to be focussed on social dancing and community building. Ask around and keep an ear to the ground to find out what’s coming up soon.

Where can you find us?

3451 St-Laurent 3e étage,
514 874-9846