It took me a little while to get into the swing of things.
But since my first SwingConnection here in Leipzig (pun completely intended) I’ve filled my entire wardrobe with this city. Its multiple schools are warm and inviting, the floors are hot and dancers blistering.
I’m a freshly turned thirty-something Australian male with a history in arts management, digital marketing and coffee making. My parents were dancers and I’ve lived with music my entire life. I’ve always loved jazz. I performed at my mum’s dance school as a kid and later toured Australia, Europe and Brazil with my band. Despite all of this, it wasn’t until I was 28 that I found swing dancing.
And it wasn’t until even more recently that I found Leipzig.
I read somewhere that if you’re in a job interview, and your prospective employer’s hands happen to be wrapped around a warm drink, you’re more likely to get the job. In 2008, Yale researchers found that experiences of physical warmth would increase feelings of interpersonal warmth. Thus, the hotter the drink, the hotter your chances – the cooler you can be under the collar.
I can’t remember my first coffee here in Leipzig (more often than not it’s pretty forgettable, sadly), but what I can remember is the first time I felt warmed by the city.
The aptly named ICE from a ferociously cold Köln slid me into the HBF late April. I was on a four-week-four-city interview of my own, seeking a German Heimat.
Trying on each town like clothes, I pulled Köln up over my hips; it looked great on the mannequin but not so on me. I put it back before buttoning up Berlin. This suited me better but I was at the wrong end of the craze; now too prescriptive – too expensive. Dresden sat across my shoulders nicely, it stopped the cool from setting in, but I hesitated; it wasn’t quite right.
Then I came across Leipzig. I slipped into this incredible piece as if it were a satin gown, its sash tying me into it.
As I entered the city, I googled “Lindy Hop Leipzig” (one should always think twice about entering search terms like “Swing in Leipzig” – you never know what you’ll get dealt). I flicked an email to one of the local swing schools, SwingConnection Leipzig.
Shortly thereafter, I received an invitation to a blues social dance that night at their studio. I was tired and in any other circumstance would have politely declined, but I still felt the warmth of Leipzig’s gown, so resolved to go.
Later that night, I climbed the stairs of their studio to the razorblade sounds of the LE Blues Company. When I reached the top, I found myself in a dark spot-lit room filled with 50 or so silhouettes, pulsing across the floor like big cats on hot soft sand. The first person to greet me at the SwingConnection party was the same person who’d sent the email. She smiled warmly when I confessed I’d not danced blues much.
“Ahh, you’re a lindy hopper!” she quipped. “Don’t worry, everyone can dance blues, and everyone’s welcome”.
It wasn’t long before I found myself in stumbling conversations of my finest DEnglish, and accepting invitations to tread the boards with the rest of SwingConnection’s cats and kittens.
Despite my work I’m not a fan of crowds. Sometimes I feel like I’d rather rub onions into my eyes than solicit a conversation with a stranger. I listened A LOT to The Beatles growing up, and my father would affectionately refer to me as the “Nowhere Man” due to an uncanny ability to discard my body without notice and float away.
I didn’t stay super long that first night at SwingConnection. Despite the warmth, I was still somewhat edgy and keen to sleep. However, true to her words, for the next three days and nights I was welcomed into the Leipzig swing dance community.
Through that, I began to identify myself with the city, its people and its places.
Everyday in Leipzig there are dancefloors being used. They are hidden in backrooms of pubs, behind carparks, above Spielhalles and under pavilions. It only takes an email, or to join the right group on Facebook, and this world will unfurl out in front of you.
Swing dancing is the perfect social activity for everyone who, for whatever reason, might find communicating with words a challenge.
It’s also perfect for those who require a little assistance in achieving presence of mind: as a dancer, when the music enters your body, you have 0.001 second to interpret it, transform it into a movement, communicate that movement to your partner, and pull off the movement yourself with ALL of the grace and style.
Sometimes I like to write poems, take photos and make videos. It scratches my creative itch and more importantly, provides a “nowhere place” – a place where I can revisit my experiences, take time with them and zoom in on them. Here’s a little film I made about our first outdoor swing party of the summer. The SwingConnection community built this stage for the warmer months and every Wednesday we’ve been prowling upon it, swinging to sunset.
By Sam Jozeps
Samuel Jozeps is from South Australia. He graduated from the University of Adelaide with a degree in Philosophy and English. Since then, he has worked in digital marketing and logistics at international arts festivals. He now lives in Leipzig and works at Basislager Coworking. Sam enjoys poetry, playing music, swing dancing, eating fritz and sauce sandwiches, taking photos and producing short films. His words and poems have appeared in publications throughout Australia. Also, in 2003 he was awarded the title of South Australia’s Best Burger Maker (Burger King).