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Swinging to the Beat

Travel back in time onto the dancefloor of 1930's USA

· Activities,Dance,nightlife

The Jozenjidoori road stretches from the Kotodai Park all the way down to the Nishi Park, located right by the Hirosegawa River. Trees on both sides of the road and even a small promenade in the middle separating the lanes overshadow cars and pedestrians alike. The long road is mostly known for the “Pageant of Light”, a big event in December where the trees are fitted with rows of LED lights that illuminate the faces of thousands of visitors. During summer, the festival season, people perform traditional dances and show off flashy attires here (and of course other places, as well).

Walking from the Kotodai Park down Jozenjidoori road, pedestrians will come past the entrance to the Ichibancho arcade and the Kokubuncho party district. Closer to the Nishi Park side of the road stands the Mediatheque, a huge glass rhombus filled to the brim with all things culture. Expositions, presentations and workshops are regularly held there, and students can find some peace and quiet to study on between a large selection of books. From the higher floors of the Mediatheque visitors also have a great view over Jozenjidoori road.

A wide range of drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, keep guests dancing

Located on the third floor of the building next to the Mediatheque is a bar slash event space called “Stylus”, where once a week - every Wednesday from 19:30 - the members of the Sendai Swing Club meet to brush up on their moves. Participant numbers vary - just a handful of regulars might enjoy the extra space to practice more extravagant techniques one week, while curious newcomers make for a more relaxed, and also more crowded lesson the week after. The wide open floor usually offers enough space to whirl dance partners around without bumping into other couples, and even in the case of a minor collision, the dancers simply apologize to each other, laugh and whirl off into another direction. All the while, bartender Goto-san takes care to keep participants hydrated.

Clear footwork is essential to understanding the dance flow

There are two sections, beginner and intermediate, to every lesson, covering a wide range of styles and variations: from the basic six-count Lindy Hop over the exhilarating Swing Out to the more bouncier Swing siblings, the Charleston and Balboa. Each of the different styles has its own distinct moves, turns and steps and throws, that can be woven together into one long chain of dancefloor magic. The Swing club welcomes anyone who happens to be interested, from complete beginners to those who already live and breathe Swing.

In this welcoming spirit, the two teachers Nammy and Shin hold their lesson in both English and Japanese. They are an enthusiastic dance couple that regularly organizes events such as concerts, parties and workshops in Sendai. Guests to these events tend to go all out, dressing up and even having their hair made to suit the swingy atmosphere. Some of the events have to be held at one of the bigger venues in the city to accommodate for the larger number of guests. In comparison, the weekly lesson is more of a casual gathering with lots of joking and experimenting.

For special occasions such as birthdays, people gather for what is called a Jam Circle, where everybody cheers on one lucky dancer in the middle. People come flying in and out, trying to catch the attention of the main dancer and snatch some precious shared time with him or her under the clapping of the circle. Techniques to get in and out of a dance in this situation are also sometimes the topic of a class.

Group dances open up or close a lesson

The origins of the Sendai Swing Club go back all the way to 2011, and under a different name even as far as 2006, when Nammy founded it. In its current state, the club goes far beyond a simple dance class. It can be more aptly described as a tightly-knit, but nevertheless welcoming community that aims to connect people in the most literal sense of the word. Few things are as rewarding as seeing newcomers to dance “get it” – when they start dancing on their own two feet after you explained the basic steps to them. Members of the Sendai Swing Club also share information concerning events in Japan or even other countries, be it in Asia, Europe or the US. It goes to show how infectious the Swing fever is.