Dance Teacher Seeks Bookworm Buddies

Exhausted by six months without swinging out, sociable swing dancers are finding other ways to scratch that interaction itch: outdoor tea dances, pub garden socials, and live-streamed concerts have become de rigeur during 2020. But one bookish dance teacher wants the scene to both stay in touch and swot up, until ballrooms open once more—and you can tune in from anywhere. Nikki Santilli has a doctorate in prose poetry, and has written the only book on this style as practiced in England. But this long-held literary love competes for her attention with another, equally expressive art-form: that of jazz and swing dance. The London-based scholar began learning Lindy hop and balboa in 2003, while working on her thesis. [Someone should write a thesis on the staggering number of swing dancers with doctorates.] She has taught dance since 2005, taking an academic interest in the history and sociology of the music and movement she loves. Nikki has tried to inspire the same curiosity in her students, “even if it was only a five-minute introduction before an hour’s class.” The response has been mixed. “Some said it really helped them understand the class; others teased me for my taking things so seriously, when they just wanted to dance,” she said. “Not only did I not stop teaching the history, I integrated it into everything I did—it was inescapable.” Whatever she was working
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Dave Doyle is a swing dancer, dance teacher, and journalist based in Gloucestershire, England. Write him at [email protected]. Find him on Twitter @DaveDoyleComms.

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