What’s going on in Perth these days? Walk past the Mustang Bar in Northbridge after 7:30pm on a Friday night and you might think you had gone back in time to 1940. The swingin’ sounds of Duke Ellington and Count Basie spill out onto the street while swing dancers swirl around the dance floor inside. So what’s this swing dance revival all about?
Swing Back in Time
Here’s a quick history lesson for you. There was a time last century, during the 1930’s and 40’s, when jazz was THE popular music that everyone listened to. Jazz musicians were the hot celebrities of the time (forget Tay Tay… have you heard of Benny Goodman??). Jazz bands grew in size (there were no microphones and PA systems, so if you wanted to be louder, you had to be bigger) and crowds packed in to dance halls like Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom to hear them play and dance to their music.
Now fast-forward to 2015, Perth Western Australia.
Have you been to the Mustang Bar in Northbridge on a Friday night lately? If you have, you would be forgiven if you thought that you had gone back in time to the swing era. It’s quite an odd scene really. Turn up on any given Friday after 7pm and you will likely witness the following scene.
There’s usually a small ‘after work’ crowd at the bar winding down their week and toasting in their weekend. At some point, members of this crowd will become aware of a large and energetic group of people on the dance floor. The ‘dance floor’ crowd are wearing gorgeous vintage outfits and busting out some flashy swing dance moves to a large band on stage playing 30’s and 40’s swing era tunes. This usually has the ‘after work’ crowd scratching their heads with bemused expressions on their faces wondering if they missed some memo about a fancy dress themed night at the Mustang.
Looking around the Mustang Bar, this place just looks like your typical sports bar with a footy game playing on one giant screen and rugby league on another. Yet this eclectic and confusing mix of elements works. Really well.
For years, the Mustang Bar has been hosting a Swing dancing night every Friday evening. There’s a large Perth community of swing dancers and musicians that support the swing dance scene and there’s always room for more people to join in the fun! Jazz bands that regularly play swing gigs include the Oz Big Band, Harry Deluxe, and Adam Hall & the Velvet Playboys.
How You Can Be a Perth… er… Swinger
There are several swing dance classes that you can go along to including Swing It! (Subiaco), Swing Zing Dance School (Mt. Hawthorn and Applecross) and Perth Swing Dance Academy (Mt. Lawley, Vic. Park, Fremantle, Wembley). Alternatively, you can like the Perth Swing Dance Society’s Facebook page to stay informed on all things related to Perth Swing. They cover everything from swing dance classes, to swing dance history and information on where to buy vintage clothing in Perth! Check out their website for information on classes and social nights.
If you’re more of a ‘sit back and listen to jazz while sipping on a glass of red’ kind of person, then take a look at the Perth Jazz Society website. They have a current listing of upcoming gigs from Perth’s most talented jazz artists. At these events at least, it’s unlikely that you will be asked to show off your Lindy Hop moves.