BNE December 2014/January 2015
Cloudland has also hosted swing nights.
“Dancing has changed my life,” says Caitlin
Taggart, 27, who started swing dancing 18
months ago after a bad car accident.
Swing is an improvised style popular between
the 1920s and 1940s and accompanied by Big
Band music. According to Caitlin, the basic steps
are easy to pick up and she is now competing
interstate after learning the style for 18 months.
“I wanted some life balance and a hobby away
from work. I’ve met some incredible people.
Everyone is so welcoming and non-judgmental.
“I’d never travelled before and now I’ve
been to Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney for
competitions and workshops. There’s always a
social activity on – if I’m bored, I’ll text someone
from the group and we’ll either go out to an
organised event, like at Brisbane Jazz Club, or
get together at someone’s house. Often we’ll take
music down to the Kangaroo Point cliffs – there’s
a concrete floor there that we dance on.
“It’s really nice to see young people get
together and dress up in a classy way. Men in
their three-piece suits and girls in swing dresses
with their hair done in a vintage style. The girls
get ready together and the boys do too. It sounds
old-fashioned but it’s quite something to go out
to a dance properly,” she says.
Kameron Davis, Caitlin’s instructor at the
Empire Swing dance group, believes reality
television shows have sparked the revival.
“Movies and TV shows such as
The Great Gatsby
have inspired people
to dance again – and to wear the fashion and
hairstyles,” says Kam, who teaches a class for
beginners before opening up the dance floor
until midnight, sometimes accompanied by the
group’s Big Band, The Empire Swings Back.
World by Night festival, 19 December,
Reddacliff Place, city. Join in or be
inspired by dozens of world musicians
and dancers. Seewww.brisbane.qld.gov
Empire Swing, every second Friday from
7.30pm, Holy Trinity Church, 9 Church
Street, Fortitude Valley. See www.
Alma de Tango, monthly Saturday night
socials from 8pm at 45 Balaclava Street,
Woolloongabba. For details seewww.almadetango.com
Soul’sa at Cloudland every Thursday
night. Free lesson from 8.30pm then
social dancing from 9.30pm, 641 Ann
Street, Fortitude Valley. For details seewww.katarzyna.com.au/venues/cloudland
“The nights are about
dancing but also about
making friends. I met my
wife at the class”
The new attraction to dancing is more about
having fun with friends than fitness, but several
studies indicate that learning a dance such as the
tango can benefit your brain. Neuroscientists
have found that the tango, with steps that start
simply and gradually become more complicated,
is not only good for better balance but also
improves memory and multitasking skills.
Alma de Tango was the first Argentine tango
school in Australia, set up in Brisbane in 1997
by one of the country’s leading dancers of the
genre, Hugo Fernandez.
He holds monthly social nights at his
studio at Woolloongabba where beginners and
professionals mingle into the night. It attracts an
international crowd – Olga Ristic is from Serbia
and began learning four and a half years ago after
holidaying in Argentina.
“Dancing is a lovely feeling after a tiring day,”
she says. “It refreshes you. What started out as
a passion has become an obsession,” says Olga,
who now teaches the dance.
It’s the human connection that attracts Chris
Han, a South Korean who began dancing
because of his Cantonese wife, Helena Chan.
“Tango connects you to your partner more
closely than other dances,” he says.
Suitable for beginners, tango is more
structured than other styles, with partners
dancing together for three or four similar songs
before taking a break. Shirley Yao, also one of
the school’s teachers, loves the romantic side.
“Even if a man can’t express in words how
he feels towards a woman, he can show her
Think you have two left feet? There are
classes for all sorts of styles of dance happening
every week all over the city. As a reflection of
just how popular social dancing has become
the Dance Hall at Woodford Folk Festival
this year will be open every day of the festival
from 27 December to 1 January, hosting more
than 41 workshops in dance styles from the
now popular Latin and tango to Balkan ritual,
gypsy trad, Bollywood and more.
Danae Milton, 32, found a new passion
in Bollywood dancing. “It’s about having a
go rather than perfecting steps, says Milton,
who is now a member of the Sari Bollywood
Dance group. “It’s more than just going to a
class. I wouldn’t have kept going for three years
otherwise. It’s a passion, the social element and
all the dressing up and makeup.”
Danae began performing at festivals,
flashmobs and other community events after
learning the dance for just 12 months. “I never
dreamed I would be up there on stage. It’s
really fun and anyone can follow it.
“I’d say to anyone give dancing a go. You
can get a lot out of it.”
Images this page: Ellie Hatte for Cloudland