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Why yes, I am a swing dance enthusiast!

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Hey Everyone,

Last week I contributed another short story to the ABC Open: 500 words project. The theme was My Other Life and when I read the project brief, I couldn't help but write a response.
"Are you a collector of model trains, a swing dance enthusiast or a weekend activist? Share a story about something unusual you get up to outside of work, or a side of yourself that other people don't normally see.  Tell us about your unusual passion and how you first got involved in it.  How does your other self contrast with the side most people see?  What satisfaction does your other life offer you that you don't get from your day-to-day life? How does your passion contribute to you as a whole person?"
Why yes, I am a swing dance enthusiast! So much so that I really struggled to keep to the 500 word limit. You can read my story "With a smear of red lipstick" on the ABC Open website HERE, or I have included it below the following exclusive insights. 

In my story, I mentioned that I have a swing dancing tattoo on my right forearm. Here it is.


collegiate shag lindy hop
Enjoying a glass of wine during a wet season thunderstorm.

The tattoo was inspired by a short Disney animation called All The Cats Join In, set to the song of the same name by Benny Goodman. It was part of an anthology called Make Mine Music that came out in 1946. The couple in my tattoo never actually made it into the movie, but I found them on a character sketch thanks to my friend Google. If you haven't seen All The Cats Join In, here it is.




And just in case you feel like watching some more swing dancing... 
Here's an exclusive peek at our wedding dance!


video

While I'm in a nostalgic mood, here are some photo's of me from back in the early days of dancing.

Swing dance lindy hop savoy melbourne
This is me standing out the front of Mayfield's in Fitzroy.


swing dance charleston lindy hop jitterbug
This is the performance troupe I was part of in Melbourne - I'm front left in the pale blue 
(I made that dress)
Yes, there is a face blacked out - not because I don't like them.
I really do, but they requested no images on social media.


So now, without further ado, headed by the best selfie I have ever taken, my short story...

selfie vintage swing dance lindy hop snood

With a smear of red lipstick

By Renee Conoulty ·  2 min read · From 500 Words: My other life


I was on the edge of the conversation. Listening, but not really joining in.
“I walked past this swing dance class last weekend. It looks like so much fun.” Kerry said.
“Ooo I'd love to try swing dancing.” Jasmine replied.
I'd never been interested in dancing. The only dancing I'd ever done was during phys ed class at school, when the boys pulled their sleeves down over their hands so they didn't have to actually touch the girls. I knew Jasmine didn't have a car so my generous nature kicked in.
“Do you want me to give you a ride Jasmine? I don't have anything else to do.”

The next day, the three of us met up at Mayfield's in Fitzroy. We wandered nervously to the dance floor at the back of the pub. The atmosphere was fun and friendly. We lined up behind the instructors and copied the basic footwork. Rock step, triple step, step, step, triple step. It was almost like an aerobics class, I could do aerobics, so why not Lindy Hop? Then everyone formed a circle and we had to find a partner. Now it felt like speed dating without conversation, perfect for an introvert like me. By the time the class ended, I'd fallen in love. Not with a man, but with swing. The music reached inside me and took a hold of my heart.

After six months, my confidence had grown and I joined the performance troupe. At work I was too shy to speak up at the staff meeting, but with a smear of red lipstick, I could dance on a stage. After a year of dancing several times a week, I started teaching beginner classes. I became immersed in the swing subculture, looking at life through a vintage filter. Can I dance to this song? Can I dance in those shoes? Is this lipstick red enough? Have I used enough hairspray and bobby pins? My non-dancing boyfriend and I drifted further apart and eventually broke up. All future boyfriends had to pass the swing dance test. I quit my job and moved to the Gold Coast to date a guy I'd met at a swing dance workshop, and then met my now husband in a swing dance class.

Swing dancing has become an integral part of my life. I choreographed a swing dance for our wedding dance. For our fifth wedding anniversary, I got a line from the song we'd danced to tattooed on my left forearm, and a couple swing dancing on my right. Now, sixteen years after I first walked into that pub in Melbourne, I'm still swing dancing every chance I get. I'm living in Darwin now so swing dancing is much sweatier, but just as fun and welcoming.

I love being able to connect with another human, without words. Swing dancing is my escape. The moment I smooth on that red lipstick, I become Renee. Not a wife or mother. Not a teacher's aide. Me.










6 comments

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29 March 2016 at 01:55 delete

This is fantastic Renee! I enjoyed your writing style and I learned something new about you!!

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29 March 2016 at 04:38 delete

That's a great hobby! I did a course latin and ballroom a few years ago, really loved it too.

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29 March 2016 at 16:14 delete

Thanks Arielle. I'm trying to share a bit more of me.

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29 March 2016 at 16:15 delete

I've done a little bit of ballroom and some street lain. I love swing, but every now and then I crave a good salsa.

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Liz Gruening
AUTHOR
30 March 2016 at 01:24 delete

What a wonderful post and I adore the tattoo! Lindy Hop has brought so many wonderful things into my life. My husband, my friends, my cool wardrobe :) and also helped to discover who I am as a person. Lindy hop is the best and you summed it up quite well. Great wedding dance as well. My husband and I did a Lindy Hop routine at our wedding too.

Thanks for sharing

Liz :)

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31 March 2016 at 17:49 delete

Thanks Liz! I love swing dancing and love connecting (get it) with other swing dance lovers too.

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