The questions below are some we often get. Hope you find the info useful! Any other questions or for additional info, contact Mike Richardson at 859-420-2426; or email, info at luv2swingdance dot com.
Learn to Swing Dance with the Hepcats – let Mike & Mary put the swing in your step!
Looking for a fun activity, wanting to meet new people, explore a new hobby or just stay in shape – swing dancing is for you!
Why learn from Mike & Mary? Mike & Mary Richardson have taught swing dancing for over 19 years. They don’t just “dabble” in swing dancing: they love the dances, and they study the dances. They believe learning to swing dance is a journey, not a destination. They often travel to out of town workshop events such as the All Balboa Weekend (ABW), Camp Hollywood, Lindy Focus, the International Lindy Hop Championships, etc…. to take classes, private lessons and compete to further hone their skills. They are the most knowledgeable swing dance instructors in the Lexington/central Kentucky area, and are passionate about sharing all the great things about swing dancing and swing music!
Mike & Mary have taught literally thousands of people to swing dance – and they can teach you – just give it a try!
Two ways to learn:
(1) Group classes. The Hepcats normally teach group classes in the Oct./Nov. and Jan./Feb. time frames. Keep an eye out on the Hepcats classes web page for up-to-date info.
(2) Private Lessons. Want to learn right away and at a much faster pace? We also offer Private Lessons. Private lessons are an excellent way to learn how to swing dance. A big advantage of private lessons is that you get individual attention from working one-on-one with the instructors and you’ll progress at a much faster pace. Private lessons may be arranged for individual dancers or couples. Contact Mike Richardson at 859-420-2426 or [email protected] for more info.
What we teach:
Lindy Hop is the original swing dance that developed in the Harlem district of New York City in the late 1920’s and early 30’s.
With influences that originated in the Charleston, traditional West African dance styles, and a variety of European social dances, the Lindy Hop included not only partner dancing, but also individual solos and line dancing. Lindy Hop quickly spread all over the U.S. and overseas, influencing and reflecting the development of many regional styles of swing dance. Lindy Hop is the grandfather of all swing dances, and eventually evolved into many other variations, to include West Coast Swing, Boogie Woogie, etc. But like many things in life, the original is still the best!
Balboa. What’s that cool dance where people shuffle their feet to fast (and even really fast!) swing music as they slide and glide on the dance floor? Balboa is the dance! To be a well-rounded and versatile swing-era swing dancer, you should learn – and embrace – Balboa!
Tradition holds that Balboa was developed primarily in the Southern California/Los Angeles area in the 1930′s, as a result of very crowded dance floors in ballrooms. The dance was named after Balboa Island in the Newport Beach area which was the location of the Rendezvous Ballroom. The dance is known for its closeness, fast and fancy footwork and effortless looking flow and an overall look optimized for fast swing music. By the mid 1930′s, it was not unusual for ballrooms to host dances for 3,000 or more people. As ballrooms became more and more crowded, dances like the Charleston and the Lindy Hop became less practical; some ballrooms even instituted “no breakaways” policies to prevent injuries.
After a while some of the original Balboa dancers grew tired of doing just pure Balboa and started to introduce fancier variations which forced the close connection to be broken. Today, this is sometimes called Bal-Swing. In this form anything goes: spins, turns, dips, tricks, slides, etc. Bal-Swing variations keep the overall style, feeling, and framework of the original dance with recognizable Balboa footwork.
One call or email does it all! Contact Mike Richardson at 859-420-2426;or email: info at luv2swingdance dot com for more info on how you can get started in swing dancing!
Note: while Lindy Hop and Balboa are our specialties, we are also very adept in other forms of swing dance, to include Collegiate Shag and 1920’s Charleston.
You’ll learn from award winning instructors with the proven knowledge, experience and expertise to get you out on the dance floor, looking cool and having fun! Mike & Mary have taught literally thousands of people to swing dance, and we can teach you – just give it a try!
Mike & Mary have been instrumental in establishing and developing the Lindy Hop and Balboa swing dance scene in Lexington and central Kentucky, and 2023 marks the 22nd year they’ve been promoting Lindy Hop and Balboa. They consider it a privilege and an honor to contribute to the great tradition of the dances and music of the swing-era.
They strongly believe awareness of and an appreciation for the swing-era as a historical and cultural asset is important for the Lindy Hop and Balboa dancer. In order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been!
Some of the highlights of the past 22 years that come to mind:
- Teaching the original swing-era dances, Lindy Hop and Balboa, to literally thousands of people. It’s a real joy to see the moment when the “light comes on” for a new student; or when a “step, step, rock step” swing dancer takes the challenge to become a Lindy Hopper; or when someone discovers the unique and dynamic nature of Balboa!
- Providing swing dances in Lexington at venues where people can dance to the great music of the swing era.
Collaborating with the University of Kentucky (UK) School of Music to provide music for big band swing dances from authentic swing-era arrangements. One of two ensembles provide the music for these events: (a) the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra (KJRO), consisting of the finest and most talented faculty, alumni and musicians from Kentucky area colleges and universities; or (b) the UK Jazz Ensemble (UKJE), consisting of the most talented students in the award winning and nationally recognized UK Jazz Studies Program. The dancers obviously benefit from these events, but so do the musicians as they get a chance to see authentic Lindy Hop and Balboa danced to the great music they play. Not many (if any) communities the size of Lexington have swing dances with such talented big band orchestra’s providing authentic, swing-era music!
- The establishment of Lindy Hop performance groups to elevate the level of swing dancing in Lexington and central Kentucky. These performance groups have experienced success at regional and national level competitions and events. And most of those dancers got their start with Mike & Mary and the Hepcats!
- Collaborating with other organizations in Lexington/central Kentucky to bring high quality swing dance events to Lexington, i.e. Swingin’ on Main, Lexington’s annual street dance. Mike & Mary have assisted with this event for the past 16 years. Mike is responsible for selecting the band that provides the music, and Mary is one of the judges for the dance contest.
- Sponsoring one day and weekend workshops, some featuring national and regional level Lindy Hop and Balboa instructors.
Once again, thank you for your support of Mike & Mary and the Hepcats, and see you out on the dance floor!
Mike & Mary
We can confidently say that no dance organization enjoys as much great swing music at its events as the Hepcats! Mike Richardson is the DJ for many Hepcats events. He is a well known swing dance DJ, respected for his thorough knowledge of swing-era music, genres and styles. His love of swing dancing naturally meshed with his love of the great music of the swing-era. Mike has DJ’d at numerous local, regional and national level events in Louisville, Cincinnati, Columbus and Chicago.
For DJ’d dances, Mike likes to play that great music that’s really fun for swing dancing for Lindy Hop and Balboa, to include Big Band, Jump Blues, etc… at a variety of tempos from his collection of over 11,000 swing-era songs!
For live music venues, the Hepcats only collaborate with high quality musical groups that know how to, and like to play for, swing dancers, such as: the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra (KJRO), the Univ. of Kentucky Jazz Ensemble (UKJE), the Walnut Street Ramblers, Keith Jones and the Makeshifts, Blair Carman and the Belleview Boys, Neon Swing X-perience, the Rally Cats, the Cigar Store Indians, Terry Lee Ridley and the Million Dollar Band, to mention just a few.
Come on out to any of the Hepcats swing dances with live or DJ music: we think you’ll like the music!
For more info on swing dance music, click here.
The Hepcats sometimes have collaborations with the University of Kentucky (UK) School of Music, with either the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra or the UK Jazz Ensemble providing great music! These Big Band Swing Dances are one of the most anticipated dance events in the Lexington/central KY swing dance community.
The Hepcats are also one of the sponsors for Swingin’ on Main, Lexington’s annual street dance (normally takes place in early June of each year).
From their earliest days as Lindy Hop and Balboa swing dancers in Lexington, Mike and Mary wanted to bring the original, hard swinging big band music of the 1930’s/40’s swing-era to Lexington for dancers and non dancers alike to enjoy.
Mike was aware of the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra (KJRO) as early as 1999/2000. KJRO was formed in the late 1990’s by UKmusic professor Miles Osland, Professor of Saxophone and Jazz Studies, and Dick Domek, Professor of Music Theory, primarily as a way to perform the music of and pay tribute to Duke Ellington upon the occasion of the centennial celebration of Ellington’s birthday. Miles and Dick received a grant to tour Kentucky and perform Ellington’s music. The band members enjoyed playing the great big band and other music of Ellington so much they decided to continue performing as a group.
KJRO consists of the finest and most talented faculty, alumni, and musicians from Kentucky area colleges and universities. The accolades and professional accomplishments of KJRO members are too numerous to mention here, but suffice it to say that many KJRO members are considered at the top of their profession, not only as gifted performers, but also as music educators, arrangers, etc. The truly original arrangements of the big band swing-era are rarely performed professionally outside of major metropolitan areas. KJRO plays many songs that are considered swing-era classics, but are not played very often by the average “big band” or “swing band” due to their technical difficulty.
In 1999, KJRO released their first CD “Ellington Celebration”, a retrospective of Ellington’s music from the 1920’s to the 1970’s (1999 was also the centennial year of Ellington’s birth). With the release of “Ellington Celebration”, KJRO established itself as one of the best jazz repertory orchestras currently performing. Prior to November 2005, KJRO had performed mainly in concert settings. But that was about to change.
Saturday, November 19, 2005 was the first Hepcats/UK School of Music big band swing dance collaboration. How did that all come about?
Mike & Mary have been instrumental in establishing, developing and growing the swing dance scene in Lexington. As the primary DJ at Hepcats events, Mike played a lot of swing-era big band music, and felt that a dance with live music from the big band genre would be appreciated and supported by theLexington swing dance community. Mike and Mary toyed with the idea of a Hepcats/KJRO collaboration but really had no idea if the band would be receptive to playing for a swing dance. In addition, Mike knew that paying the musicians in a first-rate, high quality 17 piece big band for a gig was not an inexpensive proposition.
In 2003, KJRO played a concert at the Univ. of Kentucky (UK) Singletary Center that was dedicated to the music of the great Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. The Lunceford Orchestra was considered one of the top big band orchestras in the swing-era (along with Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman). Knowing that KJRO played such great charts as “For Dancers Only”, “Lunceford Special” and “Four or Five Times” convinced Mike and Mary that a swing dance with KJRO providing the music was an absolute must for the Lexington/central Kentucky swing dance community!
In early 2005, Mike had a chance meeting with Dick Domek (then Professor of Music Theory at the UK School of Music) . When Mike suggested the idea of KJRO playing for a Hepcats swing dance, Dick was all for it. So we worked out the details for KJRO to play its first Big Band Dance for swing dancers on Saturday, November 19, 2005 at the UK Student Center Grand Ballroom. The rest, as they say, is history.
Given the artistic success of the initial collaboration, additional events were scheduled and took place for the next few years, until the UK Student Grand Ballroom underwent a major renovation. At all of those events KJRO played the original arrangements of the great big bands such as Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Fletcher Henderson, Artie Shaw, Harlan Leonard, Glenn Miller and others. Those events were one of the most anticipated dance events of the year for the Lexington/central KY area Lindy Hop and Balboa swing dance community. Big band swing dances with KJRO are a great way to get a feel for what it was like to dance in the 1930’s/40’s swing-era!
Attendees, to include dancers and non dancers, come from not only from the Lexington area, but from around the region. The connection, mutual respect and enthusiasm between KJRO band members and the swing dancers and audience is magical. The band members enjoy playing for an audience that not only appreciates the music but also respects the rich history and culture of the swing-era.
In 2009, partly as a result of their experiences at these collaborations, KJRO released their second CD, “Flying Home”. The CD contains 24 tracks, many of them favorites for swing dancers at these events.
Some of the great songs that KJRO plays at these collaborations include
(*=on the Ellington Celebration CD; **=on the Flying Home CD):
o **Flying Home, by Lionel Hampton.
o **For Dancers Only, **Lunceford Special, Four or Five Times, My Blue Heaven; Baby Won’t You Please Come Home, by Jimmie Lunceford.
o Rockin’ in Rhythm (*1930 and **1963 versions), **Jive Stomp”, *Stevedore Stomp, Take the A Train, **In a Mellotone, *Ring Dem Bells, *Drop Me Off in Harlem, Cottontail, by Duke Ellington.
o **Back Bay Shuffle, by Artie Shaw.
o **Swingtime in the Rockies (the 1938 Carnegie Hall version, 264 BPM!), **Sing, Sing, Sing, Bugle Call Rag; Christopher Columbus; King Porter Stomp; **Don’t Be That Way, by Benny Goodman.
o **Skee, **Hairy Joe Jump, **Too Much, by Harlan Leonard.
o **Doggin” Around, **Jumpin’ at the Woodside, **It’s Sand, Man, Splanky, by Count Basie.
o **Chatt. Choo Choo, String of Pearls, Little Brown Jug, Penn. 6-5000, by Glen Miller.
It was also determined that the students in the UK Jazz Ensemble (UKJE), directed by Miles Osland, would benefit from playing for swing dances. UKJE consists of the most talented students in the award winning and nationally recognized UK Jazz Studies program. So UKJE sometimes provided the music for the collaborations. UKJE plays many original swing-era arrangements, but also some different charts, such as charts from the famous Count Basie and Frank Sinatra “Sinatra at the Sands” performance at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. UKJE also sometimes features vocalists from the nationally ranked UK Voice and Choral Studies program.
There are not many (if any) communities the size of Lexington that have regular swing dances with talented big band orchestra’s providing authentic, swing-era music, played from the original arrangements.
The Hepcats and KJRO really appreciate your support for these collaborations. Thanks – and see you at some point in the future at a Big Band Swing Dance with KJRO!
For dances. It’s “dressy” casual for most people at swing dance events, although some like to get a little dressed up, and that’s fine! People do tend to get more dressed up for events with live music, such as the Hepcats/UK School of Music Big Band Swing Dances, the evening dances at All Balboa Weekend, etc. Keep comfort in mind, and note that swing dancing keeps you movin’! Be sure to wear comfortable shoes. (To protect the dance floor, boots, “spiked” high heels or similar type shoes should not be worn.)
For classes. Wear loose comfortable clothing and flat-soled shoes. We don’t recommend blue jeans because they’re too restrictive. We also don’t recommend high heels or open, strapped shoes or sandals or flip flops.
Vintage Style. Some people prefer to dress vintage at swing dances, and while this is never required, it is fun and adds to the overall atmosphere of the dance.
Note: for more info on clothes and shoes for swing dancing, vintage clothes, etc… click here.
In general, swing dance events attract a diverse group of people, ages 18-80, although the median age is probably in the 25-40 range. People of all ages love to swing dance: young professionals, students (college and high school), baby boomers, GenXer’s……you get the picture!
No! Swing dancing is a social activity. Many people attend swing dances without a dance partner. Those who do attend with a dance partner usually dance with other people as well. It’s perfectly acceptable in the swing dance community to ask someone to dance. So don’t be shy – ask someone to dance!
The Hepcats believe that competition type activities (of course, friendly and fun competitions) are beneficial to helping improve any Lindy Hop/Balboa swing dancer. One of the best ways for an individual to take their Lindy Hop/Balboa swing dancing to the next level is to participate in a performance group, in jam circles, in a couples or jack & jill contest, etc. These activities get the competitive juices flowing and are often the catalyst for individual improvement.
The Hepcats also believe that competition type activities, particularily performance group activities, are one of the signs of a healthy and growing Lindy Hop/Balboa swing dance scene.
From 2008-2013, the Mike& Mary/the Hepcats sponsored numerous Lindy Hop performance group and competition type activities. Perhaps performance group activities may once again spring up in the Lexington area…..! Who knows…….!
For those interested in previous/past Hepcats Lindy Hop performance group activites, click here. If you’re interested in starting and/or participting in a Lindy Hop performance group, contact Mike Richardson at 859-420-2426, or[email protected].
Swing dancing is fun, but safety is also very important! The basic rule for aerials/air steps is that they should never be performed on the social dance floor, but saved for competitions and performances.
An exception is a “Jam Circle” (assuming you have the technique and skill set to perform aerials in a jam circle). In a jam circle, a circle of spectators is formed and swing dancers enter the circle one couple at a time, showing the spectators their best “stuff”. In this environment, innocent people/bystanders would not be able to wander into the path of dancers performing aerials/air steps.
In addition and very importantly, aerials/air steps should only be attempted with a regular dance partner; in other words, don’t try to attempt an aerial/air step with a partner that you’ve only danced with a few times (or less) socially.
Want to learn aerials/airsteps? It’s best to learn aerials/airsteps in a workshop setting, with experienced instructors using spotters and that have the proper equipment, i.e. a proper floor surface and floor mats, etc.
Make no mistake about it – aerials/airsteps not performed properly can be dangerous, not only to those trying the move but to innocent people/bystanders on the dance floor. Beware of venues/instructors that allow aerials/airsteps on the social dance floor and during class instruction.
Sure can! We can DJ, find a great band, or even dance for you!
We can DJ. Tired of the same ole’ music you get from most so called “party” or “professional” DJs? Want music that’s energetic and fun for dancing and listening to? With thousands of songs from the Big Band swing-era, Jump Blues, 50’s rock and roll, Rockabilly, 40’s, 50’s & 60’s Rhythm & Blues, modern swing, etc., Mike Richardson could DJ your next dance, party or event and get toes a tappin’ and feet a movin’! Ask anybody that has attended a Hepcats event: we play and dance to the best music in town!
Bands for Dances. How about live music for your next event? Mike & Mary have worked with numerous musical groups at the local, regional and national level. These groups really know how to play, not only for dances but for any event (many of these groups have played for past Hepcats swing dance events in Lexington). These groups include Big Band Orchestras, Jump Blues Bands, Rockabilly Bands, etc. We would be happy to facilitate these groups performing at your event.
Let us dance for you. Got a party or an event coming up and want some Swing Dancers to liven, energize, and spice things up? We can help you out – liven up the party or event or just add some atmosphere to the joint!
Contact Mike Richardson at 859-420-2426, or [email protected].
Learning to swing dance from watching You Tube clips, videos, etc. can be problematic. A couple of points for your consideration:
(1) It’s fine (and in fact encouraged!) to view vintage video clips as a source of inspiration and for figuring out what you want/need to learn for your Lindy Hop and Balboa (check out this Hepcats web page) – by all means check out the vintage video footage of Hellzpoppin’, Maharaja, etc..
But to take your Lindy Hop/Balboa to the next level, it’s really quite simple – – take classes from the best Lindy Hop and Balboa instructors you can find, develop good practice habits, attend high quality workshops, and get involved in a performance group.
(2) It’s hard to learn (and pick up good habits) from watching a video, either instructional or vintage. There are many subtle points that do not come across in a video. Plus you don’t get feedback on your progress. (Note that teaching techniques in the Lindy Hop and Balboa swing dance community have definitely improved over time, and that older You Tube clips/videos may have dated material.)
There is no set answer – but a couple of pieces of advice.
Stick with it! Take as many of the Hepcats Lindy Hop and Balboa classes/workshops you can to increase your technique and skill level. Attend Hepcats swing dance events and put into practice what you’ve learned. But don’t over think on the dance floor: have fun with the music and dancing!
Practice. Depending on the person, it could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to get comfortable with dancing. But one thing is for sure: dancing is a “use it” or “lose it” skill. We normally recommend you try to practice 30-45 minutes a week to go over new material and/or material you may not be totally comfortable with.
Once you feel comfortable with the basics and you want to really expand your horizons, travel to high quality workshops like the All Balboa Weekend (ABW), Lindy Focus, etc. And if possible join a performance group – that is one of the best ways to really take your swing dancing to the next level.
Swing dancing is a journey, not a destination – make it a great trip!