The romance of the roaring ’20s and ’30s will swing into Arrowtown next Tuesday with 60 dancers set to bust into the Charleston and Lindy Hop.
Former Arrowtown resident and swing dancer Jethro Hardinge is the mover and shaker behind the swing dancing extravaganza at the Arrowtown Spring Ball.
With the Queenstown Jazz Orchestra playing all the tunes, Hardinge says the event is a must-do, even for people with two left feet.
Now running a dance school in Perth, Hardinge has rounded up swing dancers from many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Japan and Iceland, for a tour of the South Island.
“Growing up in Arrowtown, I just knew it would be so much fun if we went on tour in NZ,” he says.
The group of jitterbugs, aged between 14 and mid-60s, share a passion for the swing era and music.
They’re travelling by a bus to perform at shows in Christchurch, Te Anau, Dunedin, Arrowtown and more.
It’s taken Hardinge and his partner Amy Matheson, who is also a dancer, 12 months of preparation to organise the trip.
“We’ve been trying to work out the logistics of feeding everyone, so we’ve been going to the fridge to get a cauliflower, weighing it and seeing how much we use for one meal and working out what we need to feed 60 people.”
The former Arrowtown School and Wakatipu High School student says he was too embarrassed to ever hit the dance floor when he was growing up.
But proving to be something of a foodie, too, he was bribed with a slice of pizza to go to a swing dancing lesson when he was at university, and he’s never taken a step back.
“I started watching YouTube clips and realised swing dancing had a lot of flips, tricks and aerials that looked so much fun.”
While there are many styles of swing dancing, Hardinge says, the most common he performs is the Lindy Hop, originating from Harlem in the early 1930s.
On what he loves about this particular style: “There’s no right way of doing it.
“In the ’30s and ’40s, teenagers would go clubbing, and they’d just be jumping around and making stuff up, so it has a fun energy of not needing to be too perfect.”
The ball is open to the public and people of all dancing levels. Hardinge is holding a beginners’ class for anyone who wants to learn some basic steps before the ball gets underway.
“It’s definitely worth coming, even if it’s just to watch.”
The Arrowtown Spring Ball is on Tuesday, 7.30pm, at the Athenaeum Hall. The beginners’ class starts at 6.30pm. Tickets are $25 and can be bought at the door. For more information, visit the Arrowtown Spring Ball Facebook page.
– MIRANDA COOK