Dawn Wong, Teacher & founder of SwingStateLondon
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
Tell us about your years of dancing. When did you start and what did you do?
In 1998, I was a teen in Singapore. My friend and I happened upon this little club and they were playing jazz with people swing dancing. That was the beginning of my love story with the Lindy Hop. The music attracted me first. As much as I was a fan of Brit pop, swing music changed my life and all I wanted was to immerse myself completely in it. I quickly got involved with the premiere swing school in Singapore, run by Sing Lim. It was easily one of the best times of my life, Sing was the best shi fu (master) one could ask for, training us in the Lindy Hop, organising live jazz events, nurturing us, giving us opportunities to perform, throwing extravagant balls for us to dance in and taking us abroad to dance camps to hang out with her mates - the best Lindy Hoppers in the world!
Clockwise from top: 'Live at the Apllo' performance with Denise and 'W'; Hanging out with the Swingaporeans (and Chazz Young) in Catalina Dance Camp; Attending the outdoor Swing event at the Lincoln centre in New York with Dawn Hampton, Frankie, and my Swingapore mates; Frankie Manning makes it to Singapore in 1999; Performing with Sing and Jitterbugs Swingapore for a fancy corporate event; another fun black tie event organised by Sing in Singapore!
When I left for London, Sing off handedly mentioned that I should set up a dance school in my university, and so I did. Between classes, and attending a few Herrang Dance Camps, I founded the LSE Swing Dance Society (cheekily called 'the LSE Swingers) in 1999 and attempted to teach classes there, with barely a year's experience under my belt. I taught classes with Tom Kerwin, my student - turned dance partner, and I am so proud that the society is still running today, with Tom teaching with the indomitable Angela Andrew, as I do pop in once in a while to say hello and help whenever I can.
Clockwise from top: Performing with the LSE Swing Society in 1999, LSE Swing performance in 2000 (I'm dancing with Tom), in Herrang in 1999, Herrang in 2000 with Lennart, hanging out during blues night in Herrang in 2000 with Tom, me, Chester Whitmore, Rusty Frank and Ron Leslie, Herrang in 2003 during the Woodstock party (Angela is next to me!)
When my career took me to Aberdeen, Scotland, there was no Lindy Hop. However, it was good fortune that I met Philip and we started up another Lindy scene in this northern corner of the world - this time in the guise of the Aberdeen University Swing Dance Society in 2009. It was a fantastic time where I got to hang out with students who used to party in my house at night, while holding down a proper job in the day time.
Clockwise from top: Teaching with Philip, Field trip to the Edinburgh Lindy Exchange with our dance students, lots of house parties.
Australia beckoned in 2010 and my husband and I moved to Perth, Western Australia in Dec 2010. I got involved with the Swing scene in Perth and performed and taught a wee bit, whilst navigating a pregnancy!
L - R : Hullabaloo, performing in Albany, post dance ball blues party at mine with Gordon Webster
My story moves to us London again, this time in 2015. The London scene has changed completely, but the close friends I made 23 years ago through dancing the Lindy Hop with fellow jazz aficionados are still there. I started SwingStateLondon because I still love dancing, and this was a perfect opportunity to continue dancing in my local community, while juggling my family and job (I am a sourdough baker in the day time!) . I am proudly affiliated with the Lantern Arts Centre, an arts space that brings joy and creativity to the community, and I want to dance locally with all my friends, old and new, in Wimbledon, where I live, too.
Clockwise from top: STILL Hanging out with old friends Tom, Angela, and Greg, Dancing with shi fu Sing in Singapore in 2018, SwingState's first performance with Greg and Angela (who choreographed and trained us), dance camp in Birmingham in 2020 with Paul and Gemma - my balboa teacher, Chester Whitmore (again) in Herrang 2019, posing with Lennart (again) in Herrang 2019.
Why do you dance?
It is hard to explain how the Lindy hop fuses so completely and perfectly with the jazz that it was created for and with in the swing era. I never tire of the music, and I am always thrilled by moving my own body to it. Added to the love of the music, is the joy and adrenaline of dancing with whatever dancer I'm with. It is a mystery to me how one can learn so much, and connect so completely with a virtual stranger on the dance floor without words. I do not seek out competitions or performances, SwingStateLondon was created for us to dance together in our local community and to experience joy through the connection between us humans through this partner dance. We are social animals, and contact is vital between us - whether through dance or rugby - it makes us feel alive! Come and play!