Swing Dancing in Budapest {from an Asian American view}

Hello from across the pond, my lovely American lindyhopppers!  & hello European friends. 🙂

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I want to say that I’m incredibly excited for Lollapalooza, the Nevermore Jazz Ball & Lindy Focus this coming semester. (Not so excited about finalizing my Fulbright application or GRE testing for grad school, but you can’t eat all the cake, now can you?)

Now, what have I been up to in Budapest? Eating. Lots of eating – pastries, gelato, goulash, gyros, baklava…all of it. Also, I tend to walk everywhere here or take public transit. So, despite all the eating, I am not ginormous as you might think. So…what’s wrong with life? There’s eating, walking to beautiful sites during the day or night & fantastic views every blink of the eye…but you know I”m completely Lindy starved. Not to say that there isn’t any lindy hop in the fair city of Budapest. In fact, I have a Magyar Swing calendar chock full of events. No, sadly ’tis my packed work schedule from 9am until 6 or 7pm at night. Not only is this constraining, but our dormitory locks up at midnight precisely. Either I need to get a local friend who has a flat I can crash at, or I can high tail it back home to make curfew. Given that most of my friends live in the center, we almost always have to settle with the latter. Anyways, that huge hindrance aside, let’s get into some differences between swing dancing overseas, shall we?

1. No Sadie Hawkins

The boys get all the fun here, my friends. Usually, the guys approach the coy girls sitting along the wall. Being the loud and annoying American that I am, I bludgeon my way into partners, since they mostly stay stoic and standoffish during dances. I hate listening to live bands just tapping my feet. Unforgiveable, in my opinion. The few times I’ve asked guys, they usually get huge whoops and high-fives from their annoying friends. Meh. I miss being able to dance with anyone – no fuss, no muss.

2. Less Lindy Hop

I never realized how American Lindy Hop was until I crossed the pond. I assumed with the advent of Herrang in Sweden that lindy hop was really popular throughout Europe. How wrong I was in Budapest. Perhaps it’s because Marcell and Dora are away on competition, but I feel most nights are quite light on the lindy. I dread boogie woogie, enough said.

3. Freakin’ Boogie Woogie

It’s a sin to know how to boogie woogie and not to lindy hop. Just sayin’. Why Europe, why you no LINDY HOP? Gahhhhhhh. Okay, so it’s really not as terrible as I make it out to be. But it kind of, completely is because who in their right mind only rock and triple steps? Not this little lady. No, the triple step must be rectified by some appropriately timed strutting, my friend. And by strutting, I mean lots and lots of SWIVELS. Hmph. No swivels, no happiness for this follow.

4. People Be Trippin’

Okay, just to warn you, this is based on one horrible experience at boogie woogie…not a full-on rant. It has full rantage potential, but I shall refrain. Most of the dancers here like to stick together as a local bunch. You have to drive a wedge between partners to get them to separate and accept you. That, or just use your entire mixed bag of solo jazz moves to garner their attention. Either way, you really have to work through a thick sheet of ice separating you from the usual dance crew. Not horribly fun.

5. No solo

Heck no. Not cool in the least. I can stand not getting chosen as a potential dance partner, but take away my solo jazz or Charleston moves? I will seriously end you. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it, I will simply walk out of the dance venue with a fiery vengeance. Although swing is couple-friendly, there are J&J competitions SIMPLY for SOLOING. I don’t understand the awkward glances and smirks when I break out the solo blues moves like grinds, mooches or fishtails. I be dancin’ by myself, don’t be hatin’ haters. Lay off the haterade, alright? Let a girl get her groove on already.

6. Ridiculous Waiting

Complete partner dancer bias. There, I said it. The same guy and girl, not professional partners, will dance together for 2 songs and over. Not, in the least, cool. My friends and I waited over 25 minutes for two guys to ask us onto the floor. Instead, they asked two new arrivals to share dances after just putting their bags down. How is that remotely polite, when you could have warmed up with a few dances? No excuses for this one, boogie woogie. That was really petty. Lindy Hoppers are a bit less guilty on this account, but people will still tend to dance together.

7. PDA All Up in This Place

No, just no. Stop it right now. You are not allowed to ruin my chill night away from teaching with your butt grabbing, nasty hair pulling make-out sessions. I know swing dance is awesome, but perhaps you might want to take your brand of togetherness off the floor? Pretty please? I blame this particular problem on difference number 6 above. Too much bi-partisan partnerships going up in the hizouse. Swing dancing has class, not whatever you’re doing in the middle of the floor. Please stop.

8. Shrugging

If I get a shrug as an answer to an invitation to dance, I will seriously utter a bloodcurdling scream in the middle of the dance floor. A simple yes or no, do not shrug at me. I asked you, you respond politely. You shrug when you couldn’t care less. That is the WORST possible way to start a partnership on the floor. When someone makes their way towards you across a crowded room, you behave accordingly. End of story.

9. A Sit to Remember

Are you new? Are you Asian or foreign looking? Are you excited? Unless you take the initiative, you’ll be sitting most of the time. Honestly, in the 2 hour blocks of time I’ve gone to dances, there is more dancing and feeling awkward than actual dances. Unbelievable and unbearably disappointing. I get the feeling a lot of the people are xenophobic here, confirmed by a refugee friend the other weekend. As a minority, just grin and start asking for leads because they are too scared to do anything about it.

10. Live Music!

After all that negativity, I wanted to clear something up. There is no shortage of live, in the flesh, delicious-sounding music here. Big band, jazz, ensemble, you name it, Budapest has it. I never feel left out because of lack in beats, but more like lack in hospitality. Local dancers seem only to reserve smiles for their closest friends. My friends and I felt left out most of the time. Despite our dance expertise, we always felt inadequate for the selective leads on the floor. The music always propelled us to tapping feet and smiles, but didn’t encourage more leads to ask us for dances. Thus, it’s a bit of a moot point. Nevertheless, gorgeous tunes from many a local band.

I love lindy hoppers, no matter where they come from, no matter what type of crazy move they want to do (unless it’s inappropriate  or rude). I love the dance and music which surrounds it. I love the fashion and atmosphere of freedom surrounding the era. However, I do NOT approve in the least when a local dance scene subscribes to exclusivity. The modern swing movement thrives on outreach and encouragement to newbies or visitors, NOT the promotion of isolation or exclusion. I’m not saying Budapest lindy hoppers are like this, but there is a tendency towards alienating newcomers. I’ll update you all on future ventures into lindy here, but I”m never going back to boogie woogie. I’m sorry, but no one leaves babes in the corner. 😛

 

Anyways, I wish you all happy summer swing dancing and leapin’ lindy!

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Love & Lindy,

 

Sherry

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7 thoughts on “Swing Dancing in Budapest {from an Asian American view}

  1. 黄飞鸿 says:

    Hi – we’re in Budapest between 26 and 29 December and would like to head out dancing if possible. Do you know any nights or resources to find nights? Cheers! henry

  2. Michelle says:

    I will be in Budapest in August and was doing a Google search on the Lindy Hop scene there… your post came up and gave this west coast girl a good heads up for what to expect! Thank you!

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