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Putting a swing in your (dance) step

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Have you made a commitment to do something involving exercise this year?

Have you promised yourself to take up something fun? Why not combine both with a spot on the swing dance floor at Savoy Dance?

Savoy Dance is the brainchild of Cathie Gough who started learning to dance even before she started learning to read or write and has not stopped some form of dance or another ever since.

Cathie became hooked on swing dancing as an adult in 2003 and has forged a stellar reputation teaching all types of swing and blues dancing around Australia.

The appeal for Cathie is that swing is “centered around giving people a space to dance and be happy—as it was created as an escape from the hard times through the great depression 100 years ago.”

In her view, the dance was designed to be shamelessly joyful.

Credit: Adam Spence.

Cathie has gathered together a group of energetic, highly experienced and committed swing instructors to run a range of classes across the city. She says that once people get a taste of the thrill, style and music, they usually get hooked.

Which was exactly the case with Cathie.

“I first discovered Swing Dancing in my early twenties as an amateur rock ‘n’ roll dancer. A local Canberra competition contained both rock ‘n’ roll and swing elements, and as I danced rock ‘n’ roll in my poodle skirt, I watched the smooth swing dancers glide across the floor and fly through the air (literally, doing aerials!), which absolutely captivated me!

“I moved to Melbourne for work just a few weeks later and quickly looked up where I could learn to swing dance and have never looked back.”

You might have even seen Cathie in action—as a competitor, she has won many titles along the way, including The Australian Hellzapoppin’ Prize (2012 and 2007), Fast Foot, Strictly Lindy and Jack and Jill.

She was thrilled to be a part of Australia’s top 100 in the first series of So You Think You Can Dance and has made appearances on Dancing with the Stars and Underbelly Razor.

Credit: Adam Spence.

She has co-taught performance troupes in both Canberra and Melbourne for six years and has taught Swing, Blues and aerials workshops around Australia, in New Zealand and London. And Savoy Dance was thrilled dance down the runway at FASHFEST 2016.

Cathie launched Savoy Dance in 2015, named after the celebrated Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York (in operation from 1926-1958).

“I wanted to create a place which honoured the dance’s creative and improvisation roots, and allow people of any background, age, profession and gender to come together.

“Savoy Dance is the only swing dance school in Canberra to offer drop-in lessons, which means people can give it a try anytime. We have lovely groups of uni students attending to meet people, more seasoned dancers wanting to progress and compete, right through to 80-year-olds dancing to keep fit.”

She says one of the major attractions of swing dance is its ability to connect new friends and dance partners together.

Cathie notes the majority of people attend their first swing dancing lesson solo. “We change partners frequently throughout the lesson, so everyone gets the chance to dance with different people, and for a taste of the lead and follow roles. So bringing a partner is not necessary.

“Dancing with different people also accelerates your learning. But if people want to come with their partner and just dance with them, that’s ok too!”

There’s also a variety of swing dancing styles taught throughout the year including Lindy Hop, Balboa, Blues, Shag or Solo Jazz.

Given the enormous health and fitness benefits associated with joyous dancing, Savoy Dance is also running SwingTrain classes, with Cathie just one of two trained instructors across the country.

SwingTrain in action.

“SwingTrain is a solo total body exercise class suitable for all levels, with music so infectious I didn’t realise I was burning calories! Participants are led through a series of fun, follow-along moves via engaging choreography guaranteed to get you sweating and smiling. There is a mixture of low, medium and high-intensity tracks, allowing everyone to work at their own pace.

“The music has its roots in the jazz classics, which makes it a new experience for many, and an enjoyable trip down memory lane for those who love artists such as Ella Fitzgerald or Ray Charles.”

For younger participants, the soundtrack also contains modern electro-swing music that hopefully lifts your mood without the doof doof of a gym. The classes run for 50 minutes and include a warm-up and warm-down.


All classes start back this week from Monday 3 February with SwingTrain on Mondays, Balboa on Tuesdays and Swing Dancing on Wednesdays.

Savoy is also offering a ’Learn to dance in a morning’ workshop on Saturday 22 February if people would like to have a crash course in all partner styles that they offer.

See savoydance.com.aufacebook.com/SavoyDanceCanberra and facebook.com/SwingTrainCANBERRA for more information.

Feature image: Adam Spence.

This editorial was created in partnership with Savoy Dance Canberra. For more information on sponsored partnerships, click here

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