Swing fastival 2019 – Ben’s story.

Swing fastival 2019 – Ben’s story.

The difference a weekend makes

I’m not going to lie, the Swing Fastival weekend had filled me with dread for weeks. It had dawned on me that this was not going to be a “beginners” class and the only swing I’d been practicing for the last 12 months was on a golf course. Even then I had been perfecting a slower swing, not a faster one. I was going to be that guy, that one that everyone looked at and thought “why is he here?” and although they would smile politely during class and try to reassure me, were actually sad inside as they got to me and happier once they rotated. I wouldn’t be able to blame them, I’d done no dancing for an entire year and only done Collegiate Shag twice before ever.

I was entering the deep end and was equipped with just about a doggy paddle. Now I’m not a big Eminem fan but his lyrics were ringing particularly true with me… “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy” I felt nearly paralysed with the dance fear. Never the less, Friday came, work finished, Sam and I got into the car and after what ended up being a not too bad 3hrs 40mins later we arrived. I was now officially “that” guy!

Sociable at social dance?

But here’s the thing. I knew the routine outlined above from weekenders and socials I’d attended before what I hadn’t thought is this one would be different. Within ten minutes of getting down to the Friday evening social I was smiling and with less of the sweaty palm feeling. These people were lovely. So friendly, so welcoming and most importantly to someone who is petrified of the dancefloor sometimes. they didn’t want to find out my dance credentials, didn’t only want to speak to ask if I wanted to dance, didn’t only approach to drag me internally kicking and screaming to butcher another three minutes of music!

They wanted to say hello and actually chat. You know, be SOCIAL at a social and do you know what? Within twenty minutes I’d stepped onto the floor and happily murdered the last fifty seconds of a track with some rusty Bal. Only to find I’d unknowingly attempted to lead Anna Stephenson around the dancefloor, but the normal mortified feeling was quickly overridden by her genuine smile and thank you. Maybe all these smiles and warm welcomes were helping?

Time for class

Saturday morning came and into battle, sorry, class we went. At this point I’m going to put on record that Stephen Sayer and Frances ‘Fancy’ Dougherty are amazing dancers and wonderful teachers and any man with his sock collection should be listened to at all times. They were awesome but it became obvious very early on that it really wasn’t a beginners class and I was most definitely below the skill level required.

However, I felt buoyed by the people I’d met the night before and actually for the first session and the first hour of the second session I could learn on the spot just about fast enough to semi fake it! The closing parts of the second session were quite literally a step too far… No amount of willing or encouragement from people around me could see me through it and upon seeing a few very skilled dancers around me looking like they had little idea of what was happening I took leave of the floor.

Luckily some others saw my exit and rather than leave me to drown my sorrows at the bar alone decided they would come and offer me some “emotional support”.

An evening dance

The Saturday night social was lovely and much like the Friday people stopped to chat. One lovely lady came over just to make sure I was OK after dropping out in the day because when I’d said to her during the class my brain had gone pop she wanted to make sure I was still a functioning human. It was pretty chilled, there were some fantastic dancers, the teachers all danced with each other in some fairly laid back and at times unconventional manners which was inspiring to watch. It’s a reminder that they do it because they simply love dancing!

More importantly, for me anyway, I stole a few minutes on the dancefloor with my wonderful wife and despite her shouts of “lazy feet Rooney!” it was great to be dancing with her again, it had been too long.

Sunday struggles

Sunday was a no go for me. I’d been unwell the week leading up to the event and the combination of finding myself with very poorly lungs on the Sunday morning and the promise of difficulty ramping up even further I sat it out and watched from the sidelines. Still, even then I learnt a lot. They really are fantastic dancers and teachers.

A new spark

All in all it was a great time and it reminded me that dancing and the dance scene can be fun. It may well have reignited my dancing. The biggest difference, the thing to really helped, were the people. I can’t tell you how nice it was that complete strangers were so friendly and not really even interested if I was a “dancer” or not. They were just there to have fun and it rubbed off… I’d gone there filled with dread and left having really enjoyed it and have made some new friends.

It’s a good reminder that nobody knows what’s going on with people or where they are up to in any part/format of their life so be kind, always!

Ben Rooney.


  1. Couldn’t agree more! I go to dances and classes all the time, have crippling anxiety about dancing all the time and seek comfort/courage in gin all the time.

    It’s a social thing for me and if it’s not fun, I’m not interested. I’m never going to be the best dancer – I lack the natural talent, I’m monumentally lazy and painfully shy – and I’m not interested in showing off of trying to compete.

    However, I have met some of the very best people through dancing and had some amazing times, both on the dancefloor and off it. It’s been genuinely life changing and 100% for the better.

    I’m really hoping your dance mojo is reignited.
    Come out and play so we see can enjoy a few more emotional support sessions.

    1. I’ll be coming out to play more often for sure. I owe you an “emotional support” session at very least!

      1. Splendid! I look forward to it.

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