Wednesday night is social dance night at Chicago Swing Dance Studio in Stockholm. Hornsgatan Ramblers are playing and the floor is packed. Couples move like electric whisk around each other. This is where Swedish swing enthusiasts, vintage geeks, and jazz geeks meet every Wednesday and actually every day of the week.
Chicago Swing Dance Studio opened their doors in 2004 and has become the epicenter of lindy hop and swing dance in Stockholm. Much thanks to a group of enthusiasts, with Chicago’s founder Lennart Westerlund (aka. the father of Herrängs Dance Camp), in the lead. He has devoted his life to the expression and is the reason why Lindy hop gained such strong foothold in Sweden.
A handful people stand outside Chicago’s entrance, their clothes are wet and body heat rises like smoke in the fierce autumn air. Windows facing the dance hall is fogged, it is not possible to see the inside but the music finds its way out onto the sidewalk. I follow the tunes in, through two double doors, hang my coat in the closet and continue down, into the heart of Chicago. The patterned glass ceiling, fan-shaped carpets, vintage wallpaper and rounded wooden furniture are surrounding the dance floor. It is crowded but the movements are intense and spins are many. Linda Engstrom is one of many who is enjoying herself. Her hair is set, she has red cheeks and her flowered dress looks like an umbrella around her waist when she spins. She comes here every week, to attend classes and to social dance. Her breathing is fast when she gets off the floor.
– I strive to move with bent legs as if I move through toffee. My strongest feeling when I dance is that I’m so proud of my body, says Linda.
The bar serves desserts, hot food, and drinks. Many dancers catch their breath here, some drink beer or wine but the best seller is Trocadero. Patron Mikael Romero, choose to drink water. He lives around the corner from Chicago and comes here a few times each week.
– Chicago is the heart of swing dance and you can feel the atmosphere in the walls. The preservation of the cultural heritage is central here, both in terms of decor and dance terms, Mikael says.
The story of Chicago started with Lennart Westerlund. He was looking for a place to combine his teaching, his practicing and all administration around Herräng dance camp. He wanted to stop ”hopping between homes, jobs and different training facilities in Stockholm” and when an old movie theater at Hornsgatan 75 got free for grabs, he took the leap. Lennart and his two companions, Sakarias Larsson and Fatima Teffahi, created ta dance studio that is inspired by New York in the heydays of swing dance. About 800 students swivel over the dance floor every week.
The time is just before 10 pm, and the dance floor is like a boiling pot. Dancers experiencing a couple of songs together, give thanks and then turns towards a new dance partner. Mikael Romero takes a break to change shirt. When I ask him what attracts with Chicago he is asking me to listen to his answer disregarding his nonconformist tone.
– All that matters here is whether you dance or not. In addition to the physical achievements, there is a spiritual dimension. For me, it is not about to take or receive but to exist together. To meet this way was new to me when I started. Now Lindy hop makes me a better person, it makes me the man I want to be.
The evening will continue until eleven o’clock. Tired and excited I step out on the street after an intense experience. Traffic on the street have calmed down and the color of the night is like paint poured over the rooftops of Stockholm.
READ MORE OF Lennart Westerlund here!