She combines wild motion with sober elegance. He has an eccentric style that is manifested in his moves, sound and manner of speech. Mimmi Gunnarsson Bringlöv and Fredrik Dahlberg remain true to the origins of swing dancing–yet they encourage students to explore uncharted territory. Here is why!
by:Annika Munter edited by:Odella Schattin
In history, the exact moment something began is often hard to pin down. This is the case with swing dancing (it took a few years to decide on a name for how people moved to swing music). The same thing goes for Mimmi and Fredrik’s partnership. First time they met was at a social dance in Stockholm 2008. They kept seeing each other at different venues, but never actually decided to couple up.
– There were a bunch of people who used to meet every Sunday at open practice. Mimmi and I were the most energetic. Neither of us missed an opportunity to dance, but we never spoke about becoming dance partners. Dancing together happened organically, Fredrik says.
They watched old movie clips and mimicked their role models from the swing era. It was learning by trial and error but practice paid off. Today, they are in popular demand for events and camps, appreciated for their crude and unpolished style. They value raw dancing, just like their colleagues in the Swedish dance company Harlem Hot Shots. Mimmi and Fredrik have been a part of the group since 2012. Their mission is to keep spreading the knowledge and tradition of swing dancing, without modernizing or compromising it. They strive to keep their expression as authentic as possible but it’s not about copying.
– It is about being inspired by the material and work that came before us. We create new material in the same spirit. We try to keep the same energy, just as unpolished as it was then, says Mimmi.
Mimmi started dancing at the age of 19. She got inspired by the TV show Floorfiller and had a particular interest in learning the Back Charleston. She took a beginners course and thought all the triple stepping was very repetitive. But she continued doing them.
– It’s been easy for me in the sense that I’ve always enjoyed practicing which makes it easy to learn new things. My big challenge has been my self-confidence. Sometimes it fails me and I tend to care too much about what others think of my efforts. To evolve you need to be brave enough to take risks and sometimes make mistakes. You have to go outside your comfort zone!
I recall watching Mimmi perform. Her feet run the floor like fingers over the keys of a piano—with clear intentions and deep sound. Rhythms are tight, movements fresh and joy unmistakable.
– To me it is still challenging to perform and to teach. The feeling of being judged is present. Also, it can still be challenging to ask someone to dance, especially my inspirational stars or teachers that I had as a beginner, like Lennart Westerlund, Mimmi replies when I ask what is outside her comfort zone today.
Fredrik has a different approach. He, too, reckons he has a lot to learn, as a dancer and as a musician, but that doesn’t stop him from stepping onto a stage or entering a competition. Being the center of an audience’s attention seems to bring out the best in him. As a vocalist, trumpeter and front man in the jazz band Hornsgatan Ramblers, all eyes are on him. The nickname “Handsome Fred” suits him well and his eccentric style is manifested in his moves, expressions and his manner of speech.
Growing up, hip-hop and jazz were Fredrik’s kind of music. He tried Lindy Hop for the first time in 2006, but didn’t appreciate it enough to continue. While he liked the tunes, the athletics he could do without. Two years later, a girlfriend showed him the classic film clip from Hellzapoppin´, with acrobatics and a crazy pace. Fredrik loved it! That’s how he wanted to dance too.
– When I started, I was lacking in rhythm and balance, had bad posture and bad body control. All the problems you can imagine—I had them. The only head start I possibly had was that I listened a lot to music growing up.
Nowadays, Fredrik and Mimmi practice 10–12 hours a week, by themselves or with all the other members of Harlem Hot Shots. Hellzapoppin´ is still a source of inspiration and the duo is happy to work hard to create new successes with the dance group. Neither Mimmi nor Fredrik are interested in defining what is right or wrong when swing dancing. Their only advice is the importance of always being personal and true to yourself.
– Copying other dancers is natural in the beginning, but at the same time it’s important to see your own strengths and take advantage of them. Do not erase your personal style, Fredrik points out. Mimmi agrees and encourages everyone who is trying too hard to relax.
– It’s just a dance, not science! It’s easy to create theories…but “dos” and “don’ts” belong only when practicing. On the social dance floor everything is allowed! So just dance!