Her swivels are the stuff of legends and his playful crazy-leg style is instantly recognizable. It’s time to get to know Lindy Hop powerhouses Åsa and Daniel Heedman: why they’re so passionate about remaining old school, should dance like a tiger, not like a mouse.
By: Annika Munter Editor: Odella Schattin Photo: Imantas Cesliavičius

Since 2004, the Heedman’s love and powers have brightened the Lindy hop scene. Enclosed in an electric ring of their own creation, they bring musicality and personality to the dance. When they teach, they exaggerate their movements and they master the ability to loosen the atmosphere to such an extent that their students dare to take risks.
–  We want to create a permissive atmosphere, in which everyone feels free to let go and it doesn’t matter if you make a fool of yourself. Only in that state of mind something completely different can be created, Daniel says. Åsa agrees and adds:
–  Lindy hop is jazz in motion. It’s free from boundaries and rules. We do all we can to stay true to its origins, to prevent it from transforming into a ballroom dance. To us, being a good dancer is not about advanced technical skills or how many figures you know. Being a good dancer is feeling the music and being able to express yourself.

As we meet to do this interview Daniel is dressed in a Herräng Dance Camp jacket, a wool scarf and his hair is perfectly groomed. He’s just arrived to Stockholm on the morning ight from Luleå, where he and Åsa live with their children, Wilja and Manfred, as well as their cats, Louise and Frasse. Once a week, Daniel travels to meet Frida Segerdahl and Lennart Westerlund, his partners since 2003. Together they run Herräng Dance Camp and this time of year they are busy making plans.ere will be news this year, Daniel reveals.

As he speaks, his northern Swedish calmness is powered by exuberant body language. Åsa participates in the interview too, by phone. Her joyful thoughtfulness expresses itself in pensive, winding sentences, and to my amazement they always end on a contemplative note. Still, I’m surprised to hear Daniel describe her as shy, or more correct: withdrawn. But we will return to it.

While Daniel works with Herräng Dance Camp, Åsa plans their joint assignments as instructors and performers. Working together strengthens their relationship.
– Even the crappiest day becomes great when we dance. We have fun teaching together and our dancing expands our relationship. With Åsa, I’m at my very best.

Daniel was in high school when he met Åsa. By that time, he’d been practicing and competing in Swedish bugg for ten years straight and was thinking a lot about what to do next. That’s when Åsa called to ask if he would be interested in getting involved with the Harlem Hot Shots. He said yes. And in no time, he wanted to get involved with Åsa too. I ask him what he fell for.
– Oh, what DIDN’T I fall for? My goodness, she was way out of my league. She was confident, had integrity and was a real donna. Explosive but also very down to earth.

At first, Åsa wasn’t too keen on the idea to have Daniel as her dance partner, and Daniel was very nervous. Luckily, they clicked. Actually, it was a moment of magic, even euphoria, when they danced for the first time. Daniel recalls doing swing out after swing out and smiles like a young lad as he describes it.
– Look, I even get goose bumps thinking about it, Daniel exposes and clarifies: that was the moment when love arose. Still, they were both keen not to mix their work and private lives, but to silence what their hearts were shouting out was impossible.

It was a moment of magic, even euphoria, when they danced for the first time in 2004. Photo by Imantas Cesliavičius from Harlem Festival

In dancing, Åsa’s mode of expression comes from that same place of passion and yearning. She isn’t interested in being assessed; she just wants to dance. That’s the reason she’s not competing.
– I don’t want anyone to correct my dancing and I don’t want to fall victim to trends. I find it more interesting to have my own phraseology. If you ask me, everyone should feel free to stand out. Sure, it can be nice to conform but it is not as much fun, or inspiring.

Dancers like Angela Andrew, Anita Kankimäki and Ewa Staremo (today Burak) made a big impression on Åsa when she started dancing Lindy Hop in 1993. Today, she’s still inspired by Angela Andrew as well as Gabriella Rosati and Mimmi Gunnarsson.
– ‘Puttinutt’—cute and cuddly—is not for me. If you want strong expression you need to stop being cute, Åsa says and give a new expression wings:
– You should dare to be raw and strong in your expression. Roar like a tiger, don’t be a mouse

Åsa and Frankie Manning. Photo from: Frankie Manning Foundation

Åsa started teaching as a 16-year-old, sometimes partnering Frankie Manning. She refers to Frankie as she re ects on why it’s important to keep the Lindy Hop’s origins: it’s about retaining the particular character of the dance. Åsa thinks about that a lot. And she expresses her opinions a lot, especially during the evening meetings in Herräng. It isn’t because she wants to, she simply must. Feelings flow like lava through her veins and force her to speak her mind. Still, Daniel describes her as withdrawn. How is this possible, I wonder.
– I don’t know, she replies. But it’s not a good combo! I often regret saying certain things and I think a lot about how people perceive me. I never intend to upset or offend people. Actually, I’m not tough at all.

Why do you think you’re perceived that way?
– I have a deep voice, my movements and my radiance are steady and I speak my mind. This is a result of my passion for this art form. I feel a lot, and that’s why I get fiery.

Åsa falls silent as she searches for the right words.
– People seem afraid to express opinions and hold themselves back. Why don’t they speak their minds? If they don’t, I have to.

Finally, what are your current goals and dreams?
– We want to keep teaching. It’s extremely rewarding when people in our classes tell us that they’ve discovered what’s important to them and what their dreams are. That convinces us to stay true to our belief that the spirit and atmosphere we see in old dance clips must be maintained, Daniel says and get up from the chair to show what spirit he’s talking about.

FACTS ABOUT: Åsa & Daniel Heedman
Born: 1977 and 1983, respectively
Occupation: professional Lindy Hop dance instructors
Family: two children, Wilja, 7, and Manfred 4.5, and cats Louise and Frasse
Home: Luleå, in the very north of Sweden

Photo from Harlem Festival by Imantas Cesliavičius