Juyeon Song moved to Malaysia from South Korea seven years ago for work. She spent the first three months mostly by herself.
“I hardly spoke to anyone. I was lonely,” she says, acknowledging the mental stress it was causing her. She was even thinking of going home.
Then, a new acquaintance invited Jenn, as she’s better known, to a Lindy Hop taster’s class. Since it was close to where she lived at the time, she decided to go.
“I needed friends,” she says matter-of factly.
After the class was over, there was a social dance. This is partner dancing that is informal, relaxed and done for pure enjoyment and recreational purposes. Music from the era is played and dancers can be as fancy as they want or keep to simple steps.
But Jenn wasn’t comfortable and didn’t try to dance at all. What did cheer her up, however, were the people she met at the event. She gushes about how friendly everyone was. And so she kept going for socials, eventually finding her feet.
“I am so happy to have discovered Lindy Hop,” says Jenn, who works at a media agency. “If not for this dance, and the community, I don’t know if I would have stayed in Malaysia.”
Today, she is one of the class instructors and a member of the organising committee for KL Swing.
And she’s not the only one to have found their squad. Many close friendships have been forged within the KL Swing community. Members meet outside of class and socials for non-dance activities. They can often be found together at that great uniter of Malaysians, the Indian-Muslim restaurant.
Some Lindy Hoppers were interested to take up the dance as an extension of their love for jazz music, others were simply looking for another form of exercise.
Tan Cher Hau simply wanted to dance. He hadn’t set his mind on any one particular type so he simply asked Google for “dance near me”. By happy coincidence, a studio very close to his home was offering swing dance lessons. He’s honed his skills for years now.
“There’s a lot of engagement in this community. The people are helpful and the atmosphere at socials is very pleasant,” he says.
Nina Z went along with Cher Hau to those socials, but didn’t participate at first. However, she enjoyed talking to the people she met there.
Every time she went, she made connections with new people. Eventually, she did kick up her heels. Besides being with friends, Nina enjoys the satisfaction she gets when she dances.
“It’s a fun hobby,” she says. “It brings me out of my comfort zone.”
Tan Pei Ru used to do line dancing, but felt it lacked fun.
“Everyone is so focused on perfection, to stay in line. Swing is anything but that,” she says, adding that improvisation is encouraged.
The music is also something to rely on.
“The songs tell a story, they inform the texture of the dance,” says Pei Ru.
KL Swing also has socials specifically for blues dancing. Anthony Escarraga helps organise them.
“The music is soulful, freeing. And there’s more space to express myself through blues dancing,” he says.
While the reasons for taking up swing dancing and keeping at it may be varied, these dancers just can’t get enough of it.
“When you can pursue your interest with people of the same mind, that is so enjoyable,” says Escarraga.