The Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer is normally full of QEH attendees milling around awkwardly before taking their seats in the auditorium, sipping warm gin and tonics and avoiding eye contact with one another in that peculiar London theatre audience way... but this sunny Bank Holiday afternoon, everything was different. We said it was going to be swinging on South Bank this Bank Holiday weekend... and it was.
The QEH foyer was full of people of all ages, all sizes and all abilities showing off their moves - some acquired just that afternoon in the workshops the London Swing Society had hosted, some dance skills honed through what looked like years of experience swooping stylishly around dancefloors. It was a bit like walking into a house party where all the guests had had enough small talk and conversations starting with "And what do you do?" and with all the booze drunk and while waiting for the unlucky bastard who had drawn the short straw to go to the off licence, the music was turned up and everyone got up to dance.
However, this wasn't drunken dancing: though the bar was open and there was evidence on the abandoned tables and chairs that beers had indeed been imbibed, the spritely swing dancing seemed to be induced mainly by the excellent live music provided by the ten-piece Sugar Ray Ford Orchestra. These guys gave a fantastic performance, playing without resorting to cliche or overdoing the favourites - it was just music you want to dance to, and not necessarily own in a special-price Best Swing and Jive Classics... Ever! CD boxset. There were a few outbreaks of the "uncles-dancing-at-a-wedding" free form dance syndrome and one or two cases of "blimey, you could be my grandad but I'd bet on you to win in a dance-off with Patrick Swayze in his Dirty Dancing days".
Parents danced with their small children, husbands danced with wives, men danced with men and women danced with women, people swapped partners and got chatting to each other... it would only have taken a few more beats per minute to have tipped the whole event into a full-blown monster E-flavoured rave. But the rhythms stayed on the right side of sane and mainly, there was a lot of really happy people having a boogie together on a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, in a foyer space that was strangely appropriate for the number of people strutting their stuff, to music provided by an enthusiastic and energetic live band. There are two types of group activity / multiple partner swinging that London could be indulging in more often - let's hope there's more of this kind.
For more pictures of the Swing!Swing!Swing! event, go here. Keep an eye out for the surprise appearance of the basketball player on a unicycle showing off under the London Eye.