This April, Yelpers gathered at the Brecksville Center for the Arts for Yelp’s Swing Fling hosted by Get Hep Swing, a swing dance company owned and operated by international champion Valerie Salstrom. Valerie is a renowned dancer and teacher of all styles of swing, from Lindy to Balboa. Valerie began Get Hep Swing 20 years ago and hosts community events, private lessons and group classes. Most recently, she hosted the Get Hep Swing Prom to celebrate her 20th anniversary on April 27th. The event featured Jitterbug lessons, live bands and the crowning of Swing Prom king and queen. To get a taste of her world, Yelpers gathered to learn the basics of swing dance skills with Valerie in an introductory Jitterbug class.
With the sound of jazz filling the room, Valerie and her instructor Loreto welcomed two small groups. Valerie explained her impressive career (including a Guiness World Record!) and noting her victories at several national competitions such as the National Jitterbug Championship, Grand Slam Championship and American Lindy Hop Championship. She also educated the group about the history of swing. Valerie passionately explained that swing started in Harlem in the early 1930s in response to the rise of jazz as a musical genre. She explained Jitterbug, a 1940s era style also known as East Coast Swing, and that we would learn this dance in a historically accurate way, by teaching both men and women to lead and follow. There are no specific roles for men and women in swing, and Valerie follows the philosophy that you don’t need a partner to participate.
Yelpers wasted no time movin’ and groovin’. As Valerie and Loreto lined leaders and followers behind their respective instructors, Yelpers jumped right into learning the steps. Valerie first noted that swing is not like a stiff ballroom dance (its predecessor). Swing was a dance for the rebels of the time that wanted to get loose and let their hair down. Once everyone was in the appropriate position, Valerie and Loreto introduced the first steps. The one-hour lesson introduced several basic steps that Yelpers learned in counts and then practiced to music.
As Yelpers became more comfortable with the quick footwork and big movements, the nervousness turned into laughter and smiles all around. Yelp Elite Jasmine G. noted how the comfortable environment and encouraging instructors calmed her nerves, writing, “For as nervous as I was to learn some basics of swing dancing, it ended up being loads of fun!”
The room buzzed as both groups grew their knowledge of swing dance and opened their eyes to this social art form. Yelp Elite Jason W. enjoyed his experience, writing, “Valerie and Loreto were both really cool and definitely made it fun for everyone. They were very patient with each participant and made the dance look so easy! It wasn’t that easy at first, but I think I somewhat got the hang of it after a while. Practice makes perfect!”
Yelp’s Swing Fling proved that anyone can learn swing as long as they have a wonderful instructor. Check out Get Hep Swing’s upcoming classes and events to gain skills and knowledge from their passionate teachers! Check out the outstanding reviews and photos from the event here. For more information about the Yelp Cleveland Elite Squad, visit yelp.com/elite.