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Swing Buffalo…. all you need to do is do it.

By Rob Leach – Founder,

Did you ever see that episode of Friends where Monica takes a tap class?  I was trying to think of what I wanted to convey in this article and I kept thinking of that scene at the end of that episode where the instructor yells out “You in the back, you’re doing it wrong!”.  Unscathed and continuing to dance, Monica yells back “But at least I’m doing it!”  [pause for dramatic affect…]  I confess that I used to watch a lot of TV, but one day in October of ’98, I saw a commercial which lead me down a path away from that box being the main source of my entertainment.  It sounds cliché, but that commercial actually radically changed my life. It was a Gap commercial, but it’s affect on me had nothing to do with clothes.

What is there to do in Buffalo, or any city for that matter, or anywhere?  I mean on a regular basis – what is there to do for entertainment?  What do you get excited about?  On any given week, what can you go out and do?  I’m talking about a staple source of entertainment, not the occasional event. A lot of people, at least as I’ve noticed in Buffalo, love to go to bars and hang out. You can go to the movies or go out to dinner. You can go to a show. You can go hear a band. Some follow sports. Some play sports. Now that’s great!  That’s actually doing something as opposed to passively consuming entertainment, but not everyone’s into sports – and I’m not writing here to talk about sports. My point is, a lot of forms of entertainment are not “activities” and if they are activities, they’re not usually very social and don’t often happen in large groups or involve a sense of community.

I know a LOT of people who saw that Gap commercial and it’s kind of a joke in the subculture I have been a part of ever since. I’m now part of a network of people who have gotten so involved, we not only travel around the world, but organize too. I really want to tell you what it is I’m talking about, but I want to avoid putting it in a way in which you’ll dismiss it and say “Oh, he’s just talking about X, how lame.”  People tend to have a preconceived idea about what it is, which is usually wrong.

swing-dance-style-Buffalo-NY.jpgThe point I’m making here is that you can either be passively entertained, or you can entertain yourself. In my case, watching TV was my entertainment, but when I saw that commercial, something inside me said “You should try that! That looks fun!” The khaki-clad models in the commercial were jumping around to this music and throwing each other in the air. It certainly looked exciting. You know, I’d never even heard of swing dancing before that! I’d taken a ballroom class before, but this was something different. I went to my first dance and was instantly hooked. It’s pretty easy to pick up and there’s such a breadth of styles and depth of technique that even the best dancers keep learning all of their lives.

What you probably first think of when you hear ‘swing dancing’ might be cheesy songs by groups like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy or Brian Setzer, but in the world of Lindy Hop, that phase has passed. The ‘lindy hop’ subculture is about music you never hear on the radio, but probably would if it was 1938. Along with recorded music directly from that era, there are contemporary bands that produce new songs with that genuine “swing-era” sound that you would typically hear at a dance today. When you hear this stuff, you can’t help but move to it. Dancing is now my life, though it’s not my day job. Anyone can do it.

When I moved to Buffalo, I started a lindy hop scene up from scratch. Now we teach and dance at ‘Lindy Fix’, our weekly event every Tuesday night at the Polish Cadets Hall on Grant St at Amherst (you can get details at Also, we have a huge event once a year called Rhythm Shuffle. This year we’re flying out arguably two of the best swing instructors in the World: Nick Williams, choreographer of ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ and Sylvia Sykes, affectionately known to the swing world as “Swing Goddess”.  We’ll have lessons, dances with live bands, vendors, as well as a performance and contest. It’s this Sept. 16-18 and you can register online and get more details at

Like Monica on Friends, all you need to do is do it (but here, no one will ever tell you “you’re doing it wrong”). No one picks it up on the first try, but of all the first-try opportunities that are out there, this one is a once a year opportunity. There will be attendees from all over the region and beyond. We even have registrants from Copenhagen, Denmark. You’ll get a chance to see what swing dancing is all about. I know that if you show up, it might just change your life like that Gap commercial did for me.

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