Swing Beijing: An enthusiastic dance group

Zeng Weiming, leader of Swing Beijing Photo: courtesy of Zeng Weiming

Swing Beijing is formed by a group of people interested in swing dancing. Although they are not professional dancers, their enthusiasm for swing brings them together from all over the world to enjoy the happiness.

Swing dance is most commonly known as a group of dances that developed with the swing style of jazz music in the US in the 1920s–1950s. It was overshadowed by other types of music such as rock in the 1950s and it totally disappeared from sight in the 1970s. Then it was revived in the 1980s by a retired postman who was has been acclaimed as the best swing dancer.

Swing Beijing was established by a Chinese-American named Adam Lee in 2003, according to the current leader of the group Zeng Weiming. “Lee was my teacher. He found that nobody knew about the dance when he first came to China, so he started the swing dance group plus a big 30s band comprised of five saxophones, five trombones and four trumpets,” said Zeng.

Nancy Qin (left), one of the teachers of Swing Beijing Photo: Billie Feng

Zeng knew nothing about swing dance when the group and the band were established. He used to learn music, so he joined the band. They played tunes for the dancers. He was encouraged by Lee to have a try at dancing. “I had never learned to dance so I thought it was impossible for me to be a dancer. I kept refusing him for about half a year until a girl in the band told me to take the beginners’ class,” he laughed.

Swing Beijing recruits students from all over the world. None of the teachers are professional dancers. They have their own full-time jobs. For example, Zeng is a full-time music teacher for a primary school. “I am trying to devote as much of my time as possible to the group, including teaching and performing,” Zeng said.

Nancy Qin, one of the teachers for Swing Beijing, is a Chinese-American who works as a translator in Beijing. She learned swing dance when she was in college in the US. “It’s a kind of social dance. I didn’t talk much before but I started to feel more open and happier after learning it. I made a lot of friends here in the group. You can improvise as long as you master the basics. We hope more and more Chinese people learn the swing dance to help it take root here,” Qin said.

Dancing on the Great Wall Photo: courtesy of Zeng Weiming

South Korea is the country with the most swing dancers in the world, according to Zeng. “There are about 100,000 swing dancers in South Korea compared to 200 on the Chinese mainland. But the potential for swing dance is very big here. Give me some time and it will be popular here, too,” Zeng said.


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