Do people really dance to swing music?
This week, our band leader Mike discusses a question we are probably asked more than any other - do people really dance to swing music at wedding receptions and corporate events?
Most people love the style and sound of swing music – it’s timeless and never gets tired or dated - but are worried that people won’t know how to dance to it, which puts them off booking a live swing band for their event.
However, we don't think this should put you off hiring a swing band - here’s our advice!
1. Yes, people do dance to swing music - if you get a band who know what they are doing!
If you want a swing band at your wedding, it’s vital you pick a band who know what they are doing and can pick the right swing music to get people dancing.
There is an enormous variety of swing music out there, and it’s true that not all of it is great for dancing to. However a professional band such as Down for the Count will have developed a great set list of music that we know people will dance to.
We have a vintage line-up, the Down for the Count Swing Orchestra, who amongst other things perform at specialised swing dance events. However, we've also developed a set list of swing music which everyone loves to dance to, whether you're an experienced swing dancer or not.
There are various styles of swing music that we find are great at getting people dancing. First of all, jive music from the 1950s and 60s has a fantastic rhythm and energy, that people find really easy to dance to – think Reet Petite or Twistin’ the Night Away, which you can see us perform live in this video. (As a quick aside, some purists will tell you that this isn’t real swing music; we disagree, and anyway, if it gets you up and partying and having a great time – who cares?!)
Also, people love dancing to a 1920s Charleston groove with its classic “two step” rhythm. Our version of I Wanna Be Like You is great for this style of dancing. Here’s our live performance of the song:
Perhaps the most popular era of swing music is the big band sound of the 1930s and early 1940s. Songs like In the Mood and Sing Sing Sing are always great at getting people dancing and it really doesn’t matter if your guests don’t know the proper vintage dance moves – most people can bop along to these songs with no problems as you’ll see from this live video.
Finally, at weddings and corporate events we often slip a few Latin songs into our swing sets because they are really easy to dance to, and it’s also great to have a change of rhythm. Here we are performing a Latin classic, Sway:
A tricky style of swing music to perfect is Rat Pack music. Songs like Ain’t That a Kick in the Head and Fly Me to the Moon are fantastic to listen to, and we think they are also great for dancing, but only to a certain extent. Because we don’t think they have the right energy to keep people dancing all night, we would usually only perform a couple of these sorts of songs in each set unless you specifically request otherwise.
What jazz and music is wrong for dancing to at weddings? We think that small band jazz music – whilst fantastic to listen to – doesn’t have the right energy for dancing to. We normally wouldn’t recommend you go much smaller than a 6-piece band, like our line-up The Get Downs, for dancing music. What makes swing music so great is the punchy sound and harmony coming from the horn section, and when you have a band smaller than a 6-piece you’ll only have one horn. You’re then compromising the sound, losing part of what makes swing music so special.
2. You can hire swing dance teachers to bring extra energy
We work with incredible, international award-winning dance teachers as part of the Vintage Swing Collective. If you’re worried about people dancing to swing music at your wedding, you can hire them to teach your guests some simple moves which they can use when the band starts.
This also works as a brilliant ice-breaker – at your wedding you can use it to get the two families dancing together, or at a corporate event you can use it to introduce people to colleagues they've not met.
The other great thing about having dancers is that they will stay whilst the band is performing, dancing and getting your guests involved. They will do fun, spontaneous things like group Charlestons or dance offs, which will entertain your guests and bring an extra spark to the party.
The dancers can also entertain your guests with routines to our live music – check out an example of a routine here!
Finally, if you're planning on having a choreographed first dance to swing music, speak to us about having the dancers choreograph it for you!
3. Finish the night with some Soul and Motown music
We absolutely love performing swing music but we do think that ending the night with some soul and Motown is a great idea. It just really rounds off the party in a fantastic way.
Classic Motown music also works really well next to swing music, because it uses a similar instrumentation. Both styles of music use a brass section to deliver a punchy sound; use simple rhythm section grooves; and don’t go overboard with electric guitar sounds.
Booking Down for the Count is an excellent choice if you want people to dance at your wedding – not only are we experienced musicians, but we also spend lots of time out and about social dancing to swing, soul and Motown music. We really do know what music gets people dancing and love seeing a room full of people dancing to our music choices.
If you have any questions about the services we provide, get in touch today – you can email us or call band manager Mike on 07855 488 462.