Meet Catrin Hopkins
Devil on the dancefloor? You have to check out our NEW Sound Clash collection: inspired by thudding wood-clad speakers, dance halls strewn with pastel streamers and the sound of hands clapping in time to Doo-wop. We had a sneaking suspicion that our friend and dancing enthusiast Catrin might just be a *little* keen on a couple of pieces so we thought it was time we talked Lindy Hop, Fox Brooches and ‘stepping on toes’. Eek!
HI CATRIN! TELL US ABOUT YOUR DANCE STYLE: HOW DID YOU FIRST DISCOVER LINDY HOP AND WHAT DREW YOU TO THE SCENE?
I remember Googling “dance classes Cardiff” looking to try something new. I’d done a little dancing as a child but mostly stuck to sports. I’d always liked to think I could nail a dance routine if given half a chance! I also vividly remember giving a dramatic sigh and bookmarking Lindy Hop Cardiff, as I did not have the confidence to go alone. For that reason, I’ll always be eternally grateful to my friend Claire (a self-confessed two-left-footer) who, a few months later, asked if I fancied signing up as her partner for a class she’d found, “ever heard of Lindy Hop?”
Catrin and Claire
The idea of getting to dance to swing music made me so happy. I was obsessed with classic movies and musicals growing up, with crushes on Gene Kelly and Jimmy Stewart, who played big-band leader Glenn Miller in the film of his life. I also had a lot of vintage dresses waiting in my wardrobe! If you’re not familiar with partnered dancing it can seem really odd to get into a stranger’s personal space for the first time, which didn’t initially help my nerves. In a typical class, you swap partners every few minutes so you have a turn with everyone in the room. You soon realise that everyone’s feeling just as awkward but excited to learn, and it blends into this beautifully awkward British atmosphere where everyone’s apologising for lightly kicking one another and stepping on toes (most of the time they’re your own)! At the end of the first month of classes, I ventured to a social in Cardiff city centre, where people at all stages of learning come together to dance the night away. I made the mistake of going in my full vintage finery and I think everyone assumed I was a veteran dancer from out-of-town. They soon realised I had only the slightest clue of what I was supposed to be doing and made me feel very welcome and I had a brilliant, if slightly embarrassing, night. Since then Lindy has taken over my life like no other hobby I’ve ever had – I even met my housemate through our dance classes!
OK, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE SONGS TO DANCE TO?
I love swinging out to Lavender Coffin and any time I can dance to a bit of Ella Fitzgerald. Shoofly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy will always have a place in my Lindy heart, as it’s one of the first songs we listened to in lessons. Another tune that will always be a favourite is the brilliantly ridiculous Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens, to which Lindy Hop Cardiff learnt a routine to take part in the City of the Unexpected, a celebration of Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday that engulfed Cardiff for two whole days in 2016. I wore my trusty name necklace and the Tatty Devine honey brown (Fantastic Mr) Fox Brooch. I was still fairly new to Lindy at this point but couldn’t miss finally learning a routine. We performed our flash mob twice as part of the huge festival, which saw thousands descend on Cardiff city centre. Absolutely zero pressure!
Roald Dahl flash mob, ft. a rather foxy character...
...AND THE TRICKIEST MOVE YOU’VE MASTERED?
For me, that would have to be the Tandem Charleston. I love the Charleston but for this move you’re doing it in sync with another person and for some reason that scrambles my brain. After three years of dancing, I’ve pretty much got it and now rarely kick anyone in the shins. Unfortunately, no evidence of me doing this exists – what a shame. I’d also like to mention that I’ve learnt a style of dance that is closely linked to Lindy Hop, which to our delight and sometimes embarrassment in the UK is called Shag! My housemate and I love it and have even been away for whole weekends to learn new moves… it will never not be funny to ask each other if you fancy a Shag on the dance floor.
ANY WORDS OF WISDOM FROM YOUR TEACHERS FOR ANYONE THINKING OF GIVING IT A GO? (OK, US!)
I’ve been lucky to learn from several fantastic teachers in Cardiff, all of whom preach the joyful silliness and lack of pretense that comes with dancing the Lindy Hop. “I’ve never seen a Lindy Hopper who wasn’t smiling. It’s a happy dance. It makes you feel good.” - Frankie Manning, one of the founders of Lindy Hop. Lindy is the granddaddy of all swing dances, which followed the more upright Charleston in the 1920s. It’s not meant to be elegant and uptight. It can be fast, slow and somewhere in between but never serious. A quick shout out to Anna, Jessie, Andy and Martyn for the time and enthusiasm they’ve put into keeping Cardiff’s Lindy scene hopping.
WHICH LEGENDARY DANCEFLOOR DO YOU DREAM OF GRACING WITH YOUR MOVES?
If we’re talking in my wildest dreams I’d love to dance somewhere like the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem where Lindy Hop originated, invented by young African Americans dancing to swing music in the early 1930s. The Savoy was a two-story ballroom with sprung floors where live bands played for thousands of people to dance. It was demolished in 1958. Sadly, very few venues like the Savoy still exist and not in Cardiff for a long time. Our teachers and organisers do a fantastic job of finding us suitable spaces but it’s definitely a struggle. The Lindy community is really welcoming and we often cross the bridge to Bristol and further afield. It’s brilliant that you can rock up to a scene anywhere in the world and start dancing. My sister has recently started learning in London so I’m looking forward to when we can head to a big London social together.
Catrin and her housemate Sophie snapped by Nick Treharne
WE HAD A FEELING YOU MIGHT JUST LIKE OUR NEW ‘SOUND CLASH’ COLLECTION. WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE PIECE AND WHY?
It has to be the Twisting Dancers! They literally look like they’ve just done a swing out – the signature move of Lindy Hop. I’ve also fallen for the Dance Foil Banner Necklace, which I’m excited to wear to lessons and socials without fear of breaking it.
A LITTLE BIRD TOLD US THAT YOU’RE QUITE THE BUSY BEE! WHERE CAN WE CATCH YOU WHEN YOU’RE NOT BUSTING OUT THE ‘SHIM SHAM’?
When I’m not rock-step, triple-stepping I can be found working in communications at Cardiff University. I support researchers who are looking into the causes of mental health problems – pretty much every day is fascinating and I work with a great and passionate group of people. When I’m not in work I’m learning a new song on my ukulele, watching live music or stand-up, walking the Welsh coastline, making fancy dress costumes and finding any excuse to visit my sister in London (and squeezing in a visit to Tatty Devine)!
Catrin and Sophie take on Barry Island
Thanks so much for taking us for a twirl, Catrin! Find out more about Lindy Hop Cardiff here, put your best foot forward in our Sound Clash collection, and peep Catrin’s IG feed right here, and her hopping exploits under #LindyHopkins and #LindyHopCardiff right now...