This month I’m gonna take time out from telling you about the excellent rock’n’roll bands here in Russia, to focus on the dancing side of things. In particular, wanna tell you about something unique in rock’n’roll dancing. And it’s happening right here in Russia.
For any group to describe itself as unique is a dangerous claim to make – there’s usually someone who comes forward to say they’re doing the same thing. But Moscow-based Co-op Jive can justly claim to be the only free co-operative that exists to “link, help and support rock’n’roll jive dancers.”
I set up the co-operative in the 1980s when I lived and worked in the UK, as an antidote to the commercialism of dance schools. I don’t blame dance schools for being commercial – people have to make a living. But it seemed to me that dancers were being pushed in a direction where they didn’t want to go.
Dance schools seemed to be coming up with new steps, in order to run more and more classes, to make more money from people without really considering what most dancers really wanted – the opportunity to learn the basic skills needed to dance socially.
Setting up the co-operative enabled me to combine something I really believe in with something I really enjoy. Co-operatives exist to make a positive contribution to people’s lives and we want to give people the freedom to really dance with feeling and enjoy the music. In other words, there is less emphasis on more and more dance steps. We want to give dancers the skills to be able to get out on the dance floor and enjoy themselves, rather than getting them to pay for more and more classes to learn more and more steps.
The co-operative has been based in Moscow since 2004 when I moved to Russia to live and work. Prior to that I ran the co-operative for many years in the UK. We organise rock’n’roll dance and music events on a weekly basis (I’ve got a full-time job, so once a week is the maximum I can do), including free dance classes: They are bi-lingual i.e. taught in English and Russian. All the events we are involved in are non-profit making. Also anyone anywhere in the world can contact the co-operative, for details about where to dance in their area of the world. More details about all this are available on my web-site at www.coopjive.co.uk
The first dance class I ever attended was many years ago. I still remember it. I went along to a dance class at Covent Garden in London. It turned out to be a jitterbug class which was not exactly what I was looking for. I’d had a tough day at work, arrived late, felt really out of place and was about to get up and leave.
A young woman then came across and encouraged me to have a go (she had obviously noticed the unhappy look on my face !). I haven’t stopped dancing since. I only saw that young woman once more, at the next class and didn’t get a chance to talk to her. I never saw her again, but I still quietly thank her for getting me started. You can’t always return a favour but you can pass it on and that’s what I hope the dance co-operative has been able to do.