Charleston dancing swivels its way over to Ryde

MyCharleston and Savoy kicks

Our Charleston dance school which was recently accepted onto the UK’s largest free accelerator hub, Entrepreneurial Sparks, will be swivelling it’s way to Ryde from 19 Feb.

MyCharleston, led by myself Elena Collins and Fiona Ring, was set up as a passion project after we became hooked on Charleston dancing. After teaching sellout classes back in our hometown Brighton, we realised the demand for the dance was bigger than we initially thought. 

In just under 6 months, we have launched our business in 5 new cities focusing on getting all age groups kicking and flicking across the dance floor.  

“When we set this up we had no idea we’d be expanding over seas” laughs Fiona. “Things have been moving at a giddy pace since we joined the Entrepreneurial Sparks programme.  Elena now works full time on the business and we have expanded along the South Coast recently launching in my hometown of Portsmouth”.

Since then the classes have gone from strength to strength and the latest expansion for MyCharleston is to the Isle of White. ’’Its not international but it is a leap from the mainland and we think Charleston will be a big hit on the Island as the dance offers so much: It’s great fitness, very sociable and chance to have a lot of fun’’

Classes start on 19th Feb at the Ryde Academy at 8pm. to find out more about classes near you and other events run by MyCharleston go to www.mycharlestondance.com

Being Pitch Perfect

Do you think you could pitch your business in just 60 seconds? Explain the value, the traction and it’s future plans all under a minute? At Enterprenuial Sparks, where we are based, we are challenged weekly to constantly refine and pitch our businesses so if the chance ever did occur that we were trapped in a lift with Ducan Bannatyne we would have him reaching for his cheque book by the time the doors opened.

After months of practice, tweeking, chopping and changing the pitch, the ESparks team challenged me to learn and deliver it on local Radio Station, Radio Reverb.

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Always up for a challenge and being the competitive person that I am I took them on it and rewrote it (again), learnt it by talking aloud whilst driving and making my poor fiancé listen to it for the 100th time.

After a few days of practice I took myself down to the studio at Open Market to be on the Brighton Business Show and I felt pretty happy with the result. I even managed to beat the time and say everything in my elevator pitch in just 55 seconds, before the lift doors opened… If only Mr. Bannatyne had been there to hear it.

But seeing as you are,  you can listen to the  pitch and the full interview by following the link and tune in from 24 mins: 

How to get the perfect 1920s Bob

Having long thick blonde hair is far cry from the traditional flapper girl bob of the 1920s but when it came to our photo shoot earlier this year I needed to make my hair a lot shorter without taking a pair of scissors to it.

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Usually for performances we tie our hair up with a Heidi roll which is perfect for events as it keeps hair in a place for energetic shows but when it came to the photo shoot we wanted to capture the 20s look in a more authentic way.

To make my hair bobbed I followed this guide where I divided the hair into two sections. Firstly, with the undercut I made a small bun then with the rest curled each section using moose and spray the night before the shoot.

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In the morning I look all the clips out and brushed them out and clipped the curls into the bun. After a few cans of hairspray the look was complete and just about stayed in place.

Once the shoot was all over and all the clips were out, my hair decide to try another look and embrace my inner Bonnie Tyler…

Elena

What's in a name?

Its happened, we've changed our name! Elena and I began four years ago with the name ‘I Charleston Brighton’ and it will always have a special place in our hearts. But to understand why we changed I Charleston to MyCharleston you need to know the story of how we began.

Elena and I performing Charleston together for the first time in 2014

Elena and I performing Charleston together for the first time in 2014

The First I Charleston flyer design

The First I Charleston flyer design

Elena and I became instant fans of Charleston when we performed in a Charleston troupe for a one off show in 2013. We decided we wanted to continue Charleston dancing and whilst looking for a project we discovered 'I Charleston the World.’ These charming films showcased dancers doing the Charleston in iconic locations around their city. So we decided to put Brighton on the map! The problem was no one was running regular Charleston classes in Brighton, so we brushed up our moves, made a flyer and I Charleston Brighton began.

MyCharleston

We had no idea what it would develop into but from the first class we ran in January 2014, we fostered a group who were up for filming, learning, performing and socialising. So many of the students from those early classes are now dear friends and collaborators in the much larger business we’ve become.

Elena’s dynamite ability to market, organise and draw people together for the sheer love of dance was a huge part of our success. She gathered the momentum we needed for the film, with interviews on TV, Radio and publications. The film got over 42,000 hits and the Lord Mayor of Brighton came to the launch. By then all this dancing had made me very large and pregnant and on New Years day, January 2015, I had the child I’d waited seven years to conceive, I called him Charleston – not really but I was tempted!

Lucian ‘Charleston’ Creed 1st Nov 2015

Lucian ‘Charleston’ Creed 1st Nov 2015

Elena and I being interviewed on Juice Radio 

Elena and I being interviewed on Juice Radio 

The classes expanded and we now had a performance troupe, drawing talent from those early classes. Over the next three years our classes grew and other exciting opportunities came our way such as breaking world records, flashmobs, performances, festivals and speakeasy events. But all this had to fit around full-time jobs and motherhood. We would conduct our business over lunch breaks, evening calls and a lot of chats in car parks!

This summer we decided to throw everything at growing our classes into an actual business after we were accepted on the Entrepreneurial Sparks programme. So many people had told us how much they loved Charleston and wished there was something similar in their area, so we thought lets take our classes to other cities.

Like any new venture it’s been a whirlwind but so interesting and rewarding. One of our first new products was a ‘Dance in a day’ where we took the best moves, music and routines and combined them into a three hour workshop. The response has been phenomenal although the best quote was from I guy who’d been dragged along by his partner and was over heard saying ‘It’s actually alright'.

MyCharleston logo

So there’s the story but why the rebrand? I Charleston Brighton was directly inspired by the ‘I Charleston the World’ project, so it wasn’t our creation. We had also found there was much confusion as to weather it was a small ‘i’ as in apple products or a good old fashioned capital I. We loved the name so much but by simply changing the ‘I’ to a ‘My’ we kept the essence whilst making it personal to all the people who have essentially created our business; Yes you, the dancers who come and embrace this silly wonderful dance every week in class. So whilst we are very happy to have a growing business and love the new designs it is essentially you who have created MyCharleston and for that we thank you.

Fiona

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Guide to Charleston Music - Part 1

Soultastics with MyCharleston

Once you’ve discovered the joys of Charleston dance, you’ll want to find the music to match. But the reality is that Charleston does not exist as a musical genre. Try typing Charleston into spotify and the song that comes up is ‘The Charleston’ a tune that was written in 1923. Other than the original song there is no Charleston music but there is a whole world of Jazz.

Now I know a lot of people who say they ‘hate jazz’ but jazz, like dance music has a huge list of sub-genres. From Rag-time, New Orleans, Swing, Bebop, too freeform (that's the one everyone hates!) there are so many styles, so how do we find the ones that work for Charleston dancing?

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To avoid the lecture on music history lets just say quality recordings of music from the twenties are virtually non-existent. But Musicians from that era continued recording long after, so a good way in is to begin with great artist of the time.  So here’s a list of my favourite artists with links to their tracks on YouTube ….

  1. Count Basie  - Stan Shorthair
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3szm2pjt3s&spfreload=10
  3. Artie Shaw – Hope Skip and Jump
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZenQDS-hLw&spfreload=10
  5. Benny Goodman – Flying Home
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gn0hDIkvl0Y&list=RDgn0hDIkvl0Y
  7. Duke Ellington  - That Lindy Hop
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vqx83L66FiE&spfreload=10
  9. Louis Prima  - Pennies from heaven
  10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dr8QQdnf_tY
  11. Sydney Bechet – Maple Leaf Rag
  12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr2aT9NSiDQ&spfreload=10
  13. Fats Waller – Lulu’s back in town
  14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rgtt_8DbKE&spfreload=10
  15. Cab Calloway – Are you all Reet
  16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4deSYYzffM

If you’ve had a good listen, you’ll realize that a lot of these tunes are very much Swing but the good news is we can Charleston to Swing music, as well as Ragtime, Bebop, New Orleans, Kansas City and of course Electro Swing! I hope you’ve enjoyed this intro to music. I will be writing more soon, including my top ten tunes and modern artist. So stay tuned and please share your recommendations for great music to Charleston too. 

Fiona

 

The Red Shoes

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From Han Christian Andersen’s Red Shoes to Cinderella’s glass slippers, dance shoes have often been imbued with magical qualities. So how important is it to get the right shoes when dancing the Charleston? Whilst in many dance forms just bare feet is fine, The Charleston really does require the right footwear. 

The main reason shoes are so important in Charleston is so you can swivel the feet; the foot swivel is a defining characteristic of the Charleston style so non-grip shoes are a must. Back in the day dance floors were waxed and offered a lot of glide, modern dance floors and studios are smooth but not slippy. The dilemma then is getting shoes which offer some glide but not so much that you end up kissing the floor with your bum. Another thing to consider is how much support the shoes offer the foot, if you have weak ankles or collapsed foot arches you will need more supportive shoes.

 

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So here is the low down on shoes we know and love and the pros and cons of each …

Greek Sandals – Cheap, light, strike a good balance between grip and slide. The down side is they don’t offer much support and they definitely aren’t outdoor shoes, so save them for the dance studio and you’ll perfect your swivel in no time.

Jazz Trainers – More on the grippy side but offer good support to the foot, super comfy and hardwearing.

Jazz Shoes – Light and good for swivel, again they offer limited support but one up on Greek sandals.

Toms – These fashion shoes are very popular in the Lindy Hop scene. They are a solid pair of shoes, good on swivel but the soles don’t offer great flexibility.

Character Shoes – A lot of dancer find a bit of heel is actually quite helpful. I’m a big fan of character shoes but would advise going to a dance shop and getting ones which are a really good fit, if the feet are in any way sliding within the shoes you will feel unstable.

Fashion Shoes – Well its luck of the draw but some of the best shoes people have showed up to class in have been bought in Charity Shops – Win! Often in the style of pumps or brogues the best ones tend to be made of softish leather and with leather soles which offer glide.

Well happy shoe shopping and please keep us update with your posts on shoes that work for you.

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Fiona

 

 

Goodwood Vintage Revival

When you run a vintage business, you might think the last thing you want to do with your day off is go to a vintage event, but not me! I’ve heard of Goodwood Revival and this year I finally went with a group of friends.

We had all carefully planned our outfits but when it came to the festival itself no one knew what to expect. Surprisingly, a lot of people still seem to be in the dark about Goodwood Revival, so here is my guide to this event.

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Central to the day is the car racing, but if the idea of vintage cars revving their engines and doing laps doesn’t appeal, don’t worry there’s lots more to do and see. 

Our day started in the Butlins tent, which we’d ducked into to shelter from the rain. All the staff were dressed in 1950s Butlins uniforms and they had a roller disco with skates which were free to hire. We popped them on and soon discovered that our skating skills had somewhat diminished since we were twelve years old!

We then went for a wander, admiring as we went the wonderful vintage outfits on display. If you’re thinking of going then you should know this is most definitely a dress-up event. On display were the full range of vintage styles, from land-girls (very practical for that days weather) to sixties chic and some super stylish 30s, 40s and 50s inspired outfits. A quick stop for the loo (and it was quick, the facilities were spotless and we felt extra happy to see the men queuing while the women didn’t have to wait!), then we crossed over the bridge into the main site.

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Now none of us our petrol heads but the array of vintage vehicles had us all oohing and posing for pictures by these fabulous old cars. We then found an area with live music by a wonderful band called the The Class of 58  they are a family outfit and really got the crowd going with songs like Hand Jive.

More wandering took us to the fabulous Betty’s Vintage Hair and Beauty Salon where you can get your vintage makeover.  The vibe was so friendly; when my sister used the mirror to fix her hair one of the ladies offered to style her for free!

I Charleston Brighton

The whole day was full of similar friendly encounters and if I were to rate this festival on friendliness it was a definite 10 out of 10. Other activities on offer were dance classes in swing and jive, fairground rides (all included in the price of your ticket) and a fashion show that was brilliantly staged with dance, projections and of course amazing outfits.

After a fun-packed day we took the free shuttle bus back to Chichester station and met even more lovely people on the journey.  So we had a final drink with our newfound friends (a group of BA pilots no less) before catching the train home. All in all a great day out and excellent value for money.

Fiona x

A space to dance

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Your standing at a bus stop, a number of people are waiting, killing time ...      Then someone starts dancing, right there and then in the middle of the day! Do you think they are mad? Are you threatened by their behavior? Jealous even?  

Dance seems like such a simple, gentle, joyous thing but the fact is, in our society, dancing is radical, it's radical behavior to dance! So much so that the social context for dancing is getting drunk at parties, clubs, weddings.  Don't get me wrong I love a drink and a boogie but as I get older there less of these social occasions.    

I'm interested in how we break down these social barriers to dance, how can we create a space where people can dance without fear of ridicule?  

Making a space in your life to dance is hard, I feel that and I’m a dance teacher but sadly I don’t have my own dance studio. I do dance at home, a lot! It’s not always easy dodging the Lego but some of my best spontaneous moments happen at home.  

I love dance and I wish everyone had access to a dance space, I’m sure if we did the world would be a little bit happier.  There is such a joy in moving the body through time and space. So wherever you are, your living room, the office, a bus stop why not just let go and dance?  I know I’m going too …. 

Actually, it took me 3 minutes to clear up the Lego, so I’m going to do it now ….

Wellies on at WOMAD 2017

Having fallen in love with WOMAD Festival last year, I was determined that we would perform this year. After a few emails and phone calls, my wish came true and the festival organisers invited us to perform at Molly's Bar, a large stage dedicated to anything that has a trumpet in it and all things swing.

I arrived first thing on Friday morning with Savoy Kicks Dancer Rowena and we welcomed by the tiniest bit of rain. We met with Fiona and we quickly swapped our waterproofs for playsuits and donned out wellies to walk up to the stage.

On arrival we were greeted by fantastic staff who had wireless headsets waiting for us and an amazing sound system.

Savoy Kicks and I Charleston Brighton at WOMAD 2017

As soon as we stepped out on stage, over a100 people l appeared out of nowhere to spend the next hour dancing with us. We kicked off with a dance demo of the Charleston and taught the crowds 3 short routines.

To finish it off we ended with an upbeat electro swing dance performance whilst everyone clapped and cheered, the atmosphere was amazing. There is nothing better than having a great crowd get behind you.

Our experience at WOMAD has wet our appetite for more performances so expect big things for 2018!

See you at WOMAD 2018!

See you at WOMAD 2018!

Elena

Brand new Courses this September

I Charleston Brighton timetable

Hope you’re well. I wanted to let you know that I Charleston Brighton is now having a summer break but after many requests we are launching 5 new courses in September in Brighton, Hove and Worthing!
Our timetable is:

Mondays
• Brighton Marina: 6 Week Charleston course from Monday 11 Sept at 6.30pm at Marina Studios https://marinastudios.eventbrite.co.uk

Tuesdays
• Hove: 6 Week Charleston Course from Tuesday 12 Sept at 6pm at Open Space Studios https://openspacestudios.eventbrite.co.uk

• Hove: 6 week Improvers Charleston Course from Tuesday 12 Sept at 7pm at Open Space Studioshttps://improvers.eventbrite.co.uk

Wednesdays
• Worthing: 6 Week Charleston course from Wednesday13 Sept at 7pm at DanceHouse Studios https://worthing.eventbrite.co.uk

Thursdays
• Seven Dials, Brighton: Thursday Morning Charleston Course from Thursday 14 Sept at 10AM at Wendy Whatling School of Dance https://sevendials.eventbrite.co.uk

I very much hope you can join us on one of these courses!

Elena