I started dance classes at the age of six with tap. Being male and thus a rarity, I was dragged into other classes, and even took a folk dancing exam. I came up with my own style and got the highest mark (honours) at grade four tap. Throughout all my school years, I was in a few shows a year. I played the lead in Oliver! for the Cecilian Players of London when I was ten. I was also cast in the Richmond production of The Sound of Music which then went on to a successful run in the West End.
In my teens I developed a way of dancing to ska music, and this I have taught many times at swing dance camps, including seven years running (sometimes more than once) at the Herräng Dance Camp, Sweden.
After graduating in archaeology, I started learning modern jive at the Newcastle branch of the Ceroc franchise in 1996. Rapidly I got to the stage when I could go to any event in the country and ask anyone there to dance with confidence. I felt I had hit the ceiling with what Ceroc had to offer, and so I sneaked off in 1998 to learn Lindy hop, and once I had the hang of this, there was no going back.
I won the UK's Daring Dance competition twice running, and was then asked to judge the next one.
I have been to the Herräng Dance Camp in Sweden every year since 1999. This is the world's biggest swing dance camp. I taught my first lesson there in 2002 (not as part of the main courses). Since 2003 I have been put in the highest level group there. I have also compèred the cabaret, directed parts of the camp video, and come second in the camp's internal Lindy competition.
Things I teach
My main dance is the main swing dance: Lindy hop. I also teach Balboa, Charleston, blues, shim sham, ska, and salsa. I have been taught some obscure swing dances such as the laminu, heel shag, Saint Louis shag, Peabody, Collegiate shag, 8-count shag, and contact Lindy.
Organisations I have taught for
I have taught old age pensioners, young school children, disabled people, drunken revellers, avid dance enthusiasts, and reluctant dance conscripts. I have been booked for hen night parties, corporate staff-bonding workshops, and wedding dance lessons.
North Tyneside Council, Morpeth Council, Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council, Haughton College, Elaine Milbourne Dance School, Darlington Council, Newcastle University recreation programme, Newcastle University Dance Society, Newcastle University Latin and Ballroom Society, Newcastle University Swing Dance Society, Northumbria University, Newcastle College, Dance City, Durham University Instep Dance Society, St.John's College Durham, Aidan College Durham, Castleman College Durham, Boogie Nights of Edinburgh, Swingjive of Newcastle, Daring Dance of Durham, Age Concern, Leeds Swing Dance Society, the Future Sounds of Swing dance camp.
My list of teachers is a fairly comprehensive Who's Who of the world swing dance scene.
My first swing dance teachers were Russell and Caroline Sergeant of The Jiving Lindyhoppers. I have been taught at one time or another by most of the JLH, who were instrumental in starting the swing revival in the 1980s.
I have also been taught by old-timers like Sugar Sullivan, Dawn Hampton, and Frankie Manning who was one of the original Savoy Ballroom dancers who developed the Lindy hop. At international dance camps, I have been taught by Americans such as the technically brilliant Sharron Ashe and Paul Overton, the exuberant Chester Whitmore, the authentic Peter Loggins, world champions Skye Humphries and Kevin St.Laurent , as well as the highly regarded Rob and Diane van Haaren, Andrew Sutton, Bill Borgida, Maggy Moon, Joel and Alison Ply, Janice Wilson, Erik Robison and Sylvia Skylar, Sylvia Sykes, and the widely worshipped Stephen Mitchell and Virginie Jensen.
My European teachers include Lorenz Ilg, Anne Helene and Bernard Cavasa, Marcus Koch and Bärbl Kaufer.
I've been taught Balboa by some of the above and by Rusty Frank, Minn Vo and Corina Acosta, Nick Williams and Denise Paulino, and Mike Faltesek.
In Britain, I have travelled to be taught by Simon Selmon and his London Swing Dance Society; the Edinburgh Swing Dance Society; James Hamilton and his protégés Matt and Sarah Heenan, and Gary and Sara Boon; The Jump 'n' Jive crew – Andrew Fleming, Rena Swanepoel, Nigel Anderson and Nina Daines - Angela "Cookie" Andrew, Tom Kerwin, Dan and Christie Guest, Sing Lim, Ron Leslie; and the couple described as the ultimate performance swing dancers, Ryan and Jenny Francois.
In Sweden I have been taught by the Harlem Hotshots (Sweden's premiere swing dance troupe), Hasse Mattsson and Marie Nahnfeldt, and Henric Stillman and Joanna Ericsson (who are world boogie-woogie champions); Eddie and Eva Jansson; Ewa Staremo Burak, Fredrik Åberg, and Lennart Westerlund – another figure instrumental in the start of the revival.
Having so many teachers has given me a good broad view of swing dance. Each of them has his own way of doing the dance, and they often say quite contradictory things.
- Four times choreographed the Newcastle Swing Dance Society in routines for the International Grand Festival at Newcastle City Hall (2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008).
- Choreographed a swing dance routine for the Elaine Milbourne School of Dance, Newburn, for the Gateshead Dance Festival.
- Choreographed a dance routine for the show A Century of Dance performed by Newcastle College dance students.
- Choreographed the children of Gosforth High School for their production of Grease.
- Choreographed a children's routine for the Tyneside Schools' Dance Festival.
- Choreographed a duet routine performed at Dance City and the Live Theatre, Newcastle, and at a music festival at Haughton College, Darlington.
- Choreographed a routine for the teachers of Haughton College, Darlington.
- Choreographed all the dance scenes for the show School of Excellence (based on the film Swingers) performed at the Lipman Theatre, Newcastle.
- Choreographed a routine for the Newcastle Dance Society for the Inter-Universities Dance Competition at Durham 2007.
Just the two as a featured/solo dancer: once for the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing, demonstrating Lindy hop, and once for an ITV show about business and charity ideas called Fortune. I've also danced as a background character in things like Catherine Cookson's The Round Tower.
I have also DJed for swing events, including swing camps and I have a two-hour weekly swing radio show on NSRFM Radio Newcastle.