An Evening With Dawn Hampton

Kingsway Hall Hotel London Saturday 12 May 2001

Dawn Hampton enchanted an audience of swing dancers, jazz buffs the plain curious with her stories and personality at The Kingsway Hall Hotel in London on Saturday 12 May. It was the climax of her first visit to London, and she left an indelible impression on everyone she met.

Dawn began the evening with a brief family history; how she was first put on stage at age three, the carnival days through the development of her family band and the places they played. Always to the fore was her theme that dancing is about moving to the music, and not just reciting steps that have been learned.

Several lucky dancers got the chance to experience this first-hand, including Francesca, a young girl who had never danced before. "I am not a teacher" said Dawn afterwards, "She did that through sheer terror!" Also enticed up onto the floor was a 50-year-old rap fan, who seemed quite keen to pull no punches from her seat, but when asked to get up, declared her shyness. Too late for that now, girlfriend! Dawn remained as charming as ever in the face of comments beginning "No disrepect, but people of your age...."

Quite early in the talk, Dawn offered up the opportunity for people to ask questions. First up was Jiving Lindyhoppers manager Terry Monaghan. "Dawn", he asked "Where did it all begin to go wrong for you?". Dawn explained that when partner dancing ended, she lost interest. This answer was accompanied by a wonderful demonstration of The Twist, as used (allegedly) by Chubby Checker to kill roaches in his apartment.

Other queries brought forth eloquent replies on the subjects of choreography, rap music, playing at The Savoy, and The Spice Girls. The latter focused on the recent announcement by their former manager that he was going to put 6 million behind the formation of a swing orchestra, which Dawn thought was a good thing. 

The talk concluded, the evening proceeded with some excellent music from Terry Elliott, and dancing in the room, interspersed with drinking by the bar. The Kingsway Hall Hotel proved to be an excellent venue, exuding class and sophistication. Even the toilets looked better than some regular dance venues!

The visit of Dawn Hampton to these shores was a first for all concerned, and there was much to be learned from it. She proved an ideal way to close out the classes at Jumpin' At The Woodside, and her talks and presentations proved to be a refreshing change from the usual step-teaching classes. It was a real change to hear someone say that dance moves exist inside of each person, rather than just the minds of instructors.

Now back home in The States, Dawn Hampton has a busy schedule this year. She has already attended the celebrations of Frankie Manning's 87th birthday, and in June 2001 has a Lindy Exchange in honour of her own birthday on June 7. Later in June she will be at Beantown, before making her annual pilgrimage to Herrang. If for any reason you missed her this time around, do yourself a favour and catch up with The Lady In The Gold Shoes as soon as you can.

May 2001 Andrew Winton..

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