Meet London’s King of Swing Patrol
Forget fancy restaurants and crowded bars, there’s a new date idea in town and it’s got rhythm! All across London love is blooming in ballrooms thanks to the wonderful world of Swing Patrol. eHarmony met up with the man who started it all, Scott Cupit, to discuss Disney, dragons and dating on the dance floor…
Take a trip to Disneyland and you will probably come away with some happy memories, maybe a souvenir T-shirt, or a picture of you shaking hands with Mickey Mouse. However, when corporate banker Scott Cupit walked through the gates of the self-styled magical kingdom, he was about to discover a passion which would transform the rest of his life.
Scott recalls: “I grew up in a very church family, so I always played the saxophone in church bands and I always liked swing music.
“I was in Disneyland and I saw people dancing in front of the swing band and I asked what it was, and they said it was the Lindy Hop.
“I was mesmerised, the way it fit so perfectly with the music I loved.”
A few days later Scott went to a New Year’s Eve dance, where he found himself once again transfixed by the swing dancers and became determined to learn himself.
He said: “I took a couple of classes and went back to Australia, but it didn’t really exist there.”
So, with the help of his friend Claudia, Scott launched his own classes under the name of Swing Patrol, on August 5, 1998.
He said: “We started with 23 people on the first night. About 18 of those were friends I talked into coming.
“It felt like we had connected with something that city people needed. We introduced things, like when you change partners you thank the person you were dancing with before you move on.
“We’re all about building a community. Within about two months we had 300 people coming.”
Scott successfully set Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania swinging, and in February 2009 it was time for a new challenge. With two Australian friends he headed to the UK. Arriving at Heathrow on a cold winter’s day Scott realised that although he had both the passion and the vision, bringing Swing Patrol to the people of London was not going to be a walk in the park.
He said: “The first 12 months were perhaps the hardest of my life – if we had 10 in a class that was a good night.
“We stood outside the tube almost every day. We had fliers and we were dancing in the street trying to get people to come.”
Despite low attendance at classes Scott was able to build a loyal troupe of dancers with show-stopping routines, and he was ready to take them out into the world.
He said: “We started dancing at music festivals and suddenly the cool East London crowd saw us and our classes just took off.
“After months of not knowing, suddenly I knew we were going to be okay.”
Since then Swing Patrol has gone from strength to strength, with appearances at Buckingham Palace, on Blue Peter, and even on top of Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth.
Recently Scott even braved the scrutiny of BBC2’s Dragons’ Den, where he found a new Swing Patrol partner in the form of investor Deborah Meaden. He now has regular meetings with Deborah to discuss the next steps for the business.
But it is still the community on (and off) the dance floor, which is at the heart of everything Scott does.
He said: “At the end of the day I just love what I do. We have got about 35 venues around London and well in advance of 8,000 people involved.
“Yesterday we posted to our Facebook ‘one of our dancers needs a house to live in’ and this morning she texted to say thanks because someone had helped her with a place.
“I’m proud – it shows a good solid community.”
It’s more than just house hunting which Swing Patrol’s community has bonded over, as Scott has seen several relationships begin on the dance floor.
He said: “Every few minutes you are dancing with someone new and these connections are formed; friendships form, relationships form.
“I have been to 15 weddings of people from Swing Patrol, there are Swing Patrol babies.
“I’m married to a girl I met on the dance floor.”
With love blossoming on the dancefloor on a regular basis Swing Patrol is rapidly becoming the ultimate alternative date activity for Londoners.
Scott said: “We have got a lot of social nights where you can just dance all night together.
“There’s a lesson at the start, there’s a live band and a bar. It’s exciting and it’s in a simply gorgeous venue.
“Perhaps you are both out of your comfort zone, but you are here together and at the end of it you have so much to talk about.”
And if you’re worried that you’ll have to spend the evening flinging your partner into the air, Scott is keen to put the record straight.
He said: “When I first got here a lot of people said to me ‘Lindy Hopping is too high energy for me’, but that’s what you see on TV.
“It’s social dancing – there’s slow dancing and there’s fast dancing. You’re going to get some exercise, but there’s a whole range.
“Some of the best Lindy Hoppers in the world have no interest in leaving the ground.”
As well as teaching you some snazzy new dance moves Swing Patrol also tries to educate visitors in the history of the dances, and many members like to dress for the occasion, with vintage 1920s outfits a common sight at one of their nights.
Everything adds to the atmosphere and you can soon find yourself swept up in the music and the rhythm until you won’t be able to stop your toe tapping…
Scott said: “My philosophy is that people want to belong and Swing Patrol offers that place to belong.”
Whether you’re an absolute beginner or already well into the swing of things find a class near you on the Swing Patrol website.
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