This lady’s fierce dance skills, Scouse charm and admirable vulnerability make her one of the most loved dancers in the UK, and a name that’s known around the world. To watch Cat dance is pure joy and her story-telling ability through choreography is second-to-none. As a teacher, she has an incredible way of building her student’s confidence and belief in themselves, as well as their technical abilities. We were lucky enough to get ask Cat to share some of her thoughts and experiences around her Lindy Hop life.
What was your first dancing experience?
I danced out of the womb, mate!
The Lindy Hop?
University – a friend from my accommodation was keen to check out the Swing Dance Society so dragged me along to a free class that you could literally see going on from my window. Each week I’d consider maybe giving it a miss, but I’d hear the music and just had to throw on pants and run across the courtyard.
What is it that made you fall in love with swing?
I’ve always loved the music – is that cliché? But, I do think it’s pretty magic the way it knits you to a random stranger and you can wiggle about and make stuff up and somehow it works. You can simultaneously listen and talk. It’s like that epic catch up you have with your bestie when you haven’t chatted for ages, except it’s often with a complete stranger. It’s the music that makes it just make sense.
So when you social dance, what is it that makes a dance special for you?
Oh, it’s loadsa giggling! You know that feeling, when you dance with someone on day three of a workshop at 4am when you’re delirious and you forget all technique and variations and you’re on pure instinct and sleep deprived silliness? There’s some truth in that moment I think – they should write prescriptions for it. It obviously only works if your partner is on the same wavelength though, otherwise they just look at you like you’ve got a welly on your head.
Are there any moments that really stand out for you as significant in shaping you as a dancer?
As a very new dancer, I went to a workshop in Edinburgh with some very incredible international teachers. I took my very first solo Charleston class, which gave me the solo bug. I actually still have the scrap of paper i wrote the choreography on! But anyway, that same teacher turned me down for a social dance in the evening, and came to find me later on to ask me to dance. I remember feeling super inspired creatively but also bowled over by how kind and thoughtful he was. It’s those little touches that make me love our community!
Of course, I wouldn’t have made it to that festival without my first teachers, Lloyd and Serena. They killed me with flattery to build my confidence, and organised the trip and drove me there! I owe them everything really.
You’re such a renowned teacher and are known for helping people work through their frustrations. How do you tackle your own?
Initially? Cry. But after that, I’m a pragmatist. I try to get to the root of the issue, then set myself goals, lists, deadlines and training regimes. I often bring in ‘accountabilibuddies’ to help.
I do sometimes, however, have to write down a list of ‘truths’ because I can sometimes get bogged down with negatives and struggle to move forwards. I’ll tell myself things like: “I can actually do a half decent swing out” or “I’m good at picking up material” or “it doesn’t matter if I don’t look the same as other dancers”.
Do you have any female swing dancing inspirations?
Oh good lord, I could go on and on.
Dawn Hampton – she could light up a room with a raise of her left eyebrow.
Al Jones, a credit to the northern scenes! She conceived the first student festival in the North and is one of the best teachers and mentors ever. She was my first dance crush in both roles.
Trisha Sewell, too. One of my first out-of-town teachers, and she’s never stopped inspiring me throughout my whole time as a dancer. I’m still shocked and honoured when I get to teach alongside her.
A fellow dancer, collaborator and friend – Nancy Hitzig. She is endlessly inspiring and supportive and she never lets me have a ‘dream’ without helping me make it happen.
Frieda Segerdal, for being exactly herself and doing it better than anyone.
But also, Sibhe Lynch, the administrator of Swing Patrol. Wow, I mean, just wow. Supremely hard-work, amazingly good at her job, but she always has time for you.
As well as all the fantastic women in this community, I feel incredibly privileged to be a full-time instructor in a community that gives equal voice to all genders that weren’t always heard.
Thank you Cat!