Video: Biggest swing company in the world, Swing Patrol, set to sweep Forest Gate off its feet
18:12 17 September 2014
It was after attending my first swing dance class in Forest Gate last Wednesday that it struck me, swing really is something to make a song and dance about.
What is rumoured to be the biggest swing dance company in the world, Swing Patrol, has arrived in Newham. And with the founder, Scott Cupit, 46, passionate about the area he recently moved to, Forest Gate is set to be the company’s hub.
“We’re going to really drive it here I’m really excited about it,” said Scott.
“If there’s one place I want to make explode with swing dance then it’s Forest Gate, it’s close to my heart so why wouldn’t I?
“The Forest Tavern is my local, I go for breakfast every morning at Coffee 7, this is my hood. I feel like I’m part of this community and I see the joy swing dance brings people.”
Think Zumba but with the Charleston and you’ll realise, this is about to get big.
But before taking a stab at it myself it seemed there were two obvious reasons to panic when it came to the dance.
On the one hand, my lack of coordination would make me an impossible partner and with the memory of a fish I surely won’t remember the moves?
But two minutes in and I’d already got into the swing of it.
It’s fast, brilliant exercise and Scott posts videos online so you can practise at home.
“If you’ve never tried it I’d say you’ve got nothing to lose,” he assured me.
“You’re meeting some great people, the music is amazing and the movement is really cool. It’s a social dance. I think it looks fantastic.”
The dance caught Scott’s imagination in 1998 and he quickly abandoned his career as a banker to set up the swinging school.
After winning funding on the BBC’s show, Dragons’ Den, in July he’s ready to expand his already booming business.
“They called me first and I decided I’d go on the show. I was absolutely terrified and had to do a crash course to understand my business better,” said Scott.
“I used to be a banker but I left because that stuff just bores me to death. I just like the creative side of building Swing Patrol and sharing the dance.
“I had to think of a pitch, I didn’t sleep for a week. On the day it was terrifying and when I found out I got the funding we all burst into tears.
“It was such an emotional day, you really put yourself on the line.”
Dragons’ Den tycoon, Deborah Meaden, gave the company £65,000 in return for part-ownership and she will now receive 20 per cent share of Swing Patrol’s profits.
I joined her at one of their swing balls on Thursday, where beginners and pros join forces to lindy hop together.
With more than 40 weekly classes at 34 venues across London the swing balls are always a sell out.
Celebrities are also catching on to the craze, with Emma Watson and Kirsten Dunst making appearances at recent Swing Patrol classes.
“It’s such a community thing and I’m sure that’s why it’s been so successful in London,” explained Scott.
“Because lots of people, like me, want to find somewhere to belong in London and we can offer this massive community where people find a home, get some exercise and learn this amazing vintage dance.”
Scott’s discovery of Swing has certainly been life-changing. One relationship broke down because of it and it earned him a slot on Australia’s Strictly Come Dancing.
“I first got into it when I was in Disneyland in America in 1998. I found out what it was and took it to Australia, it existed with about six people and I really pushed it, and then I choreographed for Strictly Come Dancing there, that was incredible.
“I was seriously obsessed, I mean I was dating a girl who didn’t know about swing dancing and we split up over it because it’s all I wanted to do.
“She said ‘I feel like it’s my competition’ and, yes, I had genuinely fallen in love with it.
“I never expected Swing Patrol to be this huge, I just wanted to share it.
“I always say surround yourself with great people. I have about 40 teachers, a lot of them are European champions or international lindy hop champions and I have 70 troop members.
“Recently I’ve had people wanting me to write a book, people have offered me money for a warehouse and there’s a fitness programme being written. This really could be the next big thing.”