Written for On The Beat by Polly Hember, see original post here.

All photos by Freya Eirys Photography

The Swing Spectacular

Walking into the Colchester Arts Centre felt stepping back in time; a lively room bursting full of all the glamour and glitz of the roaring twenties. To the right, a speakeasy-style cocktail, and everyone around you adorned in jaunty fedoras, vintage curls, brilliant dresses and up on the stage, a constant stream of swinging and spectacular music. The Swing Spectacular captured the energy, the music and the moves from the 20’s to the 50’s; the packed room testifies not only to the brilliant event, but a brilliant cause. All profits were donated to the charity Emmaus that supports the homeless in Colchester. This was the forth Swing Spectacular, curated by jazz singer Lydia Bell, but OTB’s first time tapping and swing-dancing. 

The Volstead Orchestra

Brilliant, bold sounds from the Volstead Orchestra with vocals from Jess Dives started the night off. A wonderful and warming jiving and jumping selection of songs that filled the dancefloor with some very impressive swing moves. 


If we were feeling slightly shaky about our not-so-polished dance moves at this point (we’re giving ourselves an A for effort though), we had nothing to worry about. The Dinahs tapped in with fierce folly, giving a truly fantastic floor show, to really show us how it’s done. The Dinahs are an all female Chorus line and jazz troupe, and brought giddy Gatsby spirits with sparkling sequin outfits and flawless dance moves. Their reprise later on in the night saw them give a lesson, with everyone dancing the Charleston by the end of the set. 

The Dinahs delivered giddy Gatsby spirits with sparkling sequin outfits and flawless dance moves.

The Dinahs delivered giddy Gatsby spirits with sparkling sequin outfits and flawless dance moves.

The Sweeting Swing Band saw singer Dives return to the stage, singing alongside Ayesha Akkari and Lydia Bell, with brilliant backing from musicians from the Sweeting Swing Band. The three signers gave a fantastic performance; their three velvety voices married in close harmonies, singing a wide variety of songs from the Andrew Sisters all the way to Beyoncé’s ‘Crazy in Love’ and Christina Aguilera’s ‘Candyman’. Laced with delicious Dixieland jazz, this set was up-beat, jiving, and filled to burst with effortless fun, surreptitious sax solos and saw the dance floor filled with speeding swing.

The Bell Sisters

The night captured a heady nostalgia with its many vintage nods and flourishes, but delivered a lively and jiving atmosphere that encouraged seasoned swing dancers and newcomers to take to the dance floor. A beautifully engineered evening with phenomenal musical craftsmanship, dance and talent: the Swing Spectacular was a complete and utter hit with a warm community feel. ‘I like large parties’, Jordan Baker proclaims in The Great Gatsby, denoting an unstoppable desire for dance, drink and music that drove the roaring twenties on – and the Swing Spectacular was exactly that, and so much more.