Not too long ago , something hoppy happened in Bangkok , Thailand.
JUYL eagle-slided to the land of Smile to find out.
A new dance studio – The hop , recently had its grand opening ceremony on 27 October 2012. Tucked away in Bangkok’s culturally rich district of Silom , The Hop is a new home for Lindy hop and Swing dancing in Bangkok.
The owner/manager of the Hop, affectionately called Oat , is a young and aspiring man. He took some time talking to JUYL about the Hop and his passion , amidst his busy schedule for the Grand opening and birthday celebration.
JUYL : Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Chayapong Naviroj, people call me Oat.
I just turned 24 years old – but some think I’m 19 , while others think I’m closer to 30 …
of course you can guess which number people think of when I’m bouncing around in the lindy spirit.
My daytime work is to source fruits and vegetables in Thailand, process them, and deliver them to supermarkets, restaurants, and also for export. I’m not a full-time Swing teacher as many initially thought when they first met me.
JUYL : How did you get into lindy hop ?
It was freshmen year at the University of Pennsylvania. As I was walking along a pathway overarched with branches and leaves,
I picked up a flyer from a senior student that promoted a photo of a guy tossing a girl in the air.
JUYL believes the picture look something like this one
Lindy hop or not hop, I had no idea but I wanted to toss a girl in the air too! So I went to the “free beginner class” and later found out that it was an audition.
Oat and Saras Windecker -his 1st dance partner
With absolutely no experience but just wanting the free class, I tried out once, twice, and then I became part of the West Philly Swingers group! We performed a show once a semester, entirely student run, for the school and for anyone who was interested in our jazzful smiles and swivels.
JUYL : Who are your favourite instructors to date ?
I have to start with my first ever teachers, Greg Avakian and Laurie Zimmerman. They were my first instructors that came to teach in my university and loved to nail down the details along with witty jokes. Then of course I love Thomas Blacharz and Alice Mei : ). Their simplicity in motion tied with their musicality and humour is what I really admire.
JUYL :What is Lindy hop community in Bangkok like ?
Lindy Hop in Bangkok began around 2009 when Ben Lepp started to teach a few people in his apartment. At that time, I was looking for a local scene before I returned home from the states but couldn’t find anything. I posted online and asked around but there was nothing. Thankfully, when I graduated and returned to Bangkok in the summer 2011, Rick Jones and Ben Lepp just kicked off the first social night scene as “Bangkok Swing” at an underground bar on Asoke called Bar 23. I immediately hopped on in building the community and this trio then became the co-founders of Bangkok Swing.
Swinging at Bar 23
Bangkok Swing in its early days
What the community is like can’t be expressed merely in words ..
We are a truly soulful crowd filled with individuality but still bouncing collectively to the swing rhythms. From all professions, scattered interests and age groups, as well as variety in nationalities, we somehow blend together as if we were brothers and sisters. I believe the nature of the music really draws in a certain type of people. I would say we have about 30 regulars as the core of the group and close to a hundred overall
(facebook currently says we have 448 members so it’s not 448 … haha).
Bangkok Swing at Fubar
Bangkok Swing visiting a farm
JUYL : What inspired you to start a studio ?
After coming back from the states, I wanted to teach swing so I began to rent a small studio by myself and teach. Most of the money earned went to paying for the rental space but it was alright – it wasn’t about the money. And then I moved to another location to see if it was better than the first studio. However, that didn’t work out well because lindy hop wasn’t a priority in space usage.
Oat teaching at a rented venue
Similarly, the two social bars that we used for social dancing was great, but it wasn’t home for us hoppers either. I wanted a space where lindy hop was given the appropriate respect and importance, where we can be foolish and stylish without causing nuisance, so I decided I’ll just build it myself.
My grandpa has a small town-house in the city where the 3rd floor was only used for storage, so I decided to tear down the walls to extend the room, put down wooden floors, built a high ceiling, installed air con and sound system, and a small counter bar. It took about 4 months to really complete it and now we have The Hop!
Extending the ceiling
Finding the right colour for the wall
The Hop – Work in Progress
JUYL : how do you plan to spread lindy hop in Bangkok ?
I want to spread it through The Hop, through lindy bombs, through word of mouth and most importantly through a community that will build a community of lindy hoppers themselves; what I mean is a community like a university, where the seniors teach their juniors how to run a lindy hop club and that cycle continues to perpetuate. I will have to go into the universities to teach the students first, which is my goal for the next year.
Lindy bomb Khao San Road
JUYL :what is the big plan with The Hop ?
“The Hop is a studio created to embrace art; and let the art be defined by you.”
The most recent big plan was to make the opening successful and thankfully it turned out fantastic – definitely one of the most memorable days of my life.
Stair leading up to The Hop
The Grand Opening of The Hop
Oat on The Hop
Oat with his dearest Mum and Dad
The Grand opening coincide Oat’s birthday
Oat’s Birthday Jam
Lindy hop till late
Now, the plan is to strengthen what The Hop stands for. “The Hop is a studio created to embrace art; and let the art be defined by you.” I want to let the space be used my more artists to hold workshops and express their work, whether it be dance (swing, tap, hip hop, traditional Thai dance, etc), craftsmanship, drawing, painting, singing, yoga, interior design, jewelry making, decoupage, and more.
Artists won’t have to pay fixed rent for the space usage; I want artists to have a place to share their talents and also make money without having to bare the financial risk. The Hop does revenue share – this way, having one student or twenty students, the artist will gain : ).
And of course, I hope The Hop will grow to be an even warmer and bigger home to lindy hoppers from all over the world.
JUYL : Describe how your life would be like without Lindy hop ?
Hmm, it would be like eating fried rice but without the lime. It would be just a stroll in the park with a smile but without a skip. It would be like having a lobster but not lobsters without the shells. It would be like sitting next to a bonfire but not a bonfire with a group cuddle. It would be like blowing up a bubblegum but not having the right pop.
It would just be like … you know what I mean : )
JUYL : Yea , I know exactly what you mean.
Without Lindy hop With Lindy hop
That wraps out our chat this time, JUYL wishes you good success and it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.