“Jitterbugs” met “Lindie Hops” Friday night in the Lory Student Center when CSU’s Swing Dance Society held its first multi-band event in four years.
While the turnout was “a little less than expected” according to the society’s president, Melissa Mullins, members were encouraged by the number of new faces they saw in students and community members.
“I know a lot of new people stuck around asking questions, trying to learn more,” Mullins said. “That’s always a good thing.”
The event was co-sponsored by the Rhythm Company, a local organization that puts on events and gives lessons. Friday’s event, as well as similar ones held on a weekly basis, aimed to increase interest in swing.
“It’s an old dance; it’s never going to die,” Rhythm Company owner Jason McCullough said. “With beginners, we try to open their eyes to the world of jazz and swing music. There’s a lot of culture that you get along with it.”
Beginners attending Friday’s dance were introduced to the Lindie Hop, a couples’ dance named on behalf of Charles Lindbergh after he crossed the Atlantic Ocean by airplane in 1927.
Students and community members took an hour-long lesson, which broke down the moves of the dance. As well as teaching the steps, instructors urged beginners that the most important thing to do is relax.
“They’re usually nervous and afraid to mess up the steps; they need to relax” said Andrea Steinberg, a swing dancer since middle school. “You learn as you go along. Yeah, you’re going to trip over your feet sometimes but once you start just having fun is when you start to get better at it.”
Junior music major Jeremy Reiser, like many other beginners, was brought along by his friends.
“I’m used to the Jitterbug so these new steps are hard for me,” said Reiser. “The hardest thing, though, is loosening up and getting comfortable.”
Despite how important it is to loosen up and how hard it can be to do so, the swing dancers there on Friday weren’t sneaking off to a bar to get any help. In fact, drinking is pretty rare among the swing scene.
“There’s a social aspect of swing, in that it’s a break from your average club on a Friday night,” McCullough said. “It’s pretty alcohol-free. It’s hard to do this dance if you’ve had anything to drink.”
That said, McCullough also says he knows lots of couples who met as swing partners and that the dance is not some G-rated celebration at the end of a Disney movie.
“I’m not saying swing dancing is innocent,” McCullough said. “The lyrics are actually very sexual and in their time they were the equivalent to the rap and Hip-Hop we hear today. There’s a feel to the music that makes it very flirtatious.”
That music was in full effect Friday night when the main event took form, as the two bands, Swingin’ Seven and Jumpin’ Danny and the Swing Train, tried to one-up each other as they put on a memorable show for the dancers.
The sponsors of the event say they hope it was enough to spark more interest in one of their passions. For one beginner, 20-year-old Northern Colorado student, Ashley Vasquez, it might have been just that.
“I don’t know what I’m doing, it’s kind of scary,” Vasquez said. “My friends just grab me and push me around. I like the people though and I like the music. There’s a lot of fun to have doing this.”
Staff writer Brett Okamoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.