By Sophia Hernandez / Contributing Writer
On a Friday evening in FSU’s Housewright Music Building, students of all ages and majors gathered to explore the art of swing dancing. On this particular night, I was one of them. The event was enriching, positive and an all-around good time. Here’s a closer look into my experience with the Swing Club team and all of the other swing enthusiasts who wanted to learn more.
Swing is a form of dance that emerged in the early 1900s. Today we know it for iconic moves like the Charleston, Jitterbug and Jive, conjuring up images of retro hairstyles, day dresses and Keds. When I arrived at the grand auditorium, I was greeted with a room full of about 100-120 people, male and female, all dressed for the part. I felt a little out of place in my shorts and t-shirt, but I decided to put my best foot forward and get my dance on.
I signed in and found a seat next to two girls, both of whom had never been to a swing class before. Two of the instructors – girls who were members of the Swing Club – introduced themselves to us. They had a cheery disposition and an enthusiasm that made you feel comfortable delving into this art form, even if you were not familiar with it. I myself had previous dance experience; they let me know that they were going to be teaching the fundamental basics, but once you got the hang of that you could add your own touch.
Once every seat and wall was taken up in the room, we got to work. A male instructor and a female instructor stood in the middle of the room and the rest of us congregated around, forming a massive circle. We warmed up to the song “Hey Ya!” (one of my all time favorites), and the energy in the room was contagious. Everyone was there with an open mind and to have fun, which resulted in an easygoing, non-judgmental environment. The instructors encouraged this by stating that advice was sweet but not appropriate for this setting. Even if someone was dancing horribly, no one chipped in with advice unless prompted to do so. The same courtesy applied for if someone asked you to dance; you either eagerly replied “Yes,” or refused with the polite phrase “No thank you, but thank you.”
After the warm up, we were taught the basic moves and then slowly progressed into an entire routine. Each time the group mastered a move, we would do a “High Five and Switch”, which meant that the male leads would switch clockwise and have a new lady partner. This fostered plenty of socializing and allowed me to meet a plethora of people with different outlooks on the night. Everyone was kind, had compassionate auras and was overall charismatic and happy to be a part of the event. After an hour of learning the moves, we tried putting all of them together. I must say it was not a cakewalk, but the excitement in the room made the process all the more fun, and it felt refreshingly comfortable to mess up and keep dancing.
Around 9 p.m., everyone who was a member surrounded the two instructors. After the first “Switch!” was yelled, each instructor grabbed a new dance partner. The domino effect ensued, escalating into a full-on dance party complete with classic jazz music, fedoras and suspenders.
The night was definitely an experience, and I was glad I got to partake in a themed event with a surprisingly amazing turnout. As one of my partners for the night explained, “Even in slow motion, it looks like wizardry.” Swing dance should not be underestimated as an easy art form to master, but with good company and an energetic atmosphere, it’s sure a whole lot of fun.
FSU’s Swing Dance Club offers free beginner lessons at the Housewright Music Building on Friday nights from 8-9 p.m., with a social dance running 9-11 p.m.