Jazz-Era Swing is back in style — a student club revives ’20s dance moves.
It’s 7 p.m. in Sturges, and “Just Sitting and a Rockin” by Duke Ellington can be heard through the halls. Although it’s 2018, it’s swing dance time.
Members of the Geneseo Swing Dance club form a giant circle for a group stretch before more experienced student dancers demonstrate a few new moves, and share the history of the dance. They focus on the Lindy Hop style of swing — a partner dance that originated in African American culture in the 1920s and 1930s in Harlem dance halls. Improvisation played a key role in its development, says Mark Broomfield ’94, assistant professor of dance studies. Lindy Hop focuses on eight- and six-count steps and includes footwork borrowed from the Charleston and tap and was often accompanied by big band jazz orchestras. It made a resurgence starting in the 1980s, and now, many cities have learn-to-swing and swing-dance nights.
Members of Geneseo’s student-run club have met since its creation in 1999. They meet Tuesday nights, first with instruction, then dancing. The evening’s activities are always open to students, faculty, staff and the public. After the lesson, the music gets turned up, and dancers try out old and new moves.
“Members get to play with the things they learned,” says Emelyn Bell ’20, the club’s public relations director.
“It is an escape and a way to build your confidence around the community of dance,” says Sidney Pelton ’20. A personal touch is part of the draw.
“Swing dance is sort of a secret language,” says Mary Rutigliano ’19. All someone needs are some “cool moves” and a little creativity. To this end, dancers are encouraged to rotate partners, switching the lead roles periodically, so each person tries every role. It also breaks the ice.
When Declan Dwyer-McNulty ’18 transfers from one dance partner to another smoothly, he calls it “the Switcheroo-5000.”
Community members are always welcome, and on this evening, Geneseo residents Amaury and Marieke Vannier-Moreau join. “We are from France and now live in Geneseo,” says Amaury Vannier-Moreau. “We think this is so good for the community; it’s a good refresher on how to swing.”
Here, everyone is welcome, no dance experience required.
“You always feel included,” says Pelton.