What do big bands, a 1930s aesthetic, and fast footwork all have in common? They’re all elements of a type of dance called swing, which originated with jazz music between the 1920s and 1940s. Today, swing thrives at MSU through the work of SwingCats, a club that is dedicated to spreading vintage swing dancing across the MSU campus and throughout Bozeman.
Every Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Romney Hall, SwingCats hold a vintage swing dance lesson. Attendees span the gamut from hapless novices to graceful professionals, and all are accepted within the studio. As a complete mess of a dancer, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and document my experience within the SwingCats studio.
However, I wasn’t plunging into the depths of swing dancing alone. Instead, I took along my friend, an accomplished swing dancer, for moral support. Together, we ascended the steep stairs of Romney to the dance studio. An energetic pair of instructors greeted us cheerfully. We began our lesson in three long lines and assembled in front of a ceiling-to-floor mirror.
Our instructors started us off with a simple movement called a rock step, which involved rocking back and forth on one foot. Then they added a triple step, which is akin to a gallop. I promptly lost control of my feet as soon as we put the two steps together. However, my partner’s steady movements slowly guided me toward some semblance of the correct footwork.
When our instructors told us to get into a large circle and switch partners, I was thrown off my rhythm yet again. I shot a terrified glance at my friend, but he only responded with a hearty thumbs-up. Luckily, my next partner was kind towards me and my awkward, jerky motions. As we cycled through partners and added new elements to the steps, I gradually became more confident. Eventually, I was bouncing through the dance and even found myself having fun.
By the end of the lesson, I was swinging through the Lindy Hop with enthusiastic vigor. My footwork was still a little amateurish, but I happily put those worries out of my mind. SwingCats gave me a fun, safe environment to learn and practice dancing. I even ended up staying for a short period of the social dance that followed the lesson.
Whether you’re a seasoned dancer or an uncoordinated newbie, SwingCats is a great way to spend a Saturday night.