The Hepcats Swing Dance Club combined the art of swing dance with the spirit of Halloween during their “Spooktacular” event. The dancing fun took place from 7 to 10:30 p.m. in the Strafford Room of the Memorial Union Building.
For the first time this semester, the organization opened its doors to swing dance enthusiasts. The event, which took place last Saturday, attracted a variety of people. Among the attendees were students, faculty members, parents and people who were simply curious to find out what all the buzz was about.
Swing dance can be defined as a form of partner dancing. Initially, the term “swing” referred to a style of jazz music, and only later came to be associated with this dynamic dance. Interestingly enough, it first developed in the 1920s and expanded throughout the 1940s, before the advent of the “swing era” itself.
In this form of dancing, there is a “lead” and a “follower.” The former, as the name suggests, has a crucial role in the dancing process. They guide the follower through their hand movements, indicating where to move, spin and swing. The latter, instead, “follows” the leader’s decisions accordingly.
Historically speaking, men usually took on the role of “leads” while women were given the part of “followers.” This, however, is not always the case.
“I think it’s great how many same-sex couples there are dancing as mixed-gender couples. It’s like a modern take on the whole thing. I guess I would have thought that the stereotypes of the ‘50s were very straight-laced. But clearly the modern era has made it its own,” Wheeler Ruml, a University of New Hampshire (UNH) professor of computer science, said.
This lively dance encompasses a variety of unique styles, such as Lindy Hop (the most popular), East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing and Jitterbug. Most, nonetheless, have some basic elements in common. Generally speaking, there is a lot of “swinging” and twirling. Also, dancers hold hands instead of placing them on each other’s shoulders.
Some of the event’s attendees described this eccentric form of dancing differently. “It’s so much fun!” said Louise Veltman.
While some went to the event simply for fun or out of curiosity, others have deeper connections to swing dancing.
“Another aspect of why I was kind of interested in it was watching my grandfather and grandmother dancing at weddings,” UNH student Matt Moschella said. “You know [imagine] me, eight years old and [watching] my grandpa swinging my grandma like no one has ever been spun before.”
The event was held so as to ensure the inclusivity of everyone attending. To accomplish this, the event was split into two portions. During the first hour there was an introductory lesson to swing dancing. People took on the role of either leads or followers and were taught some of the basic foot movements, spins and twirls. Later on, the attendees got the opportunity to tackle some more complex moves.
Once they had grasped the basics of swing dancing, the party began. With music provided by the 20-piece Compaq Big Band, people hit the dance floor and showed off their swing-dancing skills. Some, in true Halloween theme, rocked ingenious costumes, while others wore wigs.
“The type of music is different from what you hear nowadays,” Veltman said.
“With swing dance, it feels like there is a different atmosphere,” Moschella said. “It gives you the idea that you can dance with anyone you want to [and that] you don’t need to have a ‘certain someone’ you have to dance with forever. You get to dance with new people that have different styles and different likes and dislikes.” Moschella explained that with other forms of dancing, he doesn’t “get to experience the creative freestyle choreography that you get from [swing dancing].”
The Hepcats Swing Dance Club meets every Sunday and Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. and welcomes swing dance enthusiasts of all levels. Their meetings consist of an hour-long lesson followed by an hour of free dancing. They also organize two dances per semester.