Swing dancing began with the Charleston in the 1920s in Afro-American communities. It was a venue to free your mind from the troubles of the current times and to just let loose. Nearly a century later, swing dancing is still doing just that. For 10 years now, the University of Manitoba Swing club (UMSwing), founded by Vania Tse, has been engaging Winnipeg students and residents of all ages in the sport that is swing dancing. Former president and current instructor Keith Tang says, “It is a great physical activity, and a way to remove yourself from the stresses of homework and exams.” Today UMSwing continues to grow in numbers and runs all year long, offering classes in the fall, winter and summer semesters.
Current president, Thor Eyjólfsson, states the group’s mission statement is “[an] aim to increase awareness of swing dance and its music as well as to provide affordable dance instruction to students.” UMSwing does just that. With $5 lessons and a handful of dances to try out, you can now return year after year and still learn new dances. For the winter term of 2010, UMSwing is offering solo swing and jive on Sunday nights and intermediate and beginner lindy hop on Wednesday nights. UMSwing also teaches balboa, partner charleston, shag, aerials, blues, west-coast swing, as well as other choreographed dances. “We are very open and inviting,” Eyjólfsson says; “ Often people who have been incredibly self-conscious and shy have become more at ease [after joining UMSwing.]”
Members have also been able to explore the city, as well as different provinces with the help of UMSwing. This year, some members are attending the 10th annual Prairie Lindy Exchange (PLEX), held in Saskatoon Mar. 12-14. Events like PLEX enable members to enhance their dancing ability, expand their dance style, dance for up to 40 hours throughout the weekend and create long lasting friendships with people from around the world. UMSwing can also be found swinging its way around the city to venues like the legion on Osborne, where it teaches free weekly swing lessons with social dancing to follow. There are also plenty of opportunities to use your dancing skills at other yearly events such as Swinging Uptown or the Black and White Swing Thing.
UMSwing, however, is not all about dance (though speaking from experience, it seems like it is), “UMSwing is currently one of the largest and most active student groups in the University of Manitoba,” Tang states. “Beyond teaching people to dance, it encourages people to socialize and network with each other, as well as helping people gain confidence in themselves.” Members also get together weekly for other events like skating, movie nights, dinner, or just to hang out or the greatly anticipated swing potlucks.
So what next? Now that you are informed of almost all that UMSwing has to offer, and you would love to join in on the fun, you are probably wondering how you can get involved. On Thursday, Jan. 28, UMSwing is hosting its bi-annual open house. At the open house there will be a jive lesson, demonstrations, live music and much more all for free! “Let’s face it,” says Tang, “most guys don’t know how to dance and to be able to do even a little bit will seem impressive.”
For more information, you can visit Umswing.ca or visit UMSwing’s office located at 172 Helen Glass.