Ballet. Jazz. Tap. These are just a few dance classes you might have taken as a child at the urging of your mother. You might have been horrible or you might have even continued throughout your adolescent and adult life. But have you ever heard of swing dancing?
Enter UMSwing, a student-run group right here at the University of Manitoba whose aim is to provide cost-effective swing dance lessons to anyone wishing to try something new and learn a few moves along the way.
Swing dancing is a wide genre comprising several forms of dance. These can range from the beginner favourite, Lindy Hop, all the way to the high-energy and fast-paced Charleston. Both types of dance can trace their development all the way back to 1920s America in the rising age of jazz music.
Although the height of swing’s popularity in the aforementioned “swing era,” by the late 90s a full-on swing revival was gearing up, setting the stage for the UMSwing student group to form in January 2000. Before UMSwing, there were limited options for Winnipeggers who wanted to dance the night away to Benny Goodman and other swing bandleaders of that time.
As UMSwing now continues into its 15th year, Christine St. Martin, the group’s director of publicity and promotions, shared her enthusiasm about the growth of the organization with the Manitoban.
“Many people do not realize how big UMSwing really is. We are one of the largest groups on campus. Over the last 15 years, thanks to the hard work of all current and past executive members, we have hundreds of members,” she said.
This semester, the student organization is offering Lindy Hop and Blues on Tuesdays at 6 and 7:30p.m. respectively in room 204 at St. John’s College on the Fort Garry campus, as well as the Jive and Balboa on Fridays at the same times in room 201. A new series of lessons will be started for the winter term as well.
UMSwing hosts special events throughout the year in addition to these regular lessons. Coming up this month is the Michael Jackson “Thriller” workshop on Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. in St. John’s College. Tickets are available through Answers in University Centre and attendees are encouraged to bring out their best costumes to learn the iconic dance routine just in time for Halloween.
Other opportunities UMSwing recommends students to check out include events run through different organizations such as Hepcat Studios and Swing Dance Winnipeg.
Beginners should consider the Saturday Night Swingout at Ted Motyka Dance Studio where they’re invited to drop in for an introductory lesson before the dance begins later that night.
For those hesitant to step out onto the dance floor, St. Martin insists that aspiring dancers from all walks of life can find it easy to get into.
“Everyone, absolutely everyone, comes out to these events. I have been on the scene for about four years and I have danced with all ages and all types of people. Even those who think they have two left feet,” she said.
“You don’t need a partner or previous dance experience. Swing dance is a great way to exercise, meet new people and have fun.”
For more information on upcoming events and lessons, visit umswing.ca