Student group swing dancing into the new year

Ashley Tsang and Raymond Blostein participate in a choreographed demonstration, part of the UMSU Swing open house on Jan. 31

The University of Manitoba Swing Dance Club (UMSwing) is currently offering eight-week swing dance lessons starting Feb. 6.

The student group programs lessons for four different types of swing dance, Charleston, jive, blues, and Lindy Hop. The lessons run during the fall semester and start back up again in the winter semester and are open to all.

Swing dance is a form of partner dancing made popular throughout the 1920s and 1930s. According to UMSwing president Alexandra Harland, Lindy Hop is the classic, most recognizable form of swing dance, while jive is the easiest step to learn, blues is often danced to slower tempo songs, and Charleston is the only class where dancers are taught solo moves.  

Faculty of music student Rose Sanders attended the open house on Feb. 1 and said taking the classes are not just about learning how to dance.

“It’s a good form of exercise. It’s also a good stress relief,” Sanders said. The19-year-old student who first joined UMSwing last year after finding out about the club through the UMSwing open house.

“I’d always been desiring to learn swing dance, and I’ve always done old time dancing,” Sanders said.

“And then I was introduced to the movie Swing Kids, and all the fun it looked like they had while dancing, and then I found this table and found out about all the courses they had and […] the fact it was on campus so close and so cheap, it was just an opportunity I had to take.”

Sanders signed up for classes on Lindy Hop this semester at the UMSwing open house, which featured demonstrations from teachers and lessons for attendees. According to Harland, most students register for classes at the open house.

“The open houses are UMSwing’s biggest events of the year,” Harland said.

“We pull out all the stops. Free lessons, choreographed and freestyle, games, prizes, discounts on classes, and it’s the biggest dance party that we host all year.”

After the event, Harland said that overall interest in UMSwing was rising.

“Attendance and registration were great. Our numbers for this open house were much higher than [the] last open house, which is always a great thing to see,” she said.

Harland is teaching a blues class this semester while taking a Charleston class. She said there are a couple new teachers working this term.

“I’m really excited to take the Charleston class with our new teachers Jill [White] and Joshua [Peters]. I’ve never completed a full one before even though I’ve been dancing for two years,” Harland said.

“I’m excited to take that class as a student.”

For Sanders, swing dancing came with making new friends and finding a new community.

“It’s a good group to get involved with,” Sanders said.

“It’s a new community. Coming from the music faculty, it’s small and everyone knows each other and has to work with each other. And then this swing club really imitates that, and really the whole city’s swing community seems to be that accepting and just really friendly, a good group to hang out with and to have fun.”

Lessons are on Tuesday and Wednesday every week, starting Feb. 6, and are open to everyone. Registration for students is $40 for the term. Classes take place in 202 St. John’s College.