Crammed into a hot ballroom, 50 dancers mill around. The energy and excitement in the room is palpable as the dancers exchange partners, try new moves and laugh at themselves. The teacher occasionally claps her hands to get the chattering group’s attention. As she demonstrates moves that progressively get harder, the dancers get goofier as the night goes on.
The CSU Swing Dance Club meets every Wednesday at various ballrooms in the Lory Student Center or other locations. From 7:15 p.m. until 8:15 p.m. there is a teacher-led swing dancing lesson, and from 8:15 to 10:15 p.m., the big band swing music is turned up and there is an open dance. The lesson costs $1 to attend both the lesson and open dance and $2 to attend only the free dance.
Keiko Friar is a freshman studying English at CSU. New to the club, Friar attends to have fun and let go.
“I really like it,” Friar said. “I definitely don’t have as much dance experience as a lot of people do, but I do really find it fun. It’s a great way to meet people and sort of take a break from all the academic stuff.”
According to Friar, people attending the club must be “willing to put themselves out there and mess up but keep going.”
“You’ve gotta be willing to have fun and pretty secure in your skin,” Friar said. “It’s character building. I definitely make mistakes all the time.”
Friar said she plans to keep coming back to the club so she can get better at dancing, gain more confidence and meet more people.
Ruth Bruhn teaches some of the swing-dancing lessons at the club. Former vice president of the club, Bruhn now teaches dance at Indigo Blues in Fort Collins. One of the first places that she experienced swing dancing was at the CSU Swing Club.
According to Bruhn, the lesson during the CSU swing club is always fun because it “always has a really high turnout.”
Although, like popular music styles, swing dancing trends come and go, the CSU swing dance scene has really flourished, according to Bruhn.
Bruhn’s said her first priority when teaching a swing dancing lesson is to make sure the students are having fun.
“No one is ever bad; they are just new,” Bruhn said. “New people learn because it’s fun and they want to get into the movements, and they want to learn enough to have fun at the dance.
Bruhn said that is how she learned.
“There’s a reason that I’m still here and dancing six years later,” Bruhn said. “Getting them to have fun is the priority, and they can learn the moves when they come back.”
Colby Evans is a first-year graduate student at CSU studying chemistry. Since he has attended the club, he said he has learned new swing dancing moves as well as improved his moves.
“I’ve learned how to do some Charleston, and I’ve had good refreshers in Jitter bug, swing and lindy hop,” Evans said.
Evans said he attends the club not only to learn but also to be social.
“It’s a fun energetic way to be around other people to get to know them,” Evans said. “There’s always something new to learn, something new to try.”
According to Evans, it’s a great way to do a dance with a group of people that you would otherwise look ridiculous doing by yourself.
Aja Mattise-Lorenzen is the president of the CSU Swing Club. She has attended nearly all of the meetings since her freshman year.
“I really like the community that exists in swing dancing,” Mattise-Lorenzen said. “Everybody is always there for each other, whether that’s on the dance floor or off the dancefloor. It’s a very friendly open environment.”
The big band swing music is a big reason why people enjoy swing dancing.
“Honestly I really like the music too,” Mattise-Lorenzen said. “Swing music has always had a special spot in my heart.”
Bruhn agreed that the music draws attendance.
“I love the vintage music,” Bruhn said. “That was my favorite thing coming in was being able to hear big band music again. It’s just such a different sound from what you hear.”
Aside from the music, swing dancing can improve other aspects of life, according to Mattise-Lorenzen.
It’s a good way to get some exercise it’s a good way to meet friends,” Mattise-Lorenzen said. “You get to connect with this part of history that you don’t really get to experience on a daily basis. Anybody can do it. There’s no reason you couldn’t do it.”
For more information, join the CSU Swing Dance Society group on Facebook.