Swing your sole out: CSU Swing Society offers free swing dancing

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(Photo credit: Abby Parr)

Gathered in the Lory Student Center, 20’s and 30’s era music floats through the basement, where around 30 people are swing dancing in a small room and in the hallway. They come from a broad spectrum of dancing skill levels – from professionals to beginners who have never danced a day in their life. The music playing takes you back in time, from the likes of Nat King Cole, Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald and other vintage jazz musicians.

This is the Colorado State University Swing Society. Each Wednesday evening provides a chance to come to a place free of judgment and enjoy a social dance and lesson for 2-3 hours. The group meets at 7:15 p.m. each Wednesday for a free one hour lesson and a social dance from 8:15 to 10:15.

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“Everyone dances with everyone there; it’s very casual fun, and sometimes there’s live bands playing,” said Julia Way, a senior at CSU and a supply chain management and business major and vice president of the society.  “We try to create an atmosphere where anyone can go without knowing anything about swing dancing, and no one is judgmental. It’s a great opportunity for people to get involved on campus. There’s no commitment, and it’s free.”

Kristin O’Neill, an English major and junior at CSU, enjoys dancing the Lindy Hop, the original style of swing dancing.

“I picked up the Lindy Hop when I started at CSU last year,” O’Neill said. “It’s big band era swing that involves high energy and flips.”

Angela Huxel, who is the president of the society and a senior double major in cultural anthropology and Spanish, said that dancing can be for anyone.

“Anybody can dance because it’s as easy as walking, and really just involves being confident in your own body,” Huxel said. “Anyone can move to a beat.”

Huxel runs the club and offers swing dancing lessons, and has a passion for dance herself.

“I dance because I love the freedom to artistically express what I’m feeling at the moment,” Huxel said. “Swing dancing is on another level because you can express yourself with another person and you get to connect with them, and the social level is great.”

The CSU Swing Society began almost 20 years ago, and for many, it provides exercise, socialization and fun. Dancing is important to many of the attendees, especially Way.

“My dancing story goes back to when I was 10,” Way said. “I started swing dancing because a friend of my mom’s teaches lessons in his basement. He taught a four week Lindy Hop class.”

Before joining the CSU Swing Society, Way enjoyed dancing at other venues in Fort Collins, where she is a native, and where swing dancing has large and diverse scene.  She danced in Fort Collins for 6 years off and on before taking a break. During her sophomore year of college, she realized that she wanted to get back into dancing.

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“The Swing Society was doing a flash mob dance on the plaza, so I just jumped right into it and joined in,” Way said.

From that point forward, Way joined the society and became committed.

“I immediately fell back in love with it – everyone was so welcoming and I fit right in,” Way said.

Even after she graduates in the spring, Way still wants to be involved, whether it be attending dances doing her part to ensure the club’s success.

“Dancing is not just a physical experience, but an emotional experience and teaches you about communication, and that’s why I love it, and that’s why I keep coming back,” Way said. “Swing dancing provides that closeness and community and reminds us that we need other people’s direction and help.”

This community of people has created a positive learning and fun environment for all.

“Everyone is super welcoming and super supportive,” O’Neill said. “It’s a great environment and a great form of exercise.”

Way said she encourages all people to attend on Wednesdays.

“The best part about it is you don’t have to know anything, you don’t have to wear anything special, and you don’t even have to come with a partner,” Way said.

One thing remains certain with the CSU Swing Society: the love of dance displayed by the swing community has proven to be the backbone of this club.

Collegian Reporter Clarissa Davies can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @DaviesClarissa.