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Swing dance club welcomes amateurs, teaches lifelong skill

| Monday, February 17, 2020

When Notre Dame junior Ruth Hughes visited the University’s Activities Fair her freshman year, she felt a little nervous to join the Notre Dame Swing Dance Club. However Hughes, the current president of the club, quickly learned the community was very welcoming to newcomers and amateurs alike.

“Nobody ever made me feel judged even though I was such a shy, awkward freshman. I came and learned how to dance which is a miracle,” Hughes said. “I had never danced to any capacity when I joined, so it’s definitely for people looking to learn.”

Photo Courtesy of Mary Coleman

Two members of Notre Dame Swing Dance Club dance in the Dahnke Ballroom. The club allows members of the community to indulge in their love of dance.

The club holds lessons Tuesday and Thursday nights in the Rockne Memorial and invites students of any skill level to join. Attending a single lesson costs $5 until a dancer has attended four practices. After four practices, dancers do not have to pay for any more sessions.

Saint Mary’s senior and club vice president Mary Coleman said the practice sessions are a combination of instruction and flexibility.

“To start each lesson, two of the more experienced club members will teach whatever skill we’re learning that night, and then we turn the lesson over to social dance, so that would be practicing the moves and [getting] to dance with each other,” Coleman said.

During lessons, the club focuses on four styles of swing dancing: East Coast, Lindy Hop, Blues and Charleston. Coleman said that although each style has its own unique flare, her favorite is Lindy Hop.

“Lindy is quick footwork and a little more upbeat, and I like that aspect of it. I think it’s more exciting than East Coast, which is a bit more technical,” she said. “On the other side of the spectrum, blues dance is danced to blues music, so it’s a totally different style and you have a bit more freedom.”

In addition to swing lessons, the club holds a bi-annual dance where people can come dance and have a good time even if they do not regularly attend practices, Hughes said. 

“A lot of people do come to our events who already know how to dance, and they don’t feel like they have to come to a lesson and learn, so at the dances, our community really comes together,” Hughes said. 

As part of the club, members have the opportunity to participate in a variety of events that take place on campus and in the South Bend area. Thursday night, the club will be dancing as part of the Collegiate Jazz Festival on campus near Hagerty Cafe.

Coleman said she has enjoyed her time with Swing Dance Club because she likes to dance.

“[It is] enjoyable because you find people who really like to dance … and you have songs that you dance to with certain people, and it’s really great,” she said.

She also said the experience is relaxed and social.

“It’s a good way to meet people and because it’s social dancing, it’s not super awkward,” Coleman said. 

Since swing dancing styles have common features that keep it distinguishable from others, Hughes said she hopes she can continue to use her skills beyond college.

“I really like having it in the back pocket,” Hughes said. “It’d be so fun to go somewhere and be able to dance with strangers.”

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About Alysa Guffey

Alysa is a sophomore pursuing a major in history with a minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. While she calls Breen-Phillips her home on campus, she is originally from Indianapolis. She currently serves as an associate news editor.

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