Michaela Woodward – Staff Writer
On Wednesday nights, Alumni Hall gets swinging.
Gustavus’ Swing Club meets every Wednesday from 9 p.m.-11 p.m. for students interested in learning dance steps or those who want to practice their existing dance skills. Not only an environment for learning, but Swing Club is also a relaxing social gathering where everyone is welcome.
President Addison Schloo and Vice-President Megan Lipke began attending Swing Club as first-years. Now sophomores, Schloo and Lipke run the club.
“[Schloo] and I both started going together when we were freshmen. It was really fun for both of us. We were dance partners. I was the lead, she was the follow. We found out that all of the leadership team were seniors last spring. They kind of just said, ‘Oh, you two were the only ones interested in leadership, so here’s the club’. We’ve kind of made it our own this year. We’ve been teaching ourselves new moves so that we can keep teaching different stuff to people who are involved in it, which is super fun,” Lipke said.
“We started talking to the leadership team and learned that they were looking for underclassmen to volunteer to take over since most of the leadership team was graduating. [Lipke] and I agreed that we wanted to make sure that the club would always be there for students so we would take over the club when the leadership team graduated,” Schloo said.
Swing Club is a low-stress environment, even if you have no experience dancing.
“Swing Club is just a bunch of people who like to hang out together. You don’t really even have to be good at dancing, because with the lesson, you’re taught how to dance and we try to take it as slow or as fast as people seem to want it. You learn how to have social dances. We’re learning swing dancing particularly, we’re also learning a bit of ballroom this spring, which I think will be super fun. Honestly just getting to know partners and being able to dance with different people is the main goal,” Lipke said.
“We strive to create a welcoming environment for people to come and be able to express themselves through dance. Unlike individual kinds of dance, swing dance is a social dance which means you have to learn how to dance with a partner. While that may be very stressful for some people, we try to create a place where everyone feels comfortable and welcomed. Swing dance is an amazing club and is the best stress reliever and a way to have fun with your friends,” Schloo said.
The inclusivity of Swing Club is something that Senior Olivia Panning appreciates about the organization.
“I think Swing Club is unique from other orgs on campus because of how inclusive it is for people of all abilities, learning styles, backgrounds, etc. What I appreciate the most is that you can come knowing nothing about swing and leave at the end knowing the basics steps and some cool trick combos to show off. I’ve only been swing dancing for the past three and a half years and know moves that surely look advanced but just took a little time and a few times of trying with my dance partner to get down,” Panning said.
Panning began attending Swing Club meetings as a first-year with minimal dance experience, like Schloo and Lipke.
“I was at the involvement fair signing up for everything I could and wasn’t sure which clubs I’d actually get involved in and stick with. So, during the first week I was on the edge of whether or not I actually was going to go to Swing. It was kind of a choice between going alone and anxiously trying to find a person I just met to be my partner or not going and not getting out of my comfort zone. Naturally, I landed in the middle. I went to swing with a friend who danced with me as my partner so that was comforting and then was dancing in a group setting learning a dance I had never done before, which was very uncomfortable. Aside from polka dancing during family events, I hadn’t danced since I was very young. That first meeting though, I was hooked. Swing is fast-paced and fun, always keeping you on your toes,” Panning said.
Swing Club naturally has a relaxed environment that is flexible for people of all abilities.
“Our typical meeting, we start at 9 p.m. and we usually wait a few minutes for people to show up, and then we start our lesson for the day, sometimes do announcements or a little overview of events coming up. We’ll do our lesson for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how many moves there are. And then the rest of the time, until 11 p.m., is free swing. Anybody can stay as long as they want and keep practicing the moves we’ve learned so far. We’ve had some people try to teach themselves new moves during that time and they teach other people as well which is really fun to see,” Lipke said.
Newcomers should not worry about being behind – those who attend the club consistently will be able -and willing- to teach the moves.
“Recently we have been having other students teach moves if they know any so that we give others an opportunity to teach their peers. We strive to have a very relaxed environment where anyone is welcome, no matter their skill level,” Schloo said.
On April 21st, Swing Club will be hosting the Spring Ball on campus with live music. In preparation, they are learning and teaching ballroom dances this spring.
“We’re very excited, it’s going to be our biggest event yet, I think,” Lipke said.
Students who want to refine their dance skills before the big event are invited to Swing Club meetings whenever they’re able to attend.
“Even if you don’t attend Swing Club, you’re definitely welcome to come to the dances,” Lipke said.