Mason's Swing Dance Club brings a slice of the past

George Mason University's Swing Dance club offers a unique dancing experience that takes its members back in time. Pictured are Swing Dance Club members Samuel Ryan and Sydney Berstein-Miller (photo courtesy of Jenny Pan).
George Mason University's Swing Dance club offers a unique dancing experience that takes its members back in time. Pictured are Swing Dance Club members Samuel Ryan and Sydney Berstein-Miller (photo courtesy of Jenny Pan).

If you’ve walked by the dance studio in the Johnson Center on any given Tuesday or Thursday night, you may have heard the sounds of jazz music blaring from the room. If you investigated a little more, you may have seen the fast-paced dancing by students of the Swing Dance Club having some fun. 

Swing dancing, a type of dancing that developed during the early 20th century, has seen a recent resurgence in popularity, especially on college campuses. George Mason University ranks among its contemporaries; James Madison University, William and Mary and University of Virginia all have social swing dance clubs as well.

The club, which was founded five years ago by Mason graduate Maryam Sodeifi, is in full swing this semester, with attendance averaging about 40 members each meeting, with a pretty even number of women and men.

Mason's Swing Dance Club has over 40 members who not only practice on campus, but attend swing dance events around the D.C. Northern Virginia area (photo courtesy of Jenny Pan)

On a recent Thursday night, Dylan Kilpatrick and Lakshimi Meyyappan led the club in learning a set of new steps. Kilpatrick, who has been involved with the club for two and-a-half years, is currently the vice president. Meyyappan joined the club about a year-and-a-half ago and serves as the club’s Web Chair. Despite the club’s web presence, both Meyyappan and Kilpatrick credit word of mouth and paper flyers for the popularity of the club.

The club meets twice a week. On Tuesday nights members can participate in an intermediate lesson from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by choreography until 8 p.m. Less experienced members can join in on Thursday nights, which start with a beginner lesson at 6 p.m. and is followed by a loosely instructed hour of social dancing.

Each week the group runs through a new series of steps that builds on the previous week’s work. For example, the club may learn the steps to the Charleston over the course of a few weeks, so that at the end of a term, members have learned a complete dance. These “terms” can last as few as two weeks for simpler dances, or as many as seven weeks for a more complex dance.

Members of the George Mason University Swing Dance Club rehearse new steps and dance routines bringing back a little bit of the the early 20th century (video by Nathan Garduno).

For this reason, Kilpatrick warns that while it is not impossible to join the group mid-semester, it becomes more difficult for newcomers to pick up the steps and recoup the instruction they missed in previous weeks.

Nevertheless, both Kilpartick and Meyyappan welcome new swing dance enthusiasts, and state that they will work with new participants to help them catch up with the club.

Although the dancing

Mason's Swing Dance club practices every Tuesday and Thursday evening in the Johnson Center Dance studio taking students with little to no experience in dancing (photo courtesy of Jenny Pan)

is the main draw of the club, it would probably not be half the fun without the jazzy tempo music that accompanies it. Meyyappan explains that while the group has a music chair, James Dolan, who is officially in charge of choosing the music, all the members of the executive board have a chance to mix playlists for the club.

In addition to its official club schedule, the club also plans and encourages members to participate in biweekly social outings. These outings include visiting various local clubs in the D.C. and Northern Virginia area

On March 23 the Swing Club will be hosting its big event for the semester. The jazz band Boilermaker will be performing in Dewberry Hall at 8 p.m. All are welcome to attend the event to dance and enjoy the music. For those whose dance skills may be a little rusty, go early to participate in a lesson led by the Swing Dance club.

For more information vist http://www.gmuswingdanceclub.com/ or "like" the GMU Swing Dance Facebook group. 

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)