By Marko Ocampo
Like many others, I once thought that I was incapable of dancing. Whether it was to impress a girl at prom or at a wedding, everytime I tried to dance I ended up feeling like I made a complete fool of myself — until last spring, when I discovered Swing Dance at UC Irvine.
The club meets every Monday night in the Dr. White room at the Cross Cultural Center. There, they learn new styles, practice and socialize. Each week, the club brings in an instructor to teach a different style of swing dance. Notable instructors have included U.S. Open of Swing Dance champion Ben Morris and multiple Lindy Hop winner Mary Freitag. The styles alternate from the popular Lindy Hop, which became popular during the with the rise of jazz music; East Coast Swing, which emerged from the Lindy Hop in the 1940s; and West Coast Swing, which has become popular due to the use of contemporary pop music.
Now in its third year, Swing Dance at UCI has become a notable dance scene on campus. “I’ve seen the club grow from a small cadre of people learning how to dance in the parking garages to the 50-person weekly meeting we have now” said Nate Directo, the club’s director who originally joined to have something to do on weeknights. “I’m super pleased to see it humming along so nicely. If our first president could see what we were up to now, I think she would be, too.”
In addition to providing a venue for swing, Swing Dance at UCI has taught many students to dance in its short time on campus. “I basically had no dance experience before swing dancing,” said Missy Silverstein, a second-year history major who is now an avid swing dancer. “Lindy Hop was my first real attempt at dancing. There’s something so relaxing about immersing yourself in the music and just expressing it with a partner with your movement, I’ve made a lot of good friends through swing dancing.”
The social aspect of swing dancing is also another reason why many newcomers stick with the particular style. Unlike most modern club or party dancing, swing dance is a partner dance that uses codified techniques and skills.
The atmosphere is very friendly and welcoming to newcomers and people are generally very happy to teach new moves to those who want to become better dancers. This camaraderie extends beyond campus as well. Swing Dance at UCI members visit dance clubs such as Atomic Ballroom in Irvine and Lindy Groove in Pasadena to put their skills to use on the dance floor. On campus, Swing Dance at UCI also provides a social dance hour each Monday, after the lesson, where one can meet new people through dance and improve. “I have met many cool people at UCI Swing, including several who are now my best buds on campus,” said Jessica Aliberti, a fourth-year transfer student who joined UCI Swing for an opportunity to make new friends. “It’s a great place to meet different types of people that are willing to take a rock-step out of their comfort zone.”
Swing Dance at UCI hopes to become a bigger part of the dancing community at UCI by providing affordable lessons, $10 for one lesson each week of the quarter, and a friendly atmosphere for new and experienced dancers.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn to dance but thought you couldn’t, swing dance might be for you. It has helped me impress on the dance floor, meet awesome friends, and is a great activity to do on a boring weekday.