Charleston, Blues, and Balboa: CWRU Swing Club

Elaina Lin, Theatre & Dance Reporter

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From afar, echoes and sounds from the 1920’s pull one along to the wide-open space of the Nord Atrium. The upbeat music takes hold, swinging the day away.

The Case Western Reserve University Swing Club offers swing dancing lessons to not only CWRU students, but the Cleveland Institute of Art and Cleveland Institute of Music community as well.

Swing dancing developed with the style of jazz music, which was mostly popular in the 1920’s through 1950’s. Those who stop by Carlton Commons on Thursday nights will learn Lindy Hop, Charleston, East Coast Swing, Blues, and Balboa.

Footsteps bounce along the vast surface of the floor, with the dancers’ energy swirling about. Lessons range from beginner to advanced levels, and those with different dance background and experiences are welcome to stop by.

“Whoever shows up, we give them the basics,” said Derek Ye, current president of the CWRU Swing Club. “Our purpose is to spread this dance, as it’s not very well known. It’s a social exercise, a good thing to experience at least once.”

With the upbeat tempo and vibrant music, members agree that this type of dancing is good exercise as well. Though the dance may seem fast-paced and overwhelming for beginners at first, new members are taught the fundamental elements of swing dancing step-by-step.

Rocking along to the beat, sophomore member Devon Kaufman shared, “I don’t have any previous dance experience, but I like to say I’m kind of an old soul, and this kind of dance really interests me. It’s a nice way to interact with people and do something that is different from what everybody else does.”

The swing students not only dance the swing style, but also dress the part. With bright pink flowy dresses swishing to the side, it certainly adds to the whole vibrancy of the dance.

Kaufman said, “It’s my way of letting go and relaxing at the end of the week too. It’s a way for me to let go, express myself, and smile. You can’t be sad when you’re dancing with people.”
Practices at CWRU Swing Club are not just structured, but definitely serve as a social gathering. With all types of interaction from dancing to teaching others how to dance and have fun, it’s also a convivial way to get to know others.

“What drew me in were the people. I really developed deep connections through the people with the dance. What I’m trying to show people is that it’s not just the dancing, but it’s about the experience as well,” said Ye.

With upbeat jazz music in the background, it certainly builds up the lively atmosphere. Stepping into the room during Swing Club’s practice sessions really provides a trip back to the 1920’s through 1950’s.

“It’s very fun and energetic. There’s a kind of a classic elegance about it. It’s kind of like in the old movies, you see all the dances, and you’re like wow, they still do that. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s amazing,” said Courtney Sich, a CIA student who’s enjoyed being a part of the swing culture at CWRU.

So if you’re looking for a workout session, social gathering, or an opportunity to be exposed to a unique and dynamic culture, then the CWRU Swing Club is for you.
Club member Michaela Epperson added, “There’s a very friendly atmosphere in the club. The energetic dance, it’s a good outlet for stress. It liberates you.”