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A MODG Guide to Swing Dancing

Photo+Credit%3A+Hope+Ascough
Photo Credit: Hope Ascough

Photo Credit: Hope Ascough

Photo Credit: Hope Ascough

Anna Villalobos, Emilia DeGroat, Anna Hermes, and Hope Ascough

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“Swing” is a dance form developed in the 1920s-40s. Swing music traditionally has a bouncy, jazzy feel, and so do the movements that accompany it. During this “Swing Era,” there came hundreds of swing dancing styles, but those that have survived to the present include the Lindy Hop, Balboa, Collegiate Shag, and Charleston. Today, the most well-known of these is the Lindy Hop, which originated in the ‘30s, in Harlem, New York.

Swing dancing has become quite common in homeschooling communities; ironically, everywhere else, its popularity has drastically decreased. Aside from the occasional swing dance club (the majority of participants being seniors) most young people have no idea what swing dancing is!

This article is a joint effort between several teenagers who fell in love with it and want to keep it alive (or maybe, they just couldn’t sit still)!

Hope Ascough, The Viewpoint Editor, MODG ’18

My painfully shy, introverted, 12-year-old self sat quietly at the table at a beautiful wedding reception in my home country of Ireland. When the music came on, and people began to dance, but I wouldn’t move for the life of me; I didn’t know how to dance, and I knew I’d probably be terrible if I tried.

Then  a Steubenville student asked me to dance. To my great surprise, I said yes! He started swing dancing with me, and even though I had no idea what I was doing, he was swinging me all around the place, and I had so much fun! From that moment on I was not only infatuated with swing dancing, but my personality pivoted into bloom, and if you were to meet me today, you’d probably never guess I was once that introverted girl. I met with that same Steubenville – now graduate – student about four years later, and he recalled the night that “Hope Ascough bloomed.”

Swing dancing is extremely upbeat and happy, and if you give it a chance, it may have a great positive influence on you, too!

I hope you feel inspired by this swing dance project to put on some jazzy music, grab a sibling or friend, and start swinging!

Anna Hermes, Writers Quill Editor, MODG ’18

Growing up, I loathed going to weddings. The food was always great, but the dancing…not so much. Learning dance steps and moves has always been difficult for me, and I’m a very, very slow learner. I would’ve never thought in grade school that I’d enjoy dances in high school so much! My parents love to dance, and we’d often use our kitchen as our dance floor. I loved pretending I was a ballerina, figure skater, or at a fancy ball. I’d dance with my dad or my younger sisters, but when we got out in public, there was no way you could get me to dance.

I started loving going dancing, especially swing dancing, when I started high school. Some of my girl friends and I picked up some moves and pretty soon we were out having a blast on the dance floor. I am oftentimes the guy (as a result, sometimes it’s hard for me to follow a guy) and other times the girl. Unfortunately there are a lot of what I call “wall weeds” around here (aka guys who don’t dance) so most of my dancing is done with other girls. While there is still quite a lot I can learn, I especially like doing the Table Top, Pretzel, S Dip, and many other moves!

So how can you start swing dancing?

Emilia DeGroat, Managing Editor, MODG ’19

I am a swing dance instructor, along with my best friend Joshua C. (a homeschooled Seton student). We’ve been doing it for several years, and for those of you who enjoy this kind of dancing and want to host some of your own, here are some tips from my experience.

Swing dancing is very easy to learn and teach. If there are no instructors in your area, I would recommend to simply google the keywords “hooked on swing dancing”, or “how to swing dance, old-fashioned.” Swing dancing has evolved since its humble beginnings, and many have turned it into a something of a hoedown. The most fun, easy, and appropriate swing dancing is the good, old-fashioned way our grandparents did it.

I’m guessing most of you don’t have a beautiful banquet room right down the hall to host a dance. That’s okay! You don’t need anything big or fancy. In the past, I’ve learned the most accommodating and enthusiastic people are fellow parishioners! If your parish has a hall, and your priest is willing, that’s all you need. What we’ve done is instead of an entrance fee, we just ask participants to bring something to share. This makes preparations ten times easier, since you don’t have to stress about providing food, along with decorating, cleaning, etc. You could even make it a donation opportunity for your church or a local charity.

Like I mentioned before, parishioners, homeschooled or not, are usually very enthusiastic about something like this. Parents love a place for their teenagers to go and have a safe, fun time. Making a simple flyer and putting it up in your church, a local school (if you take music lessons or sports there, for example), and anywhere else you frequent would be sure to gather some eager dancers!

From there, it’s just a matter of purchasing decorations and picking a date. Josh and I have done it both ways: extravagant and simple. Decorations and table spreads make things much more time-consuming. Simple, season-related decorations are all you need. It’s not a banquet dinner; you’re there to dance!

Now, many people may arrive not knowing what to do in the least. If you do have an official instructor, great! If not, that’s fine. If no one experienced steps up, learn the moves beforehand. I’m sure most of you have siblings; most times, they’re more than happy to be guinea pigs.

Throughout the night, teach a few moves here and there, and then circulate among the crowd, helping anyone who doesn’t seem to get it. If you’re trying to teach a move to someone and you’re both having trouble, YouTube is your best friend. This isn’t a formal event; you’re just there to dance, have fun. Making mistakes is all part of it.

Line dances, such as the Cha Cha Slide, Cupid Shuffle, and Cotton-Eyed Joe, are self-explanatory and fun to pop between swing songs, since everyone is involved and the songs are very catchy (and easy to dance to).

At the end of the night, you’ll be happy that there was a manageable amount of decorations! Many times, people stay after and help out. If you have a feeling not everyone will do that, ask some friends beforehand to remain and be your ‘clean-up crew.’

You can email me if you have any questions at [email protected]. Happy dancing!

WHAT DO I WEAR TO A SWING DANCE?
Comfortable shoes – not necessarily dancing shoes, but low heels or comfortable flats are best!
Nothing too warm, it’s a very active dance!
Nothing that might ride up in place you wouldn’t want it to (undershirts and underskirts are helpful)!
A spinny skirt or some slick shoes (occasionally, a classy hat works well – with a little charm).

Anna Villalobos, Editor-In-Chief, MODG ’18

“Sorry!” Stomp. “I’m so sorry-” Step. Cue full face flush.

That’s me, swing dancing and stepping on my partner’s feet, as per usual.

Don’t get me wrong: I love swing dancing. I love all kinds of dancing, actually. It’s not my fault I look like an electrocuted noodle doing it. But does this keep me from dancing my heart out?

No!

All it takes is a good partner. I’ve been swing dancing for about two years at a local co-op that organizes dances each month. When they break out the DJ, I can work the dubstep like nobody’s business, but swing dancing? Two-step? Waltzing? Not my forte. I mean, honestly, what is a Foxtrot exactly?

People name dance moves at me like Balboa and I wonder, what is that, a disease? But have no fear: if you’re in the same boat as me, there’s hope for us.

With a little practice and a lot of patience, I’ve been able to experience that wonderfully free feeling of being spun around a room. Flying, twirling, spinning, it’s like you’re a 50’s swing starlet.

Honestly, the biggest rule of swing dancing I’ve learned is: communicate with your partner! If your minds are in sync, your feet will be, too. All it took was a little confidence, and I was teaching others. Now, I’m not saying I don’t still step on the occasional foot, but I’ve learned to be a, well, less-electrocuted noodle.

Still at a loss? Don’t worry, here’s a helpful tip: When in doubt, dab it out.

Anna V. and her dad attempt the classic dance move, “the dab.”

That being said, care to dance?

Are you a swing dancer? Do you have a picture, or tutorial you’d like to send in? Visit our Letter To The Editor page to submit your content! 

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Anna Villalobos, Editor in Chief

Senior at Mother of Divine Grace School.

Emilia DeGroat, Reporter

Junior at Mother of Divine Grace.

Anna Hermes, The Writer's Quill Editor

Senior at Mother of Divine Grace.

Hope Ascough, The Viewpoint Editor

Senior at Mother of Divine Grace.

2 Comments

2 Responses to “A MODG Guide to Swing Dancing”

  1. Jeanalle Bonifas on January 24th, 2018 11:02 am

    This is so cute! I love to swing dancing so much, but I’m not super good at it. I’d love to learn more when I go to college 🙂

  2. Sarah Halas on January 24th, 2018 7:59 pm

    This post was great!! I was so glad to learn swing dancing at the MODG graduation. It certainly is a lot of fun with friends and MODGers. I was also blessed to be able to go to the MODG dance in DC for the first time. I can totally relate with Anna V. I enjoy swing dancing ever so much, but one dance doesn’t go by without me stepping in the wrong direction or on his toe. :/. All the guys I’ve danced with have been so gracious though.

    ~Sarah
    MODG ’17

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A MODG Guide to Swing Dancing