Swingcats boogie

Alexi Prante, Staff Reporter

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Swing music hangs in the air and  desks are pushed to one side of the large classroom to make way for the dance floor on the other side. Music plays from the speakers connected to someone’s laptop and dancers switch partners every so often. Laughter and smiles are passed around from couple to couple as they move around the floor. Sometimes there is a pause in between songs to review some of the dance moves, then the music would resume again so the dancers can try the moves again.

Since it’s the first Monday of Swingcats for the quarter, the dancers are using basic swing steps. These steps were taught to them earlier in the night by volunteer instructor Chris Peterson. During the day he works as a software developer at Virginia Mason Memorial hospital in Yakima, and for the last eight years at CWU he has taught students the proper way to dance.

“Swing is a social dance; you can come with or without a partner. We try to rotate the couples constantly during the lessons so everyone knows everyone,” Peterson said. “My goal is to make it simple and use the proper technique. I want [students] to be able to dance at any scene globally.”

Swing, also known as  jitterbug, originated around the 1920’s to jazz music. There are a few different types of swing dances called the Charleston, Collegiate Shag and the Lindy Hop. Lindy Hop is the most well-known dance.

Classes start on a four-week rotation throughout the quarter. The first week is beginning lessons and introducing the Lindy Hop, a basic three-step dance, week two the Charleston dance, week three is swing outs and week four is putting it all together. Sometimes there is a week five thrown into the quarter, during that week the club works on a dance called the Shim-Sham. The club and Peterson would then restart a new circuit with the same dances as the weeks before, but at an intermediate level.

Peterson has had some help along the way from the club president, Ted Philpot. He has participated in the club from freshman year after reading it off of a flyer in his dorm hall. As club president, he helps put on the clubs dances and helps out with dancers through classes. Philpot enjoyed dancing in high school and was excited to see a dancing club offered on campus.

“We teach you to dance with everyone since swing is a social dance. It’s a fun activity for everyone,” Philpot said.

Kaitlyn Daniel is a three-year returnee to Swingcats. Daniel started dancing before coming to CWU and found out about Swingcats from other friends who danced.

“It is so much fun and very relaxing to take a break from the day. I have met a lot of different people since joining the club. Just come as you are and have fun. Swingcats is a very social place,” Daniel said.

The ladies can dress in skirts or dresses to get more of the movement of the dance and you can wear shoes like dance shoes or casual shoes in order to slide and move quickly with the beat of the music. It’s not recommended to wear tennis shoes that will grip the floor. The men can also dress up to get the feel of the dance and can wear ballroom or Lindy Hop shoes.

Swingcats usually join the Ellensburg Big Band on the first Friday of every month at the Ellensburg Events Hall at 6:30 p.m. They also try to join with the Yakima Swing Dance Society on Wednesday’s at 7 p.m.

Swingcats meet Monday and Thursday on various locations on campus with beginner lessons starting at 7 p.m. and a social dance starting at 8 p.m.Jack Lambert

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1 Comment

One Response to “Swingcats boogie”

  1. Tam Francis on October 10th, 2017 5:35 am

    So glad to see swing dance is thriving on campuses. I have always been a fan and the last few years have taken my love for lindy and written swing dance inspired novels in my Jitterbug Dress series.

    Great article!


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Swingcats boogie