Swing ‘old enough to be cool’

Queen’s Swing Club dance with the stars this weekend

Members of the Queen’s Swing Club will have the rare opportunity to dance with the stars this weekend, as World Swing Dance Champions Nathalie Gomes and Youval Hod visit Kingston for a special workshop hosted by the club. The champion dancers arrive in Kingston just after making a guest appearance on So You Think You Can Dance?.

Gabrielle Kerne, president of the Queen’s Swing Club, said it was easy to persuade the pair to make the trip to Kingston—Hod actually requested an invitation to visit the city after a club member saw the dancing duo in Toronto and spoke with them after their show.

“We are pretty much the Kingston swing scene,” explains the club’s vice-president, Laura Smith, ArtSci ’08.

Eight years ago, Queen’s student Fred Ngo and a few friends founded the club, providing relaxed weekly lessons and holding occasional dance nights at local bars. Since then, the club has added intermediate and specialized classes. The club now boasts 191 dancers across all faculties and years, as well as participants from the Kingston community.

The club focuses on a style of swing called lindy hop—an eight count, swift-moving dance that grew out of other dances associated with the 1920s flapper era such as the Charleston and Jitterbug.

Smith said would-be dancers shouldn’t be intimidated by attending the club’s beginner nights: “If you can shift your weight from one foot to the other, you’ll be fine.” Men and women alike are taught to lead and to follow, as “all the really good dancers can dance both sides,” Smith said.

“We like to call this ‘ambidancetrous,’” said Kerne, ArtSci ’07.

“There are no mistakes in swing, only new moves,” Kerne and Smith said simultaneously.

“Swing developed as an improvisational dance,” Smith said, “so creating new moves through any ‘mishaps’ is actually awesome!” Every Monday night, the JDUC’s Wallace Hall is flooded with the smooth swing sounds of big brass bands and jazzy beats reminiscent of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Occasionally you might even hear more popular melodies pouring out of the windows onto the University Street sidewalk.

While swing and other forms of ballroom dance are enjoying an upswing in popularity, possibly due to an explosion of dance-themed reality TV shows (such as So You Think You Can Dance?, Dance Fever, and Dancing With the Stars), Smith has another theory: “[Swing is] just old enough to be cool again.” Non-members are welcome at the weekend workshop and can select which classes to attend over Saturday and Sunday. No partner is required. The weekend’s main event will be the Celebrity Spotlight Dance at the Holiday Inn Waterfront ballroom on Saturday night.

“We really tailored this workshop to what [Gomes and Hod] are good at,” Smith said. The pair’s strengths are aerials, floorials and fast Lindy.

Full details on workshop registration, pricing and itinerary are available through the Queen’s Swing Club website at www.queensswingclub.com.

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