A social swing club led by students MSwing began its first lesson and open dance winter semester on Thursday, February 10th. The club, founded in 2015, consistently provides students with a free place with low rates and commitments to study and practice the art of swing. The club is open to anyone interested in swing, from complete beginners to swing experts.
I had the pleasure of attending the first MSwing lesson, albeit with some initial hesitation. I, of course no dancer and was very nervous because of my serious lack of experience. Upon arriving for the lesson (held in Kessler Hall, Michigan League) I was surprised and relieved to find many other newcomers to the room. We started the evening with a dating cycle that revealed an impressive variety of participants. There was a good mix of graduate students and students from a wide variety of majors and schools who came together from different backgrounds to get lost in the scope.
The group then split between beginners and more experienced dancers. Each group was instructed by one of the MSwing staff, also university students. Instructor “Beginners”, Rackham student Eli Johandes, began by teaching us the basic four-step rhythm, which is the basis Hustle style swing dance. We then teamed up, chose a presenter and began to study the complex turns, rotations and manual swing shifts. Even in the initial group the pace of learning was fast, but nothing was impossible (even for me). By the end of the hour, my dance partner, LSA sophomore Mary Colette, and I were making pretzels, spinning and sinking like professionals. After the lesson, Colette said, “I think the appeal of swing is that you can start doing seemingly impressive movements relatively quickly.” It seems scary to watch, but once you dive in and try it on yourself, it’s really quite doable.
While MSwing’s main activity is swing training, the club is really about building a community. Two MSwing staff at a lesson on Thursday and an open dance, Johannes and LSA senior Jason Debel, said they were attracted to the club because of the sense of community it provided, with Debel noting that “MSwing always has a back”. Not being able to teach partner dancing in an era of social distancing, MSwing took a break for a year and a half, but finally resumed personal meetings in the fall of 2021. Johandes and Debel both noted an increase in club membership since returning last semester, as many are looking for community and engagement that promotes MSwing. The club also allows students to relax from school stress, weekly offering a fun, relaxing and casual space.
My evening with MSwing was one of the funniest I’ve spent lately. From 20-22 pm the Koessler Hall was full of laughter, music and the gloriously lively energy of the MSwing community. My anxiety about dancing with strangers quickly melted away and I was able to immerse myself in the light rhythm of swing. Colette also noted, “There is something about dancing with strangers that gives a sense of instant companionship that has been lacking for the past few years.”
At a huge university like ours, there is a huge list of opportunities and events happening around campus. The MSwing and Open Dance lesson is something you should not miss. The club offers weekly classes (usually Thursday nights, but check out MaizePages confirm in advance). Lessons are always free, completely optional and offer the perfect escape from what draws you. And who knows? You can even find love on the dance floor.
You can contact Daily Arts staff member Maya Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org.