Moraima Ortiz is now a month into her second semester as club head of Swing Club. I asked her how things were going.
“So far it’s been stressful, but I’m enjoying it,” she answered.
You may remember Swing Club last year for holding West Coast style swing dance lessons a few Sundays each semester. Anyone could come to watch or participate, and after the lesson there was generally time to go over whatever was confusing in the lesson or to “enjoy music and company of our fellow swingers.”
This year Swing Club will be doing much of the same thing, but instead of West Coast style, they will be focusing on the East Coast style.
“I wanted to change it up a little,” Moraima said. “Try something different, perhaps more enjoyable.”
So what’s the difference between West Coast and East Coast style? It’s hard to explain in words (much better to demonstrate), but Moraima was able to give me a bit of history.
“When swing first started it was, you know, the dance of poor African Americans in Harlem. It was a street corner dance that many people said wouldn’t last the winter. And then as it gained popularity with the rise of jazz music, because it mainly started in the mid 1920s with the rise of jazz in the 30s and 40s, it became a much more popularized dance and each region had it own sort of distinct style.”
The East Coast style ended up as a branch of Jitterbug and the Charleston. And for those of you out there who are more technical, East Coast is a six-count dance, while the West Coast is an eight-count.
Moraima says a large part of why she loves swing dance is because of the history.
“I’m a huge history nerd, so part of the fun for me is that it’s this great way to just dive in to history itself, with the music and the clothes and just the style and the feeling you get from it. It’s like jumping into the page of that history textbook for the moment and just being in the 40s.”
It’s an opportunity most of your daily activities won’t offer.
Swing Dance is holding its first meeting this Sunday, September 30th, in the MPR at 2:00pm. Anyone and everyone are welcome to come, especially since Swing Club is high fun but relatively low skill. You don’t need experience or a partner, but make sure to wear comfortable clothes! Sweatpants or gym clothes aren’t strictly necessary, but make sure you wear something that doesn’t need adjusting. And that includes shoes. Just about any kind of comfy shoe works, but no high-heels, please! Broken ankles are a serious damper on all the dancing and fun.
After this week, Swing Club will host four other weekend lessons, and one big blow-out type of event. But just because there won’t be lesson every week, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on any of the fun.
“At this point I’m just kind of playing it by ear,” Moraima said. “If there’s interest for, you know, ‘oh hey, there’s two weeks between lessons but I really want to dance,’ I’m happy to get people together in some sort of common space and put on some music and say, ‘hey let’s just dance for a while.’ ”
Moraima says she anticipates a good time, and she hopes people get out of it the same things she does.
“It’s fun, it gets you moving, it brings you into this pretty interesting world of music and dance that people like to observe from the outside but are often too timid to explore for themselves, so I think this will be a great way to bring people into that.”