On the evening of Thursday, September 22, Mt. A’s own Swing Dance Society ended their first week of classes to great success. Strangers and friends alike made up the beginner class, the newest members of this small but close-knit and social community. After being severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years, the Swing Dance Society is returning with vigour this year to explore the dance form and welcome new dancers to their ranks. Even masked, the students were clearly enjoying themselves as they learned simple steps and footwork, guided by advanced upper-year students and Mt. A community members.
Today, the Swing Dance Society prides itself on welcoming would-be dancers of all experience levels, from those familiar with the form to students with no experience in dance at all.
“I do think [swing dance] is really important. I think Mt. A has a really good program and opportunities for dancers who already have skills and ability, and who are coming to the university with that background. But there’s not very much for people who are like, ‘I’ve never tried dance before.’ And that’s something I really love about it… I found swing was very easy to pick up, very beginner-friendly. I think it’s a really fun way to get involved with dance,” said sixth-year Math and Philosophy major, Ileanna Gowans. She joined the group after witnessing a demonstration of swing moves in her first year. Gowans is now an executive member of the society and instructs classes at all experience levels.
Graham Muse, another instructor in his final year of study with a double major in economics and chemistry, shared similar reasons as to why he still participates in Swing Dance after nearly a decade with the society: “There’s a bunch of upsides. Like it’s a really nice, supportive friend group—literally we brought snacks—and a lot of us hang out afterwards, and it’s a good community. Also it’s exercise for folks who might not necessarily like gym culture, or want something else to do. It’s a way to meet people, because you’re dancing with a partner, and it’s a nice way to socialize… It’s fun. That’s really what it comes down to. I still do it because I still have fun.”
There’s no doubt the style is impressive as well. Mt. A’s Swing Dance is best described as ‘show’ or ‘aerial’ swing, involving many impressive dips and lifts. Anyone present at a swing performance or social event can attest to the flair and energy the style lends itself to. But as a social group dependent on face-to-face interaction, swing dance has been one of many groups greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Gowans explains: “When we had our first class last year, it was huge. We had like, 20 couples. It was insane. And then COVID [spiked] and we couldn’t do anything. It was such a pain…the fact that th[is] first week of classes we’ve had lots of people has been really great.”
This year the society aims to perform prepared routines and hold social events such as swing bashes, the latter also having been severely restricted in recent years.
To anyone interested in swing dance, Muse urges, “Come and try it out!… We do a bit more aerial-based than a lot of other schools of swing, but we’re trying to integrate a lot more Lindy Hop and footwork into our classes, so if there’s people who want to do that, […] we’ll try to accommodate them. We do stuff based on whatever people show up for.”
No partner is necessary for these classes – anyone is welcome as they are. Swing dance classes are normally held on Mondays and Thursdays from 7:00pm to 10:00pm in Tweedie Hall, with the beginner class from 7:00pm to 8:30pm. More information on the scheduling and all things swing-related can be found on the society’s social media (Facebook: MTA Swing Dance Society; Instagram: @mtaswingsociety) or by emailing [email protected].