Swinging in a Winter Wonderland

Benjamin Boersma–Staff Writer

The days leading up to Dec. 1 were marked by high winds, drifting snow, and cold temperatures. But that didn’t stop the Dordt Swing Dance Club and the Dordt Jazz Band from kicking off the new month with a showstopper. 

The dance started at 8 o’clock that evening, but people were showing up as early as 7:15. The Campus Center, already decorated for the season with a Christmas tree and garland along the railings, now included shiny lights. The stage in front of the windows was set up for the band. The baby grand piano, which usually sits between the windows and the ground floor entrance, had been pushed over to the stage. The main floor, clear of furniture, would soon be filled with people showing off their skills. Jazz band members were putting their instruments together and warming up. A light chatter already hung in the air.  

“A couple of people won’t be able to make it because of the weather,” senior saxophonist Zach Steensma told me. 

“Will you still be able to play for us?” I asked. 

“Oh sure,” he said. There was no doubt about that part. 

Eventually, some people started arriving for the dance. Some of them were club members, but for others, this would be their first time swing dancing. The club leaders — Levi Smith, Abbie White, Foster Popkin, and Selena Munson — came a little later and taught the basics of swing dance. At 8 p.m., Marcus Zevenbergen counted off the jazz band for the night’s opening number before taking his place behind the drum set. 

Besides the basic step, there are only a few moves that beginning swing dancers need to know. They include three different types of spins, one type of flair, and one type of lead-in move. A basic type of dip can also be useful. The club leaders taught everyone these moves during the lesson. After the band’s third or fourth piece, though, some of the club members started sharing a few of their favorites as well. 

One couple came over to me later in the evening and asked me to show them a simple lifting move. I went through the steps and showed the transition into the move. They thanked me and went back out onto the dance floor to try it out. 

About halfway through the dance, the jazz band took a quick break. Several of the members are also part of the swing dance club, and they eagerly took their own place on the floor. Before the dance started, most of them had thought they would be onstage playing all evening. I had asked Steensma earlier about whether they would get the chance to join us. 

“Probably not,” he said. “We have enough people for two ensembles, but we decided it’d be easier to play as one group rather than rotate people on and off.” 

The jazz band played for another hour or so before finishing their performance. At 10 p.m., Smith stepped up to the microphone with an announcement. 

“We’ll be having a polka competition in about fifteen minutes, so find yourself a partner.” 

Immediately, people glanced around for potential partners. 

The goal was to dance around the floor until someone either lost the beat or got tired. The last couple still going would win. Fifteen dizzying minutes later, two couples were still dancing with no sign of stopping. One of them was a pair of freshman cross country runners. Finally, Smith stopped the music and declared the match a tie. 

The Swing Dance Club typically puts on one formal dance event each semester. They travel to swing dance events in the area, including several in Sioux Falls. The club meets every Tuesday evening at 8:15 in the Rec Center aerobics room.

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