Millennials Embrace Swing Dancing

Sep 20, 2010 1:26pm

ABC News on Campus reporter Meg Wagner blogs:
It’s a Friday night, and about 100 students have gathered in a studio in downtown Gainesville, Fla. Big band music reminiscent of an earlier time plays over the room’s speaker system, and the students break off into couples. Some pairs simply sway back and forth to the music’s tempo, while others weave intricate footwork into more challenging lifts, dips and spins.
The night proved that swing dancing is not just a thing of the past.
Hosted by the Florida Swing Dancing Club at the University of Florida, this type of social is part of a swing dancing trend popping up on college campuses. Glen Miller, event director of Swing Dance America, a Chicago-based group that organizes national swing events across the Midwest, said the growing interest in swing dance is a nationwide phenomenon. “It’s a growing trend across the U.S.,” Miller said. “It’s prominent in California, in the Washington D.C. area, it’s picking up steam everywhere.” He said students from the University of Indiana, Purdue University, Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota, among others, have all attended Swing Dance America conventions and competitions. Miller credits artists such as Lady Gaga and Usher, who produce music that is “perfect for swing dancing,” with influencing the recent surge in popularity among younger people. Swing dance, which emerged in the 1920s and grew in popularity through the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, has seen several revivals, most notably in the late 1990s.
Paula Cohen, University of Florida sophomore and president of the Florida Swing Dancing Club, said even if the dance style was popular decades ago, it remains relatable to young people today. 
“It has its historic roots, but this isn’t something old people do,” she said. “It’s very lively and energetic.”
On the other hand, Andy Bouman, director of Boogie by the Bay, an annual swing event in the San Francisco Bay Area, said that the historic qualities of the dance are a part of swing’s appeal. He explained that the dance’s vintage elements attract students who want a taste of something different.
“There are some people who are really into the historical aspects of swing,” he said. “They make a whole counterculture out of it.”
University of Florida senior Jim Milligan dances for more than swing’s iconic style. He said it’s the social interaction and intimacy between partners that drew him to swing dance.
“I’ll have a three minute conversation with my partner without saying a word,” he said.

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