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Mizzou Swing draws dancers from around the country

Mizzou Swing Society is hosting its own conference in April.

This semester the Mizzou Swing Society is bringing two different kinds of iconic and energetic swing dance forms to MU: the East Coast Swing/Lindy Hop and the West Coast Swing.

The swing dancing style itself became popular in the early '20s and quickly evolved into many different styles.

The Lindy Hop grew out of the jazz era with its signature "swing out" move. The dance combines many styles of dance that were popular at the time such as tap, breakaway and the Charleston.

"East Coast Swing was derived from Lindy Hop in about the mid '50s to kind of fit more into a ballroom syllabus and a ballroom style," said Rob’yn Johnston, intermediate West Coast Swing instructor. "We combine the two because East Coast is a really nice way of getting people moving and getting the basics, and Lindy Hop is a little bit harder, so we use East Coast to transition into Lindy."

The West Coast Swing has roots in the Lindy Hop, but is fused with more styles of dance and can be applied to a wider range of music.

"Where Lindy Hop rotates, West Coast Swing is slotted so you can fit as many partners as you can on one floor," Johnston said. "It's really a historical artifact because Lindy Hop was danced in dance halls and West Coast Swing was danced in bars, so there was a lot less room and they had to fit people in."

The Mizzou Swing Society hosts a variety of events throughout the year including free lessons, social dances and daylong conventions.

Beginner lessons start at 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Mark Twain Ballroom on the second floor of Memorial Union. The lesson continues until the social dance at 8:30 p.m., which is then followed by a 30 minute intermediate lesson.

During the spring semester, Tuesdays are spent on the Lindy Hop and Thursdays on the West Coast Swing.

Intermediate lessons take place once a month on Sundays, and are meant for the more advanced dancers and cost the small fee of $5.

"A lot of people say, 'oh I have no coordination,' or 'I have no dancing skills.' You don't need to have any previous skills to do it," External Events Coordinator Maggie Sperkowski said. "It's fairly easy to pick up."

The lessons provide a casual environment where new and experienced dancers can intermingle. The instructors start with the basics and slowly add on additional steps, rotations and swing outs.

Additionally, the Swing Society hosts practices from 2-3:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Anyone can come in to work on the moves they learned that week and ask any questions they might have.

Dancers can travel to various out of town events, including social dances and all-day conferences.

"There's big conferences where they bring in professionals and they teach lessons all day and they have social dancing at night," Sperkowski said. "People, like, all over the country travel to these events."

Mizzou Swing will be hosting its own conference April 4 with six workshops taught by professional swing dance instructors Christian Frommelt and Jenny Shirar. The event will last all day with the first class starting at 9 a.m.

Each class builds on the one before, and the day ends with a social dance starting at 8 p.m.

"It's completely free to all students, (and) is actually taught by professional dancers," Internal Events Coordinator Conor Fagan said. "They teach all around the world, and they're coming here to give us free lessons."

The conference, Meet in the Middle, is expected to bring dancers from all over Missouri including St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Kirksville and more.

"All the information can be found on the Mizzou Swing Society Facebook group," Fagan said.

He said anyone can join.

"We're not professionals," Johnston said. "We go out, we learn, we take workshops, and then everything we learn we bring back to the club."

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Article comments

Feb. 24, 2015 at 11:58 a.m.

Tam Francis: I love all those dances and its fun to see them portrayed in movies and see the evolution. It's interesting how there's been a divide for years between Hoppers and Westies. How wonderful to bring those two groups together and bridge the gap. With the resurgence of "blues dancing," that gap has closed as well! Best of luck! ~Tam Francis~ www.girlinthejitterbugdress.com

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