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Swing Dancing > "Real World"

March 8, 2009

Aries Indenbaum ’09

I never bought any of that "greatest years of your life" crap in high school. Sadly, it seems that sentiment might be valid as far as college is concerned.

This terrifying thought struck me last weekend at a Mardi Gras party at French Language House. It wasn't a great party. The venue was too small and didn't have the best acoustics. Still, it was $2 to see an amazing New Orleans-style jazz band ... with beads, tasty king cake and masks. While dancing, I realized it wouldn't be this easy in the "real world." Music wouldn't be ubiquitous; conservatory players would be hot, expensive commodities. Friends would be harder to access, communities harder to join.

In fear of the real world, I resolved to do as many excited, ridiculous things as I can this semester. Especially new things. Like swing dancing.

This weekend I spent a majority of my time at OJDF - Oberlin Jazz Dance Festival. All in all, I took five classes and attended four dances. The classes were perfect: equal follow-lead ratio, strong teaching, good dancers. Very few folks were raw beginners, but we all needed a bit of help, so we could all teach each other. It takes me a long time to learn anything dance-related, so my ability to pick up lindy hop, charleston, Suzie Q's, turns and swivels was surprising.

The Saturday night formal dance was incredible. Obies don't get gussied up all that often, but when they do, it's a sight to be seen. I can still see the shimmer of Ploy's red silk dress ruffling in the hot air. We destroyed that gym floor - the floorboards rattled when the whole crowd danced. The festival hosted two competitions, one individual and one for couples. Competitors weren't only Obies - a few pros entered in, as well as some folks from Kalamazoo who visited for the weekend. It was incredibly well run and the collective skill level was amazing.

I'd always liked swing, both participating and watching. In my first year, I took the Swing Dance Exco but I didn't keep up afterwards after busting up my ankle. Freshman year was a long, long time ago, so I thought I'd lost it all. But this weekend, a lot came back, and I found it pretty easy to pick things up. I've still got a long way to go to feel proficient or be a tolerable follow, but this weekend was so energizing and inspiring. I want to do it. OSwing organizes a jazz dance every 2 weeks, and does a smaller jam each week, as well as blues dancing.


And sometimes, they just do ridiculous stuff... Example: Brett and Haley.

Two people mid-dance
Normal dancing


The same people mid-dance, holding hands but facing away from eachother
Preparing for something?

The man is propelling the girl into the air
Hot damn.


the man is mid-jump
So much air!


The man is holding the woman who's legs are in the air

(Photo credits: Ma'ayan "Freakin' Awesome" Plaut)

The attitude of Swing, like Contra, is super-social. I must insist on the superiority of contra for friend-making, due to its inherent silliness, but swing is a social dance. I feel as if I understand my friends I've danced with... in a different way. Sometimes, even watching them dance is enough to get a bigger view of them. When some people dance, they drop their guard. They laugh, they smile, they sweat, they mess up and keep going.

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