Oberlin Blogs


June 20, 2011

Brandi Ferrebee ’10

When I got back from the events of Thursday-Monday of a week ago, I posted just one word as my Facebook status:


Many friends were amused, but there were also those that understood perfectly. It's a familiar feeling for them to wake up unsure of the time or place, their whole bodies aching and their head throbbing from dehydration. It's not from rampant alcoholism-- it's from swing dancing.

That weekend was All Balboa Weekend, an event that involves over 70 dance classes, a live jazz band, social dancing, and competitions. It takes place in a hotel outside of Cleveland, and is run by the lovely Valerie, founder of Get Hep Swing. I attended the classes, danced to the band with lots of friends and formerly-strangers-now-friends, and excitedly watched the competitions. I also helped to lay the 8,000 or so square feet of dance floor (it comes in wooden panels) before and after the event, since the hotel didn't have dance floors.

Four students in dresses with their hands on their knees

Here's a picture of me and my roommates from All Balboa Weekend this year! We didn't know each other beforehand, but now we're fast friends!

Mark, who works for Valerie and was one of my friends also attending/working at All-Bal, was my very first ever dance teacher. He and his friend Sarah taught the Beginning American Swing ExCo when I came to Oberlin. Having never taken the practically-obligatory-for-tiny-American-girls ballet class, I made it a year into college without any movement training. The class was hard for me. I stunk at learning dance and was constantly frustrated. I signed up for Continuing American Swing anyway, and was lucky to find classmates from Beginning to practice with that winter term. I grew more confident, pushed through Continuing, and fell head over heels in love with swing dance.

By this point, I've been swing dancing for 4 years. I've attended and hosted handfuls of these intense dance weekends. I've traveled to Cleveland more than a dozen times for dances. I've attended, DJed, and organized weekly dances at Oberlin for years. Last semester, my friend Stephen and I taught the first-ever Advanced Swing ExCo, complete with a meeting dedicated to me lecturing on swing history. (There were videos. Ask me about the insanity that is Cakewalking.) Swing dancing, much to my grandmother's surprise and delight, has become my main pastime, and has introduced me to dozens of people I might not have otherwise met at Oberlin and many others I wouldn't have met from Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and all over the world.

I've realized that all the theatricality, love of vintage clothing, and history nerdiness in me made me destined to be a swing dancer. It is the best possible channeling of my otherwise mildly socially unacceptable urges. I've also used it as an excuse to spend more time with friends... like when I helped yank Aries into swing, blues, and balboa dancing. (She wrote first, and most thoroughly, about swing on the blogs. I'd apologize, but her posts are fantastic and probably better than mine. Please read and enjoy.)

Here are some photos and a video (made for the class of 2015 by Ma'ayan, Stephen, and me!) for your viewing pleasure:

Two students partner dancing
This was my very first ever dance performance- the final for Beginning Swing. Credit Ma'ayan Plaut. (Also the first picture Ma'ayan ever took of me!)

Students doing a dip in partner dancing
And this is the final pose from my Continuing Swing final. Credit whoever took pictures with my camera that day.

Two students partner dance and look at a camera up above
Credit Fenna Blue.

Two people partner dancing in a crowd
Credit Nate Allen.

Two people partner dance with a black background
Credit Fenna Blue.

[Disclaimer: Dancing in this clip, done impromptu on wet, energy-absorbing ground in ill-fitting shoes, does not represent actual dance ability.]

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