Flapper dresses for girls, suits for boys, the Lindy Hop, a dance floor, and big band jazz music; all of the essentials for a swing dance. Some people may think this dance is out of date, but two students from the State University of New York at New Paltz disagree and are bringing it back.
Alvin Arnold, a third-year education major, and Jill Exman, a third-year environmental and organizational biology major, brought swing dancing to SUNY New Paltz this fall semester in the form of the New Paltz Swing Dance Club. The club’s main goal is to build a local swing dancing community.
Swing dancing is a style of partner dance, popularized in the 1920s and 1930s, usually done to big band music. It’s a lead-follow dance, which means that one partner indicates the moves and the other person follows it.
Most swing dancing is done to big band jazz music, like that of Glenn Miller. According to Arnold, however, there are a variety of genres of music that one can swing to, such as Queen, bands that play hip hop swing, and even country songs.
“I like to call it ‘danceability,” he said. He also explained that pushing the boundaries of music you dance to, makes you a better dancer.
In previous years, Exman, Arnold and their friends would go to Vassar College to dance. With the addition of the Swing Dance Club on campus they will no longer have to drive to Poughkeepsie to do the Lindy Hop.
Starting on Friday, Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m., swing dancing will be brought to the dance studio in the Wellness & Recreation Center on the SUNY New Paltz campus. At the beginning of each meeting there will always be a “Basics of Swing” lesson for at least an hour; after that they will have social dancing until 9 p.m. “The best way to learn is to dance,” Exman said.
According to Arnold, the club will be a great place for people to meet and socialize with good people. Unlike in the ’20s and ’30s, however, club members will be allowed to wear whatever they want to dance in.
As of right now, the club does not receive funding from the school, but Arnold and Exman have big plans if they eventually become a funded organization. They would like to do a performance at least once a year on campus, collaborate with other dance groups on campus, and host joint events with other schools like Vassar and Marist. They would also like to sponsor a yearly dance where everyone dresses in traditional ’20s gear with a live big band, among other events which will help make the Hudson Valley swing community bigger.
Since they are a brand new club, they are focusing on building their members and having as much fun as possible for now. “I just like to dance to upbeat music and express happiness,” Arnold said.