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Rutgers University Swing Dance Club appreciates unique style of movement

From West Coast Swing to Lindy Hop, the Rutgers University Swing Club danced the night away and participated in a variety of activities and competitions.

The club hosted “Winter Westie,” its largest event of the semester on Saturday, Dec. 5 at Trayes Hall in the Douglass Student Center.

The Swing Club teaches two forms of swing dance — West Coast Swing, a modern form of dance, and Lindy Hop, a dance style from the 1920s, said Gaby Talarico, vice president of the Swing Club and a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior. 

The event started with a beginner’s lesson, taught by a professional instructor and alumna Jacqueline Joyner, as well as Talarico and Jennifer Kafka, a graduate student in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

Participants were then invited to social dancing, where members danced casually with friends, Kafka said.

Swing dance is a street dance, rooted in improvisation and being social, said Alec Grant, president of the Swing Club and a School of Engineering junior.

“The practice on the dance floor is the most important practice to get, especially as a beginner,” he said.

The club hosted a west coast swing competition called “Jack and Jill,” where dancers are randomly paired with other dancers and rotate with songs after the social dance, Kafka said.

“Coffeehouse dances” are hosted throughout the semester at the Livingston Coffee House on certain Saturday nights that allow participants to social-dance to DJ’ed music for about five hours, Kafka said. Free bubble tea is also offered at these events.

The club meets weekly, and on a typical Monday, members will teach intermediate-level dancers for 45 minutes, followed by beginner lessons for the next 45 minutes, said Omaid Karimi, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. 

The meetings finish off with an hour-long social dance.

The club teaches two dances a semester from start to finish, Karimi said.

“These dances are West Coast Swing, which is danced to more contemporary and pop music, and Lindy Hop, which is danced to the classic swing music,” he said.

The origins of the club date back to 2009, when Kafka’s friend Brandon Rasmussen invited her to a Philadelphia event. She fell in love with the dance and started the club at the University as a first-year undergraduate student.

The club has a large support base, especially from alumni, Grant said.

“Our alumni base is very strong, so we have professional dancers come back and volunteer their time to teach these lessons,” he said. “We're really grateful for their consistent involvement.”

A large reason why she stayed at Rutgers for her doctorate degree was to be able to stay close to the club, Kafka said.

“I no longer hold a position on the e-board, but I help out any way I can. I am known as ‘Granny Swing’ with the club e-board, it's cute,” Kafka said.

Many other members can attest to the club’s close-knit community.

Anna Maria Hillman, secretary of the Swing Club and a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said her friend brought her to the club, and she immediately “got hooked” on the dance style.

“It is also one of the only types of exercise I can do, because I have had too many concussions,” Hillman said.

The club has allowed them to travel often. Grant travels to Princeton and Philadelphia weekly, and Karimi has attended large events in Boston, Grant and Karimi said.

“Every time, the energy and friendliness of everyone blows me away,” Karimi said. “In this year and a half, I've danced with people from all over the country and all over the world.”

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