The Lawrence Swing Dancers last year at Bjorklunden, warming up to dance in 50 degree weather.
The Lawrence Swing Dancers last year at Bjorklunden, warming up to dance in 50 degree weather. (John Gale)
In the middle of another frozen Lawrence winter, the Lawrence Swing Dancers are heating up the dance floor with more interest than ever. When Dane Tice and Suzanne Butz founded the club in the fall of 1998, they didn’t imagine that in five short years, 260 Lawrentians would be on the mailing list to swing in Riverview each week.
Although attendance varies from week to week, seniors Eric Seidel and Martha Nelson teach the swing experience to an average of 40 students and faculty of all levels each week.
When asked why interest in swing has recently swelled on campus, Seidel speculated that while well-timed advertising may have helped, the main drive behind the club’s popularity is that they boast a simple and free way to mingle and have a great time.
Beginners are encouraged to show up early to meetings so that they can be trained for 15 minutes in swing basics. Then 30 minutes of intermediate and advanced instruction is given to all levels of dancers.
Open dancing follows the instruction.
Meetings generally last between an hour and a half and two hours, although dancers are free to come and go within this timeframe. At least four experienced dancers are on the floor at any given time to answer questions and offer further instruction.
Unlike more activist-driven clubs, Lawrence Swing Dancers have no set agenda except to dance and allow the members to have a good time. This laid back approach to membership no doubt adds to the appeal of the club itself.
Another appealing component of the club is its varied teaching style. Seidel attempts to integrate all major forms of swing into the club’s program in order both to accommodate dancers from different backgrounds and to broaden all of the dancers’ existing stylistic knowledge.
The club’s leaders teach both East and West Coast swing, as well as Lindy Hop swing. East Coast and Lindy Hop are taught primarily, as West Coast tends to be slower and less complicated.
East Coast swing is currently very popular in both colleges and high schools, and is the club’s focus, along with the big band swing style and the Lindy Hop‚ which is flashier, and was more popular before 1950.
Seidel said that integrating all styles allows those who are not as advanced to teach more advanced dancers and vice versa.
A comprehensive schedule of all Lawrence Swing Dancers meetings and dances can be found on their website,