Swing Dance Club to host upstairs floor at Presidents' Ball

By Ty Konell | 2/1/18 1:17am

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GVL / Luke Holmes The Swing Dance Club met Dec. 3 for their second to last meeting before Christmas break.

Presidents' Ball is an exciting event for Grand Valley State University students. The planning of outfits, fancy dinners and night of dancing can provide the perfect way to unwind during a stressful semester. For the GVSU Swing Dance Club, the excitement is even higher as they are set to host the top floor of Presidents' Ball for the fourth year in a row.

For members of the club, or any GVSU students who are interested in swing dancing, having a dedicated space at Presidents' Ball may allow for a different energy and, of course, a different dance style.

“They (the members of the club) love it, and so do I," said Jessica Long, Swing Dance Club president. "The second floor has a very different feel from the first floor. Both are great, but I'm obviously partial to the swing dancing. We will have an amazing live jazz band performing, and the live music is energetic but not too loud where you can't talk with friends and socialize.”

The jazz band 501 Swing Street, an ensemble made up of GVSU students, will be performing at Presidents' Ball for the second time. Brenden Hoekstra, founder and trumpet player in the band, said the band has been able to grow in both its musical repertoire and its performance capabilities since last year’s Presidents' Ball.

“Last year, we had one set of music we could play, about nine songs," he said. "Since then, we have been able expand our repertoire to include as many as 33 songs, which is how many we are playing this weekend. Additionally, we are playing those charts and then new ones much cleaner and with more energy. We have learned what works and doesn't work for dancers, including how fast the songs are and what order the songs are played in.”

Hoekstra, who has been swing dancing for several years, said he felt honored to have a dedicated floor to swing dancing and to be able to play jazz there.

“This music and dance started in the early '30s, and by the '50s it had almost entirely died out," Hoekstra said. "The Neo-Swing Revival came in the '90s, which has started a process of recreation and preserving of America's greatest musical contribution. That is special.”

Moreover, Long said having the upstairs floor for swing dancing is exciting for club members but that anyone is invited to join regardless of skill level or membership in the club.

“Members of Swing Dance love that there is a place they can show the style of dance they've been learning to music they know,” Long said. “However, we welcome everyone to join us, member or not.”

She also said Presidents' Ball offers a place for club members to put what they practice every week into action and see what swing dancing has done for many members.

“As president, it's amazing to see the club continue to grow through the experiences we are able to participate in," Long said. "Presidents' Ball is a fantastic way to spotlight what we do and try to share the love of this dance to those interested in learning. The coolest part of being president is honestly seeing what the club and this dance can do for people. For many of us, it's our home away from home.”

Long said she believes the club continues to be invited to host the upstairs floor due to the unique energy it brings.

“I think swing continues to be invited to host the upstairs at Pres. Ball because of the atmosphere we create," Long explained. "Like I said, our floor has a very different feel than the first floor." 

Hoekstra said the unique energy is further heightened by the presence of a live band.

“Live music brings energy and spontaneity that is hard to mimic with recordings," he said. "As a musician, it is humbling to be the one that provides that energy. The (musician) gets to see what the dancers are doing and how they change as a result of the change in the music.”

Long said it is continuously exciting to see how much growth in attendance the upstairs floor at Presidents' Ball sees every year.

“Over the years, the floor has become busier and busier, so I hope to see many new faces this year,” Long said. “Come participate, come learn, come watch, come listen to the music—swing dance will be waiting for you.”

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