WORDS: Taylor Basso
IMAGES: Nathan Lee
Dance crazes come and go, but swing dance has stood the test of time. The roots of swing date back to the 1920s. Dances like the Lindy Hop and the Big Apple originated in African-American communities from Harlem to the Carolinas. Now Winnipeg’s culture vultures can hit the Ted Motyka Dance Studio on September 30th for Saturday Swing Dance, one of the city’s hundreds of Culture Days events. With so much art, music and culture competing for our attention, how has this form of dance endured to attract curious newcomers and build a thriving multicultural community?
Nathan Lee fell into swing dance by accident. The former president of his university’s gaming club, he happened to set up a table next to the swing dance club during orientation week. Nathan ended up joining the swing dance club, one thing led to another, and a decade later Nathan loves the music so much that he hosts a swing radio show on Sunday evenings on 101.5 FM/UMFM.com, and has become a big part of the Winnipeg swing dance community. “Swing dancers have a culture all their own,” says Nathan who organizes dances and teaches for Saturday Swing Out on a weekly basis.
A passionate, volunteer-driven community has grown over the years drawing upwards of 80 dancers a week who range in age from 16 to 70. Nathan is proud to have become the group’s unofficial leader, if only because he’s always “the one who hauled out the sound equipment every time.” Three years ago the dancers moved from the Royal Canadian Legion to the Ted Motyka Dance Studio.
If you want to see what all the fuss is about, Nathan invites you to stop by the studio for Saturday Swing Dance on September 30th to get your heartrate pumping and have some fun. “I cannot even imagine what my life would be like without dance,” says Nathan. “It helped bring me out of my shy introverted shell. I've met so many wonderful people and formed long-lasting friendships. I wouldn't be who I am without it.” Not only is it great exercise, you might even make a connection that lasts a lifetime – Nathan knows of at least four couples who met and got married through Winnipeg’s swing dance scene.
With all those upsides, it’s easy to see how people have been “sugar pushing” and “side passing” (both swing dance moves) around the world for almost a century. It’s a great way to experience music and dance, get moving, and build new friendships. “Our human nature drives us to have communal and shared experiences… culture and community are what make life worth living.” To learn more about Saturday Swing Out, visit: www.swingout.ca.
Saturday Swing Dance at Ted Motyka Dance Studio takes place September 30th in Winnipeg. Beginner lesson at 8pm, music at 9pm. No experience or partner necessary. Please bring a pair of clean non-marking indoor shoes (preferably no heel, low grip) or you can dance in socks. A water bottle and small towel are also recommended.
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