Swing Dance Club at Cal State Fullerton gives students a snippet of jazz

In Arts & Entertainment, Dance, Lifestyle
(Sarah El-Mahmoud / Daily Titan File Photo)

Rogelio Negrete, president of the Swing Dance Club at Cal State Fullerton, has a special place in his heart for the LindyGroove ballroom in Pasadena. 

Negrete has been swing dancing for three years. The dance style is in the middle of a revival as dancers from generation to generation collaborate to create new events.

Lindy Hop is still one of the most popular styles of swing dancing today and is taught by the Swing Dance Club along with Charleston, balboa and blues.

“Every person that I dance with has a different personality, a different character and just a different style of dancing,” said Damaris Chavez, the treasurer for Swing Dance Club. “It always keeps you on your feet.

The consensus among the swing dancers is that the dance itself is like a conversation between two people. Chavez said that when you’re talking to someone, you don’t really know what they’re going to end their sentence with, but when they do, you’re able to communicate something back.       

Swing dancing is an opportunity to meet new people from all over the world, almost like speaking another language. Dancers are able to communicate through song and their love of dance.      

“There are some moments where I had dances and we just clicked really well,” Negrete said. “I just would love to keep dancing with them to the point where you have a dancing crush. It happens. It’s real.     

Many people now have a hard time finding swing events, including Negrete who was introduced to it by a stranger.     

“It’s like a hidden community. But once you find the community you can see how widespread it is,” Negrete said.

This semester, the Swing Dance Club is teaming up with Joy Lambert, a reference and instruction librarian at Pollak Library, to host a speakeasy event April 10 during Jazz Appreciation Month.       

Speakeasies originated in the 1920s during Prohibition, when alcohol was illegal. Lambert said they were like secret clubs with alcohol, where people would have to know where to go and need a password to get in.      

“We were joking around about a not-so-secret speakeasy. Where there will be no booze,” Lambert said.     

The event will also feature guest speaker Bill Cunliffe, a jazz pianist, Grammy Award-winning arranger and CSUF professor, along with a live set performed by a few of his students.        

“Jazz is a uniquely American art form. It’s part of our history,” Lambert said. “(The speakeasy) might really open their eyes or their ears to that kind of music.”       

Lambert has been swing dancing since 1996.        

“Back then there were a lot of places to go dancing. I was 17 when I started, so I couldn’t go to the Derby in L.A., but there were several places in Orange County including Disneyland,” Lambert said.       

The Catalina Casino ballroom is the best place Lambert said she has ever danced. That was the ballroom where she met and danced with Frankie Manning, one of the credited creators of a style of swing called Lindy Hop.

Lambert described Manning as everything she imagined the swing dancer would be, incredibly nice and an amazing lead.

“It was like dancing with history,” Lambert said.

The swing community has a wide range of dancers, ranging from children to senior citizens.       

“I love this dance and a lot of people tell me it’s really strange for young people to be in to it. In today’s age, it allows you to socialize with people that you wouldn’t normally socialize with,” Chavez said.       

Despite the social opportunities that swing offers, its popularity has fluctuated, but not at CSUF.       

“As long as there’s a stalwart group of people, then new people are always going to find it,” Lambert said. “There’s a certain nostalgia for things like that, even for people like us that obviously weren’t alive in the 1940s.”

The club teaches workshops every Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Kinesiology Building Room 202.

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