All Abord the Swing Express

by / swing dance (0) in Features /
Swing Clubbers hit the stage for a crowd-pleasing showcase of hard work and talent (Jacob Dixon).

This past Friday evening, the Swing Dance Club took the stage for their first official performance in McCullough Social Space, lighting up the room with energy and dance moves. The show, featuring nearly 50 dancers with a wide range of experience, attracted a full house of students and community members. The club brought levity and laughter to the crowd, leaving the audience with impressed smiles and the repetition of, “I wanna swing dance!”

The pre-performance process began in December when the three co-directors shared a MiddRides shift. As Melanie Dennis ’14 drove the van, Eleni Polychroniadou ’14 and Tim Fraser ’16 alternated as driver’s assistants, using the time to brainstorm the show, which would take place a few months later. Through collaboration and hours upon hours of choreography, rehearsal and logistics, they pieced together The Swing Express.

When Polychroniadou and Dennis first joined the Swing Club their freshman fall, neither of them thought that they would be sitting in these seats, having just completed such a successful production.

“I never anticipated being a swing dancer,” Polychroniadou said. She decided to join the Swing Club her first semester after discovering swing dance in Greece just prior.  Polychroniadou said she “fell in love with the movement,” but felt that the dance community she had found in Greece was lacking on campus.

The club was small in 2010, with a core group of around ten people and not a strong sense of camaraderie. As she took over the club her freshman year, Polychroniadou worked to change the system to one that fostered stronger relationships. With the implementation of biweekly meetings, club dinners and a continual effort to reach out to the wider Middlebury community, the club began to progress.  Although Dennis has stepped down as president of the club this year, it is now run by Fraser, Dennis and Lindsey Hunt ’14, and flourishes as a community, welcoming one and all to come join the fun.

Last weekend’s show started to develop this January during the J-term Swing Workshop. The workshop advertised both the club and the performance and gathered a group of dancers that spanned across all departments and campus activities. Fraser explained that the show and club have provided a space for students from all sectors of campus to collaborate.

“That’s the best part about swing,” Polychroniadou added. “It brings anybody and everybody, people who think they can’t dance, people who think they can and people who would not have any other overlap.”

Through word of mouth and a fruitful workshop, the club collected nearly 50 students for their large-scale production.

Consisting of 14 routines, the swing show proved adaptable to various tunes and forms of footwork. From the ‘20s Charleston, to Jazz to Fusion dance, the three co-directors evenly split the choreography, with the exception of a few performers choreographing their own pieces. Part of the choreography included a handful of elementary school girls from Bridport. Dennis and Fraser, the pioneers of the elementary routine, visited the school in Bridport once a week for six weeks to teach the dance. Dennis said that they learned faster than they had expected, and even picked up difficult moves visually without having to be taught. The young girls’ routine proved to be one of the highlights of the evening, and one of Dennis’s favorite parts about putting on the show.

The Swing Club’s value on involvement with the wider Middlebury community was demonstrated by the donation of all of Friday night’s proceeds to the Charter House, Middlebury’s local homeless shelter. The tie came from Polychroniadou’s decision to fuse dance with The Charter House’s need for a fundraiser. With a nearly sold out show, Polychroniadou proudly stated an estimation of $1,500 in donations. Fraser explained that looking forward, they hope to continue community engagement through frequent visits to local nursing homes, participation in Puppets for Education, (a Burlington based non-profit) and further investment in local schools.

So, what’s in the near future for Swing Club?  For starters, come one and all to McCullough on Monday and Wednesday nights at 7:30; Mondays for lessons, Wednesdays for free dance.  Then, make sure you don’t miss the first ever “Swing Fest,” May 2-4.  If you like to dance, and even if you don’t, this is another Swing Club event you simply cannot miss.