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Swing dance instructor, Brianne Szymanski (Right) demonstrates a dance with Levi Leslie (Left) to the Jitterbug Club in preparation for the Roaring 20s night at Casa Nueva, in Baker 242 on Wed. Jan. 15th, 2020.

Jitterbug Club brings swing to Casa

The new year marks the beginning of the 2020s -- but in the wise words of Duke Ellington, “it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” 

Ohio University’s Jitterbug Club breaks in the new decade with a night of swing dancing at Casa Nueva Restaurant & Cantina, 6 W. State St., on Saturday. The night will feature live music by Tuxedo Junction, a sextet from Dayton.

Roaring 20s Night is the first event of its kind the group has ever had, Rebecca Willard, president of the Jitterbug Club, said.

Willard, a fifth-year student studying history, joined the Jitterbug Club her freshman year. 

“I don’t know what drew me but it stuck,” Willard said. 

To Willard, Jitterbug Club is a niche club that has been around for about ‘20 years. The club’s size has fluctuated slightly over the years, but it’s never been a very large one. 

For Willard, the Jitterbug Club is all about embracing the fun of swing dancing. Swing dancing was a popular style of dance that became popularized in the 1930s and faded in the 1950s. To Willard, swing dancing is like any 80s Night at Casa.

“It’s a social dance and you’re here to enjoy it,” Willard said. “You dance to have a good time with someone.”

Swing dancing is an improvised style of dance. Dancers learn the basic steps and footwork of swing dancing to gain more experience that inevitably leads to improvising their own moves.

Willard finds that the heart of swing dancing is in partnership.

“It’s mostly about partner connection,” Willard said. “You get the moves down after a couple classes, but it’s about how to connect with a partner.”

Willard described the connection between two dancers as “elastic.”

“The connection -- it’s like a thick rubber band,” Willard said. “It’s a tension. It’s a give-and-take. The leader pushes you a certain way and you follow.” 

Willard finds a beauty in these connections. She herself has danced with people of all types -- even people who don’t speak English.

“You don’t have to talk -- you just need to know the basic steps,” Willard said. “You don’t have to speak to know what’s going on.” 

A lot of trust goes into a partner, Emma Stefanick, PR director of the Jitterbug Club, explained. To Stefanick, dancers have to have confidence that the lead won’t run them into a wall. 

Stefanick, a freshman studying journalism, finds that swing dancing is a fun and fulfilling way to get outside of her comfort zone. 

“It’s very confidence-building,” Stefanick said. “People get in your personal space. Once you get it down, you really feel like you’ve accomplished something.”

The Jitterbug Club practices Wednesday nights in Baker Center 240. Practices start at 7 p.m. with a lesson and the social dance begins at 8 p.m. The first three lessons are free.

Stefanick encourages people who might be interested to join. Though learning dance might sound intimidating to some, many experienced members are eager to share their knowledge. 

“You don’t need experience or a background in dancing to join,” Stefanick said. “You’ll fit in.” 

The Jitterbug Club is an outlet for dancers that is easy to join and enjoy, Kayla McGinnis, treasurer of the Jitterbug Club, said.

McGinnis, a junior studying English, had an interest in dance coming to college. She found the Jitterbug Club during Welcome Weekend at the Involvement Fair her freshman year. 

McGinnis believes most dance clubs on campus are more competitive and require auditions. She liked that the Jitterbug Club encourages people of all levels of experience. 

McGinnis said the most challenging part of joining the club was learning to form that connection with a partner. She had never danced like that before. 

“You have to put your faith in someone else,” McGinnis said. “That’s the hardest part -- it’s getting out of your comfort zone.”

McGinnis finds that even a brief partnership is rewarding. 

“(Dancing) is a beautiful experience that you (can) share with someone you don’t know,” McGinnis said. “It brings people together of all backgrounds to form a genuine connection.”


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