For swing dance fans, the Minnesota Colleges Swing Festival, sponsored by the St. Olaf Swing Club and the Carleton Rugcutters, was just too big an event to miss.
"We were disappointed the festival was on Homecoming Weekend, but it was one of the only dates that fit with the instructors' schedules," said Lauren Cassat '07, president of St. Olaf's Swing Club. "And it turned out to work in our benefit. Some alumni contacted me when they heard about the festival - - there's not really an evening homecoming event for alumni. And not all students go to the football game."
Students who did go to the game, however, still had time to get ready for the Hurricane Benefit Dance, held Saturday night in the Carleton Great Space. Attendee donations raised over $400 for the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.
More than 150 students from at least 15 schools did the Charleston, the Lindy and the Shim Sham to Maux Hixon and the Doug Haining Quintet underneath the Great Space's arched windows and chandelier-like lighting.
The atmosphere was relaxed enough for beginners to dance alongside pros. "There are some people who have never Lindy danced before, and there are some people who are ridiculously good," Stephanie Rogers 07 said.
Oles and Carls alike enjoyed the festival. "It's really great to see such a good turnout - - it's encouraging to see this many people excited about dancing," Carleton student David Chin said. The weekend started with a Friday night DJ swing dance in Carleton's Sevy Tea Room. Professional dancers and instructors Peter Strom, Danielle Eley, Jason Zabinski and Karen Turman taught lessons Saturday afternoon.
Lessons were held for beginners and intermediate dancers. Lessons were divided into four sections: Basic Lindy Hop, Fun Moves and Tricks, Musicality/Creativity and Picking Up The Pace with Charleston.
Planning for the festival, funded by St. Olaf's Student Government Association (SGA), the Carleton Student Association and registration fees, began this summer. Swing Club and the Rugcutters advertised by sending e-mails, posting on web forums, distributing fliers and passing the word among friends.
Students carpooled to the festival from Iowa schools including the University of Iowa and Grinnell College. Others were from nearby schools such as the University of St. Thomas. Jeff Camozzi, a junior at Metro State University in the Twin Cities, described the Saturday night dance as a real community of swing.
All the festival activities were free for St. Olaf and Carleton students, an amazing deal according to Cassat. She estimated that students would normally spend $50 on such a festival.
Ole and Carl volunteers hosted visiting students for the weekend. Hosts were not obligated to entertain their guests, but many enjoyed meeting other dancers, and swapping stories about their college's swing clubs and swing events they've attended. Cassat was pleased with the outcome of the festival and hopes it will become a yearly event.
"It went smoothly," she said. "Everyone I talked to had a great time."