The night began with an East Coast Swing lesson at 8:30 p.m., taught by Swing Dance Club President Lauren Cassat '07 and Officer Charlie Hoffman '08, so that even students who had never danced before could learn a few basic steps to practice during the dance.
Almost from the beginning of the dance at 9 p.m. until its midnight finish, the Pause was full of bodies perfecting their moves and meeting partners, or watching from the tables and railings. While sneakers and jeans were perfectly acceptable attire, many dancers donned their best retro-inspired dresses, dancing shoes, hats and suspenders.
Among the current Oles danced alumni and visitors from Northfield, Carleton College, Bethel College and the University of Northern Iowa. "It was really exciting to have people outside of Olaf come," Cassat said. It just goes to show that Olaf has become established as a place for swing dancing people actually talk about the Northfield scene.
Unfortunately, the turn-out was so positive Cassat estimated a showing of 350-400 people -- that it became a negative at times. Dancers adapted their moves to the little space available but often collided with each other.
Jazz I, II and III provided the music, and some songs featured Ole soloists, whose classic crooning added an old-time flavor to the night. Changing singers created short but frequent breaks in the music.
A highlight of the night took place around 11 p.m., when Jazz III began the notes to "Sing, Sing, Sing" and the crowd gathered around the floor to open up the traditional jam circle. Veterans of the St. Olaf swing dances watched in anticipation or prepared themselves for performance while first-timers wondered what was in store. Dancers made a circle around the temporary wooden floor, clapping and cheering on the more experienced dancers, who took turns spontaneously taking center stage to show off advanced moves. Couples whirled around the circle in the Lindy Hop or Charleston, and leads threw their partners in the air, around their backs and under their legs. While not every move was perfect, the crowd was nonetheless impressed.
While Jazz III made way for Jazz I, dancers once again filled the floor for the Shim Sham, a swing line dance that evolved from a pre-tap dance warm-up done by vaudeville performers in the early 1900s. Students learned the Shim Sham choreography at Swing Club in the previous weeks, and many who didnt know or had forgotten the steps stood in and tried to follow along.
For those interested in swing dancing, the St. Olaf Swing Dance Club meets Wednesday nights from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. in Dittmann Studio One. Each meeting begins with a lesson, offered in both beginner and advanced levels, and no partner is necessary as partners are rotated. For the second half, the formal lesson stops and music plays for open dance. Whether you attend one lesson or the rest of the year, theres plenty of time to get ready for the Spring Swing Dance.