SOL Fest is a two-day swing dance festival that will be taking place this weekend, Feb. 29 to Mar. 1. Regardless of any confusion surrounding the name of this event, dancers from St. Olaf and the surrounding region and instructors from across the United States will again come out en masse this weekend to participate in the festival.
SOL Fest begins Friday with St. Olaf's annual spring swing dance in the Pause. After three hours of invigorating dancing to swing music provided by the St. Olaf Jazz Bands, over a hundred dancers from other colleges -- including University of Northern Iowa, Bethel College, University of Minnesota, Grinnell College, and University of Iowa -- and the Twin Cities area will crash for a few much needed hours of sleep.
On Saturday, instructors from across the country will offer workshops in Lindy Hop (the swing staple here at St. Olaf), Balboa, Charleston and blues dancing. The weekend will be topped off with a Saturday night swing dance held at the Grand, with live music provided by The Shamen, an outstanding jazz quartet composed entirely of St. Olaf musicians.
Although SOL Fest may seem intriguing, most Oles will be shocked to hear that over a hundred dancers would come from the Twin Cities and other schools to dance at St. Olaf. After all, what makes this campus so special? We don't even have enough wood floors to dance on! The answer to this question depends on the dancer. Some Cities dancers come because of the music, while others like dancing on the Pause floor. Many dancers know that the three sets of instructors will provide outstanding workshops.
Charles DeBeck '09 started dancing because his friends do so and, in his words, "It looks freaking sweet!" DeBeck sees the event as a chance to enjoy good music and meet new people. However, the one thing these dancers have in common is related to the mistake I made last year in thinking the event was called "Soul Fest."
I admit my mistake in calling SOL Fest "Soul Fest" not to embarrass myself by informing the world of my ignorance, but because there was a bit of truth in my error. With the second annual SOL Fest rapidly approaching, the memory of my initial blunder has brought me to an epiphany. The thing at the center of swing is soul.
Amanda Klem '10 said this is part of the reason she dances. "It's an expression of the soul," she said. "Like writing or painting, dancing is an art form that when you truly feel the music and the connection between you and your partner, it's felt by others, whether they're dancing with you or even watching." The music and the dance bring to us complementary feelings of unity and uniqueness, the sense that we are interdependent yet self-sufficient.
Through swing dance, we discover our souls and those of the people around us, and we are strengthened in our individuality and commonality. "[Dancing] has made me more in tune with my soul and emotions," Klem said. "[It] is a way for people to express their souls. The connection felt between two people when dancing is passionate and irreplaceable."
Lindsey Heiller '09 puts it more simply: "I dance because it makes me extremely happy. It's like being in love." This is the beauty of swing dancing -- this is what I invite you to discover for yourself.
For more information on SOL Fest and swing dancing at St. Olaf, go to http://www.stolaf.edu/orgs/swingclub/home.html or email SOLFest@stolaf.edu or email@example.com.