Laughter and chatter uniting strangers. Couples dancing side by side. This semester if you are interested in trying something new and exciting and want to meet new people, the Concordia Swing Society (CSS) has the solution. Why don’t you swing by the Mezzanine in the Hall Building on Mondays from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for free swing dance lessons? Whether you are a beginner or a pro, the CSS wants to enable all levels of swing dancers to enjoy themselves.
Begun in 1999, the CSS was the brainchild of Belinda Roth whose love for swing dancing led to the formation of the club. Getting her husband Ryan involved, Roth was able to bring the beauty of the dance to her fellow Concordia students.
Ian Bartczak, a music student, is the head teacher and the current acting president of the CSS. Last year, he says about 30 people would show up for the CSS’s free swing dance lessons in the Hall Building. This year he hopes to see a bigger number.
Having taught swing for four years, he encourages interested people to give swing dancing a try.
“It’s dynamic [and] social,” he says. “Everyone smiles. A lot of people [are in it] for exercise, for friends.”
There are many types of swing, explains Bartczak. The lindy hop, the east coast swing, the west coast swing, the jive and the Charleston are the most popular types in Montreal. While his specialty is the east coast swing, he teaches the lindy hop. The original swing dance is the lindy hop, known as the jitterbug and swing as a type of dance can be traced all the way back to the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem in 1926. It is a fun dance that not only ensures a good work out, but also a good time as well.
“I find swing is expressive,” he says. “I teach the swing that’s more fast. You can put tons of energy in it [and] be more laid back.”
When it comes to his own reasons for dancing, however, Bartczak has quite a few.
“I like to dance. I like to see people dance. I feel good when people are getting [the hang of] it.”
This past summer, Bartczak hosted “Swing Dance in the Park,” a free swing dance session held each Sunday on the gazebo of Mount Royal, which was quite successful.
Caia Miller is one of the people who came by “Swing Dance in the Park” and enjoyed herself. The french studies student at Universit de Montral has been taking swing dance lessons at a swing club called Cat’s Corner since last November. Not only does she enjoy swing dancing but she also finds the people to be extremely friendly.
“It’s a lot of fun. [It] sounds lame, but it’s true,” she says. “When you first start, it’s easy to pick up. Basic swing is easy to learn.”
Her male counterpart Jacques Le Normand agrees. The 19-year-old computer science student at Concordia has been swing dancing for about two years and got introduced to the dance when he was bored one day and his friend suggested going to a swing club. After his sister expressed her desire to take swing lessons, he agreed to go with her, and his swing dance experience grew from there.
“What’s fun about swing is not the dancing but the socializing,” says Le Normand. “I spend more than three-fourths of my time talking on the dance floor. You meet interesting people.”
Having attended some of the CSS swing dance lessons during his first year at Concordia, he decided to come out to the “Swing Dance in the Park” sessions. In his opinion, swing dancing is more social than other dances such as salsa.
Ultimately, Le Normand recommends that people give swing dancing a try. “It’s a great way to let loose,” he says. “[If] you’re in one of those moods to go out, but you don’t want to go to a bar or club and you want to talk, you go to a swing place.”
If you are interested in taking advantage of the free swing dance lessons offered by the Concordia Swing Society and have a question, you can e-mail Ian Bartczak at email@example.com