|ISU students participate in swing dancing community|
|Written by Kristen Bahler, Daily Vidette Reporter|
|Monday, 20 April 2009 18:00|
A few years ago, Sarah Whalen went to her high school's homecoming and witnessed a group of classmates swing dancing while the rest of the student body looked on.
Intrigued by the decision of her fellow students to break the typical "high school dance" mold of slow dancing, Whalen decided to take a swing class in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois. She has been hooked ever since.
"I'm not the type of person that can think of moves off the top of my head," Whalen said. "With swing, I can learn an actual move. Swing dancing is a whole part of our history . it's cool to look back to past decades to see how things were different. It's also great exercise and you can meet some really great people. Once you get into a swing dance community . you just want to start learning about it. It's a whole different world of dance."
Whalen met one of Rockford's swing dance regulars, Mary Sturm, a close friend that Whalen said has been ballroom dancing since she was eight years old. When the two girls realized they were both going to ISU, they decided to start their own swing dance community, this time in Redbird Country.
"We teach lessons every week on Tuesday nights in the Bowling and Billiards Center," Whalen said. "It's a half-hour lesson from 8:30 to 9, and then from 9 to 10:30 we have an open dance where everyone can practice what they have learned so far."
Kari Kaaihue, a senior environmental health major who also got her start in swing dancing in Rockford, is the group's vice president.
"It's a great way to meet new people." Kaaihue said of her preferred pastime. "Sometimes at school I need a break from studying. Going there on Tuesday nights is a nice way to take a break and visit with friends or just hang out for a while."
According to Whalen, most of the students who participate in swing dance at ISU use it as a means of escape and surprisingly, Whalen and Sturm have gotten equal interest from both sexes.
"For a school that is mostly [comprised of] girls, there is a lot of guys that come," she said. "We have a lot of weeks where there are more guys than girls even. It's completely free and you don't have to bring a partner . we make everyone form a circle and make the girls rotate every couple of minutes so everyone can dance with someone new."
Whalen added that a person doesn't have to be a "Hairspray" or "Dancing with the Stars" fanatic to enjoy swing dancing.
"Stress is probably why most people show up," she said. "A lot of grad students come because they need a break from studying, [but] once you start coming, you fall in love with it. Swing is a type of dance you can apply to a lot of different music. We've got about 20 to 25 people that come each week and we always seem to have new people each week as well."
Neither Whalen nor Kaaihue had any dance experience before becoming involved with swing and both girls said that having two left feet should not stop a person from giving swing dancing a try.
"You don't need dance experience to do swing," Whalen said. "We teach the basics . we get them started off the right way so they can continue to learn."
"People who don't know about it may get a little bit intimidated or think, 'it's too complicated for me, I can't do that,' but no one is too uncoordinated to try swing," Kaaihue said.
"I had no music or dancing skills [before starting swing dancing] whatsoever, and now I've been doing it for almost nine years. It's all about having fun. Even if you're the most terrible dancer in the world . don't be scared, just try it," she added.