When Notre Dame junior Ruth Hughes visited the college activities lounge in her freshman year, she felt a little nervous about joining the Notre Dame Swing Dance Club. However, Hughes, the club’s current chairman, quickly learned that the community was very welcoming to newcomers and enthusiasts.
“Nobody ever made me feel judged even though I was such a shy, awkward freshman. I came and learned to dance, which is a miracle,” Hughes said. “I had never danced in any capacity when I joined, so it’s definitely for people looking to learn.”
The club holds classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Rockne Memorial and invites students of all levels to join. Attending a single lesson costs $5 until a dancer has attended four practices. After four practices, dancers no longer have to pay for sessions.
Saint Mary’s senior and club vice president Mary Coleman said the workouts are a combination of instruction and flexibility.
“To start each lesson, two of the most experienced members of the club will teach the skill we’re learning that night, and then we’ll move the lesson to social dancing, so that would be practicing the moves and [getting] to dance with each other,” Coleman said.
During lessons, the club focuses on four styles of swing dancing: East Coast, Lindy Hop, Blues and Charleston. Coleman said that while each style has its own unique twist, his favorite is Lindy Hop.
“Lindy is quick footwork and a bit more upbeat, and I like that aspect. I think it’s more exciting than East Coast, which is a bit more technical,” she said. On the other side of the spectrum, blues dancing is dancing to blues music, so it’s a totally different style and you have a bit more freedom.”
In addition to swing lessons, the club holds a biannual dance where people can come dance and have a good time even if they don’t regularly attend practices, Hughes said.
“A lot of people come to our events who already know how to dance, and they don’t feel like they have to come to a lesson and learn, so at the dances our community really comes together,” Hughes said.
As part of the club, members have the opportunity to participate in a variety of events that take place on campus and in the South Bend area. On Thursday night, the club will dance as part of the Collegiate Jazz Festival on campus near the Hagerty Cafe.
Coleman said she enjoyed her time with Swing Dance Club because she loves to dance.
“[It is] nice because you find people who really like to dance… and you have songs that you dance to with certain people, and that’s really great,” she said.
She also said the experience was relaxed and social.
“It’s a great way to meet people and because it’s social dancing, it’s not super awkward,” Coleman said.
Since swing dance styles have common characteristics that set her apart, Hughes said she hopes she can continue to use her skills beyond college.
“I really like having it in the back pocket,” Hughes said. “It would be so much fun to go somewhere and be able to dance with strangers.”