Denver, CO

Swingin’ into summer: Cafe reopens dance hall after pandemic shutdown

Kathryn Bistodeau

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Dancers at the Mercury CafeKathryn Bistodeau

After fourteen months of distance, isolation, and loneliness, one Denver community is ready to celebrate.

On May 27, the Mercury Cafe reopened its doors to the city’s swing dancing. The Cafe has long been a home for swing, giving dancers a place to meet each other and practice their art. When the pandemic hit last year, swing was quick to be shut down, due to the up close and personal nature of partner dancing. Now it’s back with more energy than ever.

Open since 1975, and in their current Denver location since 1990, the cafe hosts everything from poetry open mics to Tibetan Meditation to tarot card readings, and draws loyal customers from all over the Denver area.

One of the many groups that finds community at the Mercury Cafe is swing dancers. On Thursdays, you can find mainly Lindy Hop, and Sundays bring a mix of swing styles and live jazz music featuring rotating local jazz bands.

Jeremy Mohney and his band were the first group to get back on the Mercury Cafe stage for swing night. They’ve been playing as a band for eight years, and individually at the Mercury Cafe for even longer than that.

In the last year, Mohney and the band used YouTube as a way to keep sharing their music, but they’re excited to transition back to live shows.

“It was great, I can’t really describe it.” Mohney said. “We got some pretty big applause breaks there. People were definitely happy to be dancing and dancing to a live band. It was really nice.”

The energy in the room was palpable- people were embracing friends they hadn’t seen in over a year. Dancers got to display their joy in a physical way, by spinning, jumping, and clapping to the rhythm of the band. The opportunity to chat with strangers and touch another human being wasn’t taken for granted. However, COVID-19 precautions weren't thrown to the wind: Every dancer had to show proof of vaccination in order to dance.

Mohney said this requirement helped the night feel like old times. “It makes a difference that everyone was vaccinated. It was pretty normal,” Mohney said.

Mercury Cafe owner and founder Marilyn Megenity released a statement on May 25 thanking the community for helping the Cafe through the last year.

“I’m so forever grateful for the community generosity that has sustained the Mercury these last 15 months,” the statement read. The support, Megenity wrote, “has landed the Mercury on what feels like solid ground.”

The Mercury Cafe will continue hosting swing nights every Thursday and Sunday.

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I love writing about the arts, politics and uncovering stories that have yet to be told. As a recent alumna from the University of Colorado Boulder, I'm excited to write about the community that was so amazing during my college years.

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