Columbus, OH

Swing dance has a home in Columbus with local dance groups

The Lantern
Dancers from SwingColumbus do the Lindy Hop. The group hopes to educate participants on swing dancing and its history. Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Kilroy photography

Swing on over to some local dance groups to learn about Lindy Hop, a dance with historical and cultural ties.

SwingColumbus is a small, local swing dance group that mainly focuses on Lindy Hop, the grandfather of all types of swing dance. Swing Dance Club at Ohio State — which also focuses on Lindy Hop — offers students a chance to learn and dance on campus.

Swing is an umbrella term that encompasses several genres — like Charleston, Balboa, Blues, West Coast swing and East Coast swing — Shannon Varner, president of SwingColumbus, said.

SwingColumbus is dedicated to teaching others, and doing what they love, Varner said. SwingColumbus and the Swing Dance Club at Ohio State welcome members with all levels of experience.

“Our goals are just furthering the education of Lindy Hop in Columbus itself and providing a place for this music and dance to happen and to share that with more people,” Varner said.

Varner said SwingColumbus not only aims to teach others about Lindy Hop, but wishes to educate about the origins of the dance, which she said is rooted in African American culture. Varner said this education is important because the portrayal of swing dance in movies doesn’t reveal its true history because it’s mainly shown in white communities.

The Swing Dance Club at Ohio State strives to remember the history behind swing dancing and its connection to African American heritage, Rachel Berk, president of the Swing Dance Club and a third-year in food science and technology, said.

“It’s important to acknowledge because not acknowledging the past is hurtful in many ways,” Berk said.

For Varner and Berk, they said swing dance was something they picked up and stuck with after accompanying a friend at an event.

Both groups accept all levels of experience. Berk said students don’t need to have any background for the Swing Dance Club because there’s a lesson at the beginning of each gathering to teach the basic steps of Lindy Hop. Group dancing follows after the lesson is finished. The club also participates in dance events at the Rambling House every second Wednesday of the month, Berk said.

For those who already know how to swing dance, there are communities across the country, Varner said. Varner moved around to different cities and found a swing dance community wherever she went.

“I think swing is great because it translates to a lot of things, it can be in a bar, you can be at a community event, you can be outside, you can be inside. It all hinges on the music, having fun, responding and dancing with each other,” Varner said.

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