Swing dancing and Iowa are not commonly thought to go hand in hand. Yet later this week, the two will be inseparable. The Lindy Hop, Charleston, Shag and East Coast Swing will become part of the Iowa City vernacular, if only for a weekend filled with dancing and great swinging music.
The University of Iowa Swing Dance Club is hosting the third annual Hawkeye Swing Festival Thursday, April 10 through Sunday, April 13 at various locations across the UI campus, featuring swing bands and dancers from across the Midwest.
This three-day festival offers swing dancing classes for all levels, social dances with live music and disc jockeys that are free and open to the public and dancing contests for participating troupes, couples and individuals.
The past two years the UI Flying LindyHawks, the UI’s competitive swing dance team, has won the most prized competition, the Cutters Cup, and members hope to do the same this year.
“This year we are going to throw in everything we have,” said Erin Taylor, LindyHawks co-captain and UI senior majoring in dance and music and obtaining a certificate in entrepreneurship. “The teams that are coming in are going to be better than any we’ve seen, so it will be a fun challenge for us.”
More than 150 dancers from 15 schools across the Midwest have already registered to participate in the festival. Four teams have entered into the Cutters Cup, from Truman State University in Kirksville, MO; the University of Minnesota; Twin Cities Swingcapators in Minnesota; and the Flying Lindyhawks at the UI.
Two live bands will perform at the festival. Robert Bell’s Hot Swing Combo from the Twin Cities in Minnesota will play Friday and the Grand Marquis Swing Band from Kansas City will play on Saturday, both from 9 p.m. to midnight.
This year will also feature a performance by members of the National Champion Swing Dance Team, 23 Skidoo.
Michael Brafford, UI Lindyhawks choreographer and founder of the Swing Dance Club, resurrected the Swing Club in the spring of 2005 and began work on the festival in the fall of 2005. The idea for the festival came even before he was enrolled at the UI, after attending similar events in other cities. He wanted to bring that same experience to Iowa.
“Nobody else in the state was doing anything like this,” said Brafford. “The festival celebrates our history by preserving the dance and music while also recreating the atmosphere of the ballrooms in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.
The weekend will begin with a social dance on Thursday in the Currier Multi Purpose Room, free for all UI college students and surrounding high school students. Dance competitions will take place on both Friday and Saturday and classes will begin on Saturday and continue through Sunday.
Beginning, intermediate and advanced classes take place at various buildings on the UI campus and cover a broad array of classic swing dances like the lindy hop, jitterbug and Charleston. Classes will also offer expert knowledge on “dips and tricks,” “random tandem,” “blues vocabulary” and “fancy footwork.”
An optional challenge class offers the highest level of swing dancing, open only to couples who really know their dance moves.
Sunday night the festival extends to Des Moines where the Grand Marquis will perform one final time at 8 p.m. at Vaudeville Mews, a venue featuring music, theatre and film in Des Moines. The cost of this performance is $6 and is not included in the festival packages.
“This is the biggest swing dance event of the year,” said Chris Dunlay, vice president of the UI Swing Club and a fourth year pre-medicine and chemistry student. “The Swing Festival is the best opportunity we have to dance and meet with lindy hoppers from around the region. I schedule everything around this weekend.”
All social dances are free for UI students and high school students. The cost of attending the festival, which includes all competitions and classes, is $40 for UI students; $105 for other students; and $130 for non-students. Dancers can purchase class packages as well as a la carte. Classes and packages are also available at the door, depending on availability.
This event is sponsored by the University of Iowa Student Government, KCCK-FM Jazz 88.3, KRUI, Z102.9-FM, Coca Cola, Flicker Creative, The Firefly Creative and Step Into Swing.
To register, visit http://www.hawkeyeswingfestival.com/. For more information or special accommodations to attend any festival activities, contact Michael Brafford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-490-1945 visit the Lindyhawks’ Web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiswing/.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500
MEDIA CONTACTS: Michael Braddford, UI Swing Club, email@example.com, 515-490-1945, or George McCrory, University News Services, 319-384-0012, firstname.lastname@example.org; Writer, Jenna Ely, and Video by Jay Knoll