Thursday, October 30, 2008

80-Year Old Culture Helps Form Modern Day Community

Tiffany Heuser dancing with at Atlanta's Fox Theater with Paul Hoke of UpstateSwing.comScanning across the globe is a tight-knit community lying just below the surface of everyday society. Many individuals in this group are quick to call themselves "addicted" or "obsessed" and may spend every spare moment and every spare dime on their hobby. What brings these people together? An 80-year-old form of dancing that is commonly known as swing.

Anne Marie Martin, a novice swing dancer who has been at it for less than a month, has already made new friends. She went to the swing dance at Greenville's Handlebar, where she joined a dozen others to learn the basic steps of swing. Martin, like many, joined the dance scene "because I knew people who have a lot of fun doing it and I thought it would be a great way to meet new people."

Paul Hoke of is the instructor and DJ at the Handlebar swing dances. In fact, if there is something swing going on in the upstate, chances are he is behind it. A little over 10 years ago, Hoke decided to try his hand—foot?--at swing because he though of it as a "sophisticated sport" which required a more in-depth though process. The dance is actually a little more silly that sophisticated and involves less thinking and more doing. After three months of learning, Hoke began to host swing dances at which the then-beginner taught the lessons.

A lot of men are reluctant to get on the dance floor with many an excuse to backup their hesitation. However, one of Hoke's favorite things about the swing scene is seeing these men who only attended because their girlfriend forced them and "have them walk away realizing that it's actually fun."

Mike Westervelt, a goofy, fun-loving Clemson student, is another person who started swing dancing as a way to meet people. That was a year ago. Today he is President of the Clemson Lindy Hoppers and seriously addicted. He travels throughout the Southeast to dance with lindy hoppers from other cities and to learn from nationally recognized swing dancers. Just this past summer, Westervelt and Hoke (and this writer!) trekked up to Raleigh, NC to learn from Nick Williams, the 2005 World Lindy Hop Champion.

What's the best part? For many dancers, it's the swing community. "When you travel places and meet other people who are into dancing as well, you have this common bond," and, Westervelt adds, "you have an instant group of friends."

♥, TiffanyAnne

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