Mill Avenue welcomed its newest attraction last week to the tune of big band.
The Swing Lounge, a weekly event occurring every Thursday night from 7 p.m. to midnight, features swing dancing lessons inside the historic Tempe Woman’s Club building across from ASU Gammage. Unlike multiple attractions in Tempe’s popular nightlife area, The Swing Lounge is open to all ages, and admission is just $5 with a student ID. Admission is $8 for adults.
Different swing dances are taught such as the Charleston, Balboa, East Coast and Lindy. Each Thursday night starts with dancing lessons for an hour and a half, followed by social dancing until midnight.
For those who want to swing dance but have no prior experience, fear not. Co-founder Steve Conrad, accompanied by Becky Lee Walters, teaches attendees to grasp basic swing dancing skills in a relatively easy fashion. Conrad is also executive director of the Arizona Lindy Hop Society and an internationally recognized dancer.
While Conrad has taught at a variety of locations throughout the Valley, the ASU alumnus was motivated to bring the pleasure of swing dancing close to campus. He participated in swing dancing as a student and taught others the impressive footwork behind the 75-year-old form of dance.
“Our opening night was great, and we expect it will just get better,” he said. “The Tempe Woman’s Club is a perfect place to have a dance because it is an old historic building with great, slick floors, and it just has that vintage vibe to it.”
Due to the proximity of the event to the ASU Tempe campus, the opening night on Valentine’s Day consisted of about 70 ASU students in the 100-plus crowd. All attendees were treated to a chocolate fountain, five hours of dancing and tunes spun by lively DJs. Conrad said that future Thursday nights will include live local bands as well.
Conrad said the four techniques of swing dancing taught at The Swing Lounge are infused with a blend of nostalgia and technology. Big band music, such as New Orleans and swing & blues, is played as dancers practice their newfound skills along with a big screen displaying swing dance videos.
One of the musical genres, electro swing, particularly invigorates the vintage form of dance. Electro swing takes big band music and remixes it, producing a unique blend of an older musical style and modern electronic beats.
Before thoughts of alcoholic beverage consumption take hold of stressed out students, attending a classy evening at The Swing Lounge would be a worthwhile alternative to celebrate the beginning of the weekend.
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