5 things to know about Gem City Swing's dance lessons

Alright, guys and dolls – time to get on the dance floor and show what you got! 

Several Daytonians have established a relatively new group called Gem City Swing. For those who don’t know or aren’t quite aware of what swing dancing is, it’s any dance style traditionally done to the swing style of jazz music. Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing, Balboa and the celebrated Charleston have all become staples of the genre.

Just over six years ago, while still attending high school, Gem City Swing’s President James Benze learned of swing after “a pretty girl asked him to a dance.” He didn’t fully develop the idea of a swing dancing group until taking part in a University of Dayton club. 

For the board members of Gem City Swing, their goal is to “promote the education and enjoyment of the assorted swing dances in Dayton, Ohio and surrounding areas,” which includes offering social dance events, dance instruction, workshop, social activities and more.

Though it started as early as the 1920s, swing dancing continues to get people moving in a variety of ways all throughout the world.  Cities like Chicago, St. Louis and even Cincinnati conduct monthly swing dancing nights at local establishments.

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Starting June 23, Gem City Swing will host a swing dance series that will be held at Ned Peppers, located in the heart of the Oregon District.  Here are five things you should know about the event. 

1.) Classes will be at Ned Peppers.
When scouting where to hold weekly swing dancing classes, members were specifically looking for a bar. According to Benze, the reasoning was simple.

“It provides a more relaxed, welcoming environment for new dancers to show up to,” he said.  “A lot of times when there are dances are at a ballroom studio, it could be a little awkward if someone shows up, it’s their first time there and they don’t really know anyone.  They end up being a wallflower in the corner, not really knowing what they are doing.  At a bar, they can have a couple of drinks, which sometimes loosens up ambitions a little bit.”

The wooden floors at Ned Peppers helped, too.

2.) You’ll learn more than one move.
With lessons clocking in around thirty minutes, Benze and company will be showing attendees the basics of swing and a few other moves.  The lessons will be changed up some each week, but don’t worry.  You can keep coming back, and learn new things while perfecting the basics. 

“There is a lot you can learn and do with it, but it also has a very low barrier of entry,” he said. “You can definitely show up and within a half hour learn enough to have a couple of hours of fun.”

3.) You can bring a friend. 
For a vast number of individuals, being crippled by self-consciousness can sometimes hold them back. So you’re welcome to bring as many friends or partners as you would like.  However, if you choose to be bold and come solo, you’ll have no problem finding a partner. Partners rotate every so often during the lesson, allowing everyone to have a chance to try the moves with everyone.

4.) A social dance will be held after the lesson each week.
After you’ve learned some basics and are all warmed up, stick around and show off what you just learned in their post-class social dances. With a rotation of DJs each week, the social dances are just another way to get you more involved. Gem City Swing will have small events throughout the night, like snowballs (an introductory activity that gets everyone dancing), birthday jams (celebrations for those having a birthday this month) and jam circles (dancers can choose to show off their skills in any level that they are at).

5.) Don’t want to dance? You can still support Gem City Swing.
If you’re looking to support the group but not all that interested in dancing, you can still purchase a membership (initial membership is $30, discounted memberships available for $15 starting July 1).

Want to go?
WHAT: Gem City Swing presents Weekly Dancing
WHERE: Ned Peppers, 419 E. 5th St., Dayton
WHEN: 8:30-9 p.m. lesson, followed by a 9-10:30 p.m. social dance every Tuesday; starts June 23, 2015
COST: $5/non-members, $4/members
MORE: Must be 21 or older to participate
INFO: gemcityswing.com

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