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Getting Social Through Swing Dancing

Getting Social Through Swing Dancing

first_imgDancing has long been a form of human expression, evolving throughout history as a means of social interaction and communication as cultures change and grow.And for a group of Flathead dancers, Duke Ellington eloquently captured their preferred means of hoofing it when he sang, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”The group that makes up Kalispell’s North End Swing will hold a two-hour swing dance lesson on March 9, and dancers can continue their lesson in Lakeside under the direction of Seattle group Eastside Stomp on March 10 and 11. The weekend is part of North End Swing’s goal of drawing new interest in swing dancing in Northwest Montana, focusing on Balboa and Lindy Hop styles. It all began about six years ago, when Pete Milne, 25, and Joe Juneman, 26, were living in Thompson Falls. As born-again Christians, the guys did not want to partake in weekend activities that may get them in trouble, Milne said. Soon, it became apparent that they liked swing dancing, which was a little unusual in Thompson Falls, Milne said, laughing. “We admitted hesitantly that we like dancing,” he said. “Considering none of us did sports, that went against the grain.”Milne and Juneman found a dancer’s haven at the Bigfork Inn, where they went with another group of friends they met through gospel singing. The guys started coming to Bigfork every other weekend for several years to dance. Eventually, Milne and Juneman moved to Kalispell. During that time, they went to Spokane and Seattle for dancing workshops, and met Peter Flahiff, who introduced them to Balboa and Lindy Hop. They achieved success under his tutelage, Milne said.“Joe and I kind of giggled like little girls when we were once asked to attend the invitation-only masters class,” Milne said. When dancing at the Bigfork Inn was no longer an option, Milne, Juneman and their friend Levi Hoch decided to start North End Swing. The group has held several events, typically once a month, during which participants receive a lesson and then put those new moves to use for a few hours at a regular dance. They wanted to provide a place for people to go that was not in a bar, Milne said, and they want to help more people learn the intricacies involved in the Balboa and Lindy Hop variations. “We kind of realized that not really everybody knows how to do it,” Milne said. “There’s an incredible amount of technique and a lead-follower connection that is not seen by people watching.” The response has been surprisingly positive and popular, Milne said, with participants of all ages enjoying themselves. Caitlin Hills, who has been dancing with the group for about five years, said a recent event drew about 60 people despite having a last-minute venue change. Most of the attendees have been female, Milne said, and they would love to see more guys come to the events. The March 9 dance costs $5 and the two-hour Balboa lesson with Flahiff is $20. There is no need to bring a partner; everyone dances with everyone else.“Usually as a rule we don’t charge for couples because we want to promote the social aspect of dance with everybody,” Milne said. And those who want to pursue more lessons can participate in the Montana Swing Weekend, happening in Lakeside at the Youth With a Mission (YWAM) base. Peter Flahiff, Ben White, Taylor Stender and Loryn Lestz of Seattle’s Eastside Stomp will teach the March 10 and March 11 classes. The weekend costs $20. Hosting weekends like this is part of North End Swing’s greater goal of connecting Montana swing dancers to the Balboa and Lindy Hop scenes throughout the country. The group’s members can go to large cities and find a place to dance and make friends along the way, they said. “We want to see a kind of rebirth of swing,” Juneman said. For more information on North End Swing and future event information, visit www.facebook.com/northendswing or www.northendswing.tumblr.com.To contact North End Swing, send an email to [email protected] Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. Emaillast_img read more