UT students swing into spring

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JohnPeter Bekker and Khiloni Shah present a final pose to an audience of West Mall passersby. For those interested in learning, the duo recommends jumping in at the start of a semester for the optimum swing dance experience.

Photo Credit: Chloe Bertrand | Daily Texan Staff

Austin is a city typically associated with current trends, but classic art forms continue to thrive among the new.

Since its rise in popularity in the 1930s, swing dancing has maintained its popularity in the dancing community. In spite of its old age, local dance organizations keep the art from fading into obscurity. Texas Swing Dance Society and Austin Swing Syndicate — a nonprofit organization that hosts a weekly dance every Thursday night at the Texas Federation of Women’s Club — are both organizations in Austin that teach the art of swing dance as well as the importance of the jazz music swing originated from.

Physics junior Khiloni Shah and biomedical engineering sophomore JohnPeter Bekker took over the Texas Swing Dance Society in 2017 to give students a creative outlet and academic break. Shah said the spirit of Austin helps swing dancing continue to thrive.

“Austin is a great place for dances like this,” Shah said. “Austin is a large community and there’s lots of opportunities to dance everywhere you are.”

For students in rigorous academic majors, swing dance is an opportunity to spend time in a recreational and relaxed environment.

“I’m a STEM major and there’s a lot of STEM majors in swing,” Bekker said. “A lot of us don’t really get a creative outlet.”

Both Shah and Bekker said they try to go swing dancing every Thursday night, often arranging their schedules around the activity. They said they are passionate about swing dancing because of its interesting history and the unique community it exposes them to.

“I think it’s important partially because it’s … an old dance,” Shah said. “It has a lot of history to it. There’s a lot of … free movement with it. I think it’s something that’s important to keep alive.”

The Texas Swing Dance Society meetings are held Thursdays at 2609 University Ave. from 6:30–8:00 p.m. After the meeting, students head to the Texas Federation of Women’s Club where they participate in Austin Swing Syndicate’s community wide social swing dance.

The money raised from the dances and other fundraisers allow Austin Swing Syndicate to hire bands and keep swing dancing alive in Austin.

The Texas Swing Syndicate is operated by a board of directors made up of adult and student volunteers. Nick Williams is a mass communication senior at Texas State University and has been a Texas Swing Syndicate’s board member for the past two years. Williams said he loves swing dancing because he has met so many friends through it.

“It’s funny that this kind of thing still exists, especially in the modern world,” Williams said. “You look around and (don’t) even know it’s such a community around this kind of activity.”

Williams said another appeal of swing dance for him is the unique and transformative experience that accompanies it.

“It’s almost like you’re stepping back in time,” Williams said. “A lot of the culture has to do with the matching the attire and then the style and all. It’s a lot of old souls who found somewhere that speaks to them.”

The Texas Swing Dance Society and Austin Swing Syndicate are both run by volunteers and have a shared goal of keeping swing dance alive in Austin.

“As we all work together, we can make this organization keep thriving, help continue educating more people about the dance and create this great environment where people can have a good time,” Williams said.