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Student Clubs & Associations, The Arts

My experience swing dancing at USF: “Would you like that slow, fast, or bouncy?”

They say you will always remember your first dance. I’d rather forget mine.  Let’s just say that instead of looking like John Travolta, I more accurately resembled a pig on roller skates. Hey wait a minute—I was on roller skates (it was 30 years ago, and I worked at a skating rink).

Yet I went one to win two state championships in 1989, and trained for seventeen years to finally win a grand championship in dancing. Would I do it all over again? You bet! Because there’s nothing like tripping the light fantastic.

That’s why I whenever I get an invite to dust off my dance shoes, I never turn it down.  I’ve sworn myself to the dance gods to forever give thanks. So on March 26, I joined the Swinging Bulls for part three of their Spring Swing Series held at the University of South Florida’s Marshall Center.

I wasn’t disappointed.

About 30 students participated in the workshop and the free dance that followed. After the lesson, I grabbed a partner for my personal favorite type of swing, the East-Coast triple time.  Okay, go ahead and say it–because it’s slower! Oh well, my partner didn’t seem to mind.  In fact, Sarah Rowe, a 21-year-old junior was totally cool with it.

“The funnest part of dancing is just connecting with other people,” said Rowe.  “For like three and a half minutes, you’re totally involved–it’s so cool.”

She was right.  By the third minute I felt like a well tuned machine all over again, ready for the Indy 500. But hey, let’s give credit where credit is due. It surely helped that Rowe’s dancing abilities equaled that of  Ginger Rogers. You know that girl that did everything Fred Astaire did—except backwards and in high heels!

With restored confidence I moved onto my next victim–I mean choice. The faster songs are great for single-time swingers, and Felicia Wheeler, an 18-year-old freshman, was proving herself worthy of any speed on the dance floor. Anyone that looks that confident on the floor must have been doing this a while, I said to myself.

“I just started a couple of months ago,” said Wheeler. “It’s not incredibly hard, It just feels bouncy!”

Obviously, 30 years ago I could have used her natural talents instead of that mail ordered do-it-yourself video.  Besides, that thing cost me ten cereal box-tops.

Their teacher for the evening was president of the Swinging Bulls, Jeila Alai. She also serves as president of the dance club, which hosted the event.  They hold a weekly class Wednesdays from 8 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. in the USF Recreation Center, room 033.  The class is free for USF students. Non-students can attend by paying the $5 admission to the center.

Alai encouraged everyone and anyone to attend–even if you think you have two left feet.

“When I started dancing, I couldn’t clap to music, and now I’m teaching. So it’s completely possible for anyone to learn,” Alai said.

She must be right because everyone there seemed to be getting into the swing thing.  Even”Boomer” got his mojo back!

The Swinging Bulls have over 300 members. You can follow them on facebook.

About Ron Algood

Hi, I’m Ron Algood, a Tampa native and a student at The University of South Florida. I have over twenty years of experience in two distinct career fields: One, as an international travel consultant, and two, as a professional ballroom dance instructor and competitor.


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