The 1920s came to life at the Jack and Jill Dance Competition hosted by the Swinging Bulls on April 6 at the USF Marshall Student Center.
Twelve students and local dancers put their swing moves on display, dancing to the musical selections of DJ Charlie Bravo. The songs included “Detroit Swing City” by The Brian Setzer Orchestra, “Brown Derby Jump” by Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, “Bugle Call Rag” by Cab Calloway and “Bill’s Bounce” by The Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra.
Jeila Alai, president of the Swinging Bulls, said, “Jack and Jill Competitions are dance contests where all the girls and guys that want to enter line up and are rotated to a random partner with whom they dance. The best guy and girl win!”
The scene was classic. With dim lights, shiny black shoes, bow ties, skirts and suspenders, the swing dancers transformed the Marshall Center conference room into a snapshot of the 1920s swing dance culture.
The dancers were lively. Their feet moved quickly, from front to back, side to side and into the air. Their arms swung back and forth, hands on hips and fingers snapping. The men tossed their partners above their heads and gently lowered them over their arms. The music was just as energetic. The horns and drums were fast and sporadic. The whole dance hall was swinging.
Today, swing dance is a unique subculture attracting people of all backgrounds, genders and ages.
Kyle Homsey, a sophomore majoring in chemistry, said, “As opposed to other dances like waltz or tango, it’s faster, it’s a lot more livelier, it’s a happy dance as opposed to kind of slow and sad.”
Walter Ley, a local high school student, began swing dancing a year ago after attending a Sunday night swing dance session at a Tampa dance hall, Zendah Grotto.
Ley said, “It’s a chance to be energetic and fun while you dance.”
Ley’s dance partner, Margie Sweeney, also a local high school student, said, “I like the vintage aspect of it. It’s really classic dancing.”