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Swing dancing under the stars: Cardinal Swing Society hosts outdoor event with live band

Sarah Currier
Students enjoy an evening of swing dancing and live music at the Down & Dirty Swing Dance event.

A sizeable crowd was drawn to the Memorial Union Terrace Friday night after being promised big band music and swing dancing. The event kicked off the Cardinal Swing Society’s first event of the semester: Down & Dirty Swing Dance.

It is Elle Whitney’s first year as president of the Cardinal Swing Society, but she says the experience has been “crazy but really fun” so far.

She said she was excited to be able to host the event outside since it hasn’t been held on the terrace since February 2019. Since then, Down & Dirty Swing Dance has either been canceled due to COVID-19 or moved inside the Memorial Union Sun Room due to bad weather.

“Out here, we can enjoy the beautiful sights,” she said.

Brady Christensen, another member of the Cardinal Swing Society, encouraged others to join the organization.

“The club is a super fun group of people,” he said. “Everyone is friends with everyone.”

The evening started off with a free half-hour dance lesson at 8 p.m.

“[The free dance lessons] make it more accessible,” said Whitney, who also said that many of the people who attend the organization’s events don’t know how to swing dance.

After a brief training session, the attendees were set loose to partner up and dance. Cardinal Swing Society members wore maroon t-shirts with “Ask me to dance” written on the back.

In addition to the attendees, a live band was present at the event.

Sentimental Swing’s leader, Steve Lawson, said that the band has played at Cardinal Swing Society events for 10 to 12 years after Cardinal Swing Society members found them playing at the Lake Robbins Ballroom in Woodward.

“We love doing this… we love helping kids have fun,” Lawson said.

All members of Sentimental Swing are former band directors, and they hail from Harlan, Des Moines, Waterloo, Guthrie Center and Manson.

Lawson, who is 78, said he still practices his instruments and feels like he’s getting better.

“Music goes on forever,” he said. “We’ve got something to do all the way to the end.”

Even though Down & Dirty Swing Dance is hosted by the Cardinal Swing Society, the Student Union Board is responsible for organizing the event and putting it on. Christian Grensteiner and Poni Okene were the event organizers.

“We do this so that every student has the chance to have that college experience,” said Grensteiner.

According to Okene, the “most difficult thing is preplanning” when it comes to hosting the event. Grensteiner said there is also “a lot of problem-solving on the day of.”

They both encouraged students to volunteer for SUB and said that a volunteer form should open around the end of September.

The Cardinal Swing Society’s next event will be the Sock Hop Dance, held Sep. 16 in the Memorial Union Sun Room from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $5 for non-members and free for members.

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    Dane | Feb 11, 2024 at 12:08 pm

    When that group was Cyclone Swing Society, they got pretty large strictly through good collaboration with a bigger group, the University of Iowa Swing Dance Club.