By Cora Bennage
It was during the biggest stock market crash when swing dance was invented. Now, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, swing dance is on the rise.
Swing Buffalo and Groove Juice in Rochester were around long before the pandemic, but it is the interest in the century-old dance style that has risen. The Bent Opera House in Medina now offers swing dance lessons and open dance, and the Swing Dance club at SUNY Brockport has seen a high point in enrollment.
Scholarship Coordinator Garrett Roe is one of the Swing Dance advisors and an active dancer at Groove Juice. Roe was involved in forming the swing dance club at Brockport. For Roe, swing dancing has played an influential role in his social life.
“I was a shy guy and swing dance helped me be less of that. I have made wonderful relationships through dancing with new folks. Lasting relationships,” said Roe.
Roe has continued to stay connected with the original group of swing dancers at SUNY Brockport. Although they have moved on to different chapters of their lives, the group continues to travel together every year. Roe, however, continues to see the impact of swing dance in his life.
“I have made connections in Rochester because of this. Creating these cool networks and also making new friends. And I think it gives me the opportunity to see where students are at in the world. I’ve enjoyed being an advisor in this club for a long time now. It has improved the quality of life on the social aspect but also on a physical level. COVID screwed that up,” said Roe.
Roe has been excited to get back into swing dance as Groove Juice starts to host events again, especially with the rise in interest at the college.
“We’re kind of at a high point. Not the highest point, but a high point. I’ve also never seen so many students still continue to go to swing dance this late in the semester. Which might not seem like a lot,” said Roe.
Rachel Ekstrom is one of the returning swing dancers at SUNY Brockport. She has been swing dancing for over a year and was recently reelected as club President. While Ekstrom has always been an outgoing person, she did notice an impact in her social life.
“I think I do have an outgoing personality, but I think I’ve become more personable, more friendly to attract a nice little community that we have,” said Ekstrom.
Recently elected secretary Julianne Mora joined the Swing Dance club this Fall semester, and she ran for secretary to increase the female representation. While Mora has only been dancing for a brief time, the social aspect has not been lost on her.
“I’ve met more people, and I got to dance. Which I’m not good at. You’re kind of forced to be in close proximity to people you don’t really know that well. It helps you get to know some people,” said Mora.
Swing dance was created as a form of escapism from the financial turmoil of the Great Depression and is now being used to get back into social circles after the pandemic. The forced proximity of the dance has formed many lasting relationships and continues to bring communities together.