Ballroom Dance presents jazz essentials

RPI BALLROOM DANCE HOSTED a jazz night, during which participants were taught ’20s era swing while they were serenaded by live music.

It is said that dance is the universal language which requires no other ability than an innate passion. Nowhere was this truth more evident than at Saturday’s Jump, Jive, and Jazz event hosted by RPI Ballroom Dance. The event was open to the public during Family Weekend, and as such drew an eager crowd of family members and newcomers alike.

The event started with a half-hour long lesson under the Lindy Hop Swing group, which deals specifically with the unique art of ’20s era swing dance. Participants were asked to rotate partners and switch roles as leaders and followers, allowing for dancers to get experience in all facets of the dance style. While the participants were largely beginners, instructors were very friendly and open to answering any questions that people had, while being clear in their demonstrations of different technique. The thing that really struck me was how approachable and friendly everyone was; after the first few minutes, all pretenses were dropped, and people just had a good time while learning.

After the introductory lessons, the crowd was invited to join the instructors in dancing to live music performed by the Concert Jazz Orchestra. The ensemble did a fantastic job of starting off with approachable songs to dance to, such as classics like “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” and later challenged more advanced dancers with faster tempo pieces. You really got the sense that people were enjoying themselves—from dancers, young and old, to spectators, many of whom were delighted to see their family members developing dance skills.

After an hour of traditional jazz pieces, the Concert Jazz Orchestra took their well-deserved leave, and the 8th Street Swing Band took the stage to provide some more swing-oriented pieces for participants to try their newfound skills on. Once again, these pieces varied in tempo, allowing for both experienced and beginner swing dancers to try their hand at dance. When the faster tempo pieces came on, skilled members of Ballroom Dance really got a chance to show off and wow onlookers.

Overall, I got a unique sense of inclusiveness and genuine passion for dance from everyone involved. As RPI Ballroom Dance demonstrated, dance is best enjoyed in a setting where people are able to express themselves with little fear of judgement, and this event managed to cultivate this feeling in abundance. If you’re looking to have some fun and maybe learn a valuable skill, I encourage you to put yourself out there; you might surprise yourself and have a really good time.