Grab your dancing slippers – or sneakers. The Historic Laurel Theater will be opening its doors Wednesday evenings to house swing dancing lessons, courtesy of the Knoxville Swing Dance Association.
For a $2 cover charge, beginner level Astaire and Rogers-aspirants will be instructed how to dance the 6-count while slightly more experienced jitterbugs can work toward mastering the Lindy Hop.
"I was nervous at first," said Celvin Fouse, freshman in biomedical engineering who attended last week's tutorial. "There are a lot of spins and twirls but they showed us the basic steps first, which were actually very simple. It's surprisingly really easy to learn."
While the idea of "a night out dancing" for many university students is more apt to conjure up images of friction-filled clubbing than perfecting their jive, Fouse found the twerk-free atmosphere of the lessons to be endlessly refreshing.
"It's a nice dance style and a great way to connect with older music," he said. "They play all older stuff, mostly jazz. It's cool to dance to music that isn't solely club-sounding or electronic."
Starting at 7 p.m., students assemble in two large circles and spend the first hour learning nifty moves with an alternating succession of partners. The last two hours are spent in a "free dance," where participants can try out their newly acquired footwork, such as aerials and "Jumpin' Joe's" with partners of their choosing.
"The instructors were great and really enthusiastic," said Megan Patterson, freshman in history. "They encouraged everyone, regardless of your competence level, to stay after for the free dance."
After seeing members of the Swing Dancers Association perform at the Student InVOLvement Fair on Pedestrian Walkway, Patterson chose to give lessons a swing for herself.
"A friend and I were impressed," she said. "We decided we wanted to learn how to really dance."
Patterson also thought the whimsy of the event was altogether enlivening.
"Swing dancing is a fun, fulfilling dance experience," she said. "It provides ample opportunity to socialize with your partner while imparting the satisfactory feeling of truly performing a skill.
"It's definitely refreshing to participate in a dance that adapts to every new song."
Paige Paulus, freshman in biomedical engineering and member of the Oak Ridge-based Atomic Swing Dance group, agrees that knowing how to dance is a great skill for both guys and girls to acquire.
"It's a fun way to go out and dance and not feel like you're being violated the whole time," she said.
Paulus said she recently tested out her swinging skills at a venue slightly less befitting of the style than the quaint Laurel Theater – Rumorz on a weekend night.
"I was there for a pledge event and had invited a good friend of mine as my date," she said. "Neither of us felt inclined to dance all over each other so we started swing dancing instead. It was actually a lot of fun and we had people coming up and complimenting us for the rest of the night."
According to the UTK event page, those who are interested are required to come for the first meeting tonight. If the first class is missed, participants will be unable to join further classes due to the progressive style of the instruction.
Classes are open to dancers of all jitterbugging backgrounds and experience levels. No dress code is required.