Two people dance together in a dimly lit, colorful setting surrounded by other dancing pairs.
Swing Dance Society president Ella Fine dances at a Lindy Hop event.

There’s one word NYU’s Swing Dance Society members use a lot: joy. What else could accurately describe an art form where participants swing, bounce, and flip through the air to the upbeat jazz of the 1930s and ’40s?

A Family Tradition

Club president Ella Fine has long been familiar with the joys of swing dance. She’s a junior from Montclair, New Jersey, majoring in Global Public Health and Chemistry at the NYU College of Arts and Science. Ella grew up in a family of swing dancers—or, more accurately, lindy-hoppers. “My parents are both lindy-hoppers,” she says. “They met through this dance in the 90s in New York.”

However, when she arrived at NYU in the fall of 2021, the Swing Dance Society, once a thriving on-campus club, had long been inactive. So she decided to revive and reregister the organization. Today, the club hosts weekly meetings in the dance studio at the Kimmel Center for Student Life. The first hour of each meeting is a structured lesson that provides dance training and instruction at a level that’s accessible to all dancers, from beginner to advanced. There are snacks, announcements, and mingling. Then, the second hour explores special topics or allows for open-practice dancing.

“Most people who come to our club have never, ever done [swing] before,” says Ella. “And many have never done any form of dancing. This is a club that’s open and accessible to dancers of all levels.”

A Joyful Art with a Rich History

Sylvie Bronsard, the club’s treasurer, started swing dancing after she arrived in New York to start her PhD in Mathematics at NYU. She quickly discovered the benefits of the dance. “It’s made my life better in every way,” she says. “Swing dance is such a joyful dance. It’s so fun. The club is welcoming, and it’s fantastic for mental health.”

While the club offers members technical instruction and ample opportunities to dance, it’s also essential to Ella that it honors Lindy Hop’s roots. “This dance was created in the 1930s and ’40s in Harlem by Black Americans,” she says. “It’s really important to me that the culture and history of the dance, as well as the physical dancing itself, are all integrated.”

Weekly gatherings often feature guest teachers from the New York swing community. What’s more, these guests explore the traditional roots of Lindy Hop. Club members also have opportunities to dance throughout the city.

“New York has an incredible social dancing scene. It’s the place to be for swing dancing,” says Sylvie. Members of the club gain access to nearly unlimited opportunities for social dancing. Moreover, dancers are surrounded by the wealth of Lindy Hop expertise available in the city.

“Being in New York, we have so many amazing international swing dance teachers right at our fingertips,” says Ella. “It’s important to me to ensure that the club has access to some of those people.”

Overall, the club provides ample opportunities for students to perfect their technique. Though, for Ella, one of its main benefits is that it provides students with a time and place to dance as a hobby, simply for the joy of it.

“A lot of the time, we only value artistic expression in terms of virtuosity or doing something for the sake of being good,” she says. “But what’s beautiful about social dancing is that while it can be done in those contexts, it’s also a way to connect with other people and share something artistic.”

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