Dancing these days brings to mind concert halls, mosh pits or high school dances but every Tuesday night in downtown Fargo, a different kind of dancing takes place.
At the Avalon a mixture of age groups comes together to swing dance. A fun and relaxing way to meet new people, the swing classes are for anyone who wants to attend, no experience necessary. The night starts with lessons and then moves to an open dance where anyone can practice their moves.
- Located at 613 1st Ave N, Fargo
- $7 per person, $5 with student ID
- 8:30 p.m. lesson begins
- 9:30 p.m. open dance begins
- Every Tuesday
Lessons for beginners are easy to learn
The lessons teach basic moves and sequences a person can follow. Men typically lead and women anticipate their dance partner’s moves. Dancers keep their knees bent and their bodies need to be able to twist and turn at any time, said Katherine Noone.
Instructors John and Katherine Noone teach basic steps at the lesson, such as the rock step and how to twirl and be twirled. They then build on those steps until the group has a sequence to dance to.
Newcomers are always welcome
The atmosphere of the ballroom puts newcomers at ease. The dancers are all courteous to one another and it is rare that a person refuses a dance. “It’s not like going to the club,” said John. “If you come here and you ask somebody to dance, they will say yes. They just will.”
People meet at the Avalon and become friends. “It’s a great way to meet people,” said Sara Downey, an MSUM student who comes for the social aspect. Some people come in groups while others come simply to share the experience of dancing.
Dance with everyone to learn
Experienced dancers teach those with less experience. Since few people will refuse a dance, people with different levels of experience dance together. “A lot of what swing dancing is all about is the confidence,” said John. “You have to get to a point where you feel like you know how to do this.”
Confidence is key to swing dancing and practice makes perfect. Watching the dance floor, some partners slowly dance while others whirl. Some take the time to show the basic steps to those who aren’t completely comfortable dancing. “It’s still a challenge trying to teach each other and learn moves off each other,” said Downey.
Swing poses some risks
Swing dance does have some risks. “You can get hurt,” said John. The Avalon’s pillars dot the dance floor and there are other people to run into, he said. Swing dance can be very safe as long as the dancers practice floor management. Floor management is the technique of being aware of where a dancer is in relation to other people and objects. That should not stop people from having fun. “I’ve danced with a broken collar bone,” said John. Accidents happen so dancers need to be aware of their surroundings in order to keep safe.
Health benefits encourage dancers
Any person can swing dance and it does provide a workout for dancers. “It’s good exercise,” Katherine said. A song typically lasts anywhere from two to five minutes and the beat varies with each song.
“Especially if it’s a fast song, there is definitely a calf workout. It’s a pretty engaging activity,” said Eddie Bjorgum, a Concordia student who has gone swing dancing on and off for two years. Some moves require a certain amount of flexibility but there are ways to work around them, John said.
Music battle still waged
Music is very important to swing dancing but there is a debate to what swing music actually is. Swing music is typically big band jazz but earlier rock ‘n’ roll music can also be danced to. The main thing is the beat, said John. A big band usually plays the last Tuesday of every month and the next live big band will come Nov. 9, Katherine said. Rock ‘n roll and big band jazz are typically what is played.
Social aspect draws large crowd
The amount of people and the age range of those participants is astounding. Anywhere from 60 to 100 people will show up for the open dance, and that number grows when a live big band plays, said Katherine. There is a wide age range of people present. The largest demography is college students. “I would say 80 percent are college age between 19-26,” said John. The rest is made up of a few high-schoolers and older people. Bjorum said he met some of his friends at the Avalon so age does not interfere with having fun.
Instructors have an apparent love of swing dancing
These class have taken place for seven years at the Avalon in Fargo. “Seven years ago was our first lesson here,” said John. The Old Broadway stopped hosting the swing dance and so I picked it up, he said. Noone likes the music as it gives him a break from his normal week. It’s good for the body and provides social interaction and it’s why I do it every Tuesday, said Katherine.