TAMPA, Fl. - Swing Dancing has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. Every Wednesday night in the Gulfport Casino Ballroom, that growing popularity is abundantly clear.
On this night, about 150 people line the perimeter of the room, anxiously checking out the competition in the room, and studying the moves of the dance instructor. This first hour is a chance to learn the steps. Step, rock, step --- step, rock, step. Swing Time Director Sam Mahfoud patiently shows new participants how to strut their stuff – in the same manner folks have been doing it since the 1920s.
“We start with people who’ve never danced before. Some of them think they have two left feet,” said Mahfoud.
Sam says he can get people up to speed within about an hour. And looking around the room, some are picking up a little more quickly than others. The long single lines of people on either side of the room combine after some basic steps are learned, and soon every one has a partner. Sam encourages people not to be self-conscious, no matter how long it takes them to master the steps.
“You shouldn’t be embarrassed because really, no one is watching you,” said Sam. “People are too busy worrying about themselves.”
Swing Dance has been popular for a century in America, but it’s origins are a little hazy. Swing could possibly be a natural descendant of the Fox Trot, the Charleston, and some say even the Waltz.
Whatever the origins, it’s certainly being embraced today – partly due to the prime time dance and talent shows on nightly television.
“I want to give a man the best dance of his life,” said senior Essie Lutes. “That’s how I like to do it.”
Lutes has been coming to the Casino’s “Swing Time” every week for six years. She says she comes just for the sheer joy of it.
“What it does for my emotions, my mental condition, my physical condition, “ said Essie, with a laugh.
“Swing Time” rocks at the Gulfport Casino Ballroom every Wednesday night. A seven dollar entry fee will get you two dance lessons and three hours on the dance floor. For more information, go to www.swingtime.info.