An evening swing to end the night

By Miles Young and Sofia Nowak Terkelsen

On Nov. 4, MTHS hosted a swing dance, a night filled with fun dance, delicious desserts and wonderful jazz music. Performing were Jazz Ensemble 1 and 2 along with vocalists, soloists and even two dance instructors there to teach everyone how to swing dance.

The event officially started at 6 p.m., when the two dance instructors began their lessons. They walked everyone through the basic steps of Lindy Hop, a style of dance originating in the 1930s and ‘40s. It’s full of constant motion and interpretive moves, making it quite a fun, lively dance style. Lindy Hop evolved from different dances, including jazz, tap, breakaway and 1920s Charleston, using elements from African American dances and European partnered dance. The two instructors teach this and other dances at the Century Ballroom in downtown Seattle, which is open just about every day and hosts an array of dances, like East and West Coast swing, waltz and salsa dancing.

By 7 p.m., the live music began. Jazz 1 started things off, going through an array of lovely jazz songs. They featured songs by Duke Ellington, old classic artists from the ‘40s and a few newer, well-known songs. Many soloists played, one of which being senior Ryan Acheson on alto saxophone, featured in the song “Sultry Sunset” by Duke Ellington.

“Some of the tunes we played for about a month beforehand, while others we learned just that week,” Acheson said.

Acheson has been playing jazz music ever since 8th grade and has loved it since. 

“The thing that really drew me to jazz was the freedom you get while playing it. There’s just so much room for personal expression, and you can really make it yours,” he said. 

This freedom in jazz and the freedom in swing dancing blended together beautifully to create a spectacle of art and creativity.

Accompanying the bands were a few vocalists, each who auditioned for the position. Senior Abigail Setalla performed not only a vocal solo, but also a wonderful trumpet feature in the song “Portrait of Louis Armstrong,” also by Duke Ellington. Sophomore Mya Phin sang for the song “It’s Only A Paper Moon” by Harold Arlan, and had a duet with senior Riley Frank in “Fly Me To The Moon,” originally written by Bart Howard. Frank also sang with Jazz 1 on the song “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Disney’s Pinocchio.

“I love singing jazz,” Frank said. “I put a lot of emotion into my singing, so I was really hoping to get the part, because the community is really great and because of the liberty that comes with jazz. It’s just a lot more freeing and less structured, and feels more comfortable.”

Even with the soothing jazz and comfort in doing something she’s passionate about, Frank was still nervous at the prospect of performing in front of so many.

“I was super excited, but I was also a little nervous, just because I don’t sing in front of people that often. But once I got up and started singing, it instantly went away,” she said.

The event let people show others their skills and do the things they love. Hearing from the band and vocalists, it seems clear that jazz is something that each of them see as an opportunity to be open and creative, which perfectly accompanied the dance style being performed that night.

According to vocalists, band members and people attending, the swing dance was a huge success. The vocalists and band members were surprised by the amount of people that showed up. Most of the attendees said they would absolutely attend a swing dance again, and some asked if there would be another event soon. Many didn’t know how to swing dance prior, so having the dance instructors really encouraged more people to come and learn something new. With all of these factors combined, it was an enjoyable evening for all. 

Although the last football game of the year took place on the same day, there were still many people who attended the dance. One specific guest, Mylin Nguyen, chose the swing dance over the game because she wanted to listen to music and relax after a long week at school. The music was the main attraction of the night for many attendees, wanting to hear their fellow students sing and perform. 

“They were phenomenal,” Nguyen said. 

The swing dance was wonderfully carried out, and people are eagerly awaiting another. Hopefully next year, or even in the months to come, students will get another chance to show off their musical and dancing skills in a fun, risk-free event.