Hops, bops and stomps – A night of swing

The TCNJ Swing Club held its first public dance in years Friday night, filling the Don Evans Kendall Black Box Theater with an eager crowd. Students and locals alike gathered to the music of the Ron Sunshine Band and the moves of Bill Borgida.

Yehoodi.com, “the Web site for the hardcore hep-cat swinger,” publicized the dance under special events in the Trenton area. It was predicted to attract dancers from Philadelphia and even New York.

Greg Avakian and Laurie Zimmerman, dance instructors of the Swing Club, hosted an hour-long introductory lesson before the event.

It was a little confusing at first, but at least I learned enough to go onto the floor and dance,” first time dancer TJ Berardo, a sophomore at Rugters University-New Brunswick, said.

Avakian has been teaching swing for over 12 years, including different forms like West Coast Swing, Jitterbug and Lindy Hop. Zimmerman has been his dance partner for the past six years, during which they have taught lessons together both locally and internationally. When not teaching at the College, they spend a lot of their time traveling around the country to different swing events.

“I just started taking lessons with them this year, and it’s amazing how much I can do,” Sean Anderson, freshman mechanical engineering major, said. “Greg and Laurie make it really easy and fun.”

Several times during the event, crowds gathered around Anderson, a Swing Club member, to watch his slick moves.

The Ron Sunshine Band, a swing band, played in a classical jazz style. Singer and songwriter Ron Sunshine has already released five albums in his 15-year career with his band, Full Swing. He has been featured on mainstream media including FOX, NBC, CNN and international stations.

Renowned Lindy Hop instructor Bill Borgida helped DJ the event while the band was on break. Twice during the night he led a wild routine of hops, bobs and stomps.

“The name of the game is ‘monkey see, monkey do,'” he said.

The small theater filled up, leaving almost no room for spectators. Cups of water were offered in the hallway outside throughout the night. Pieces of a “Fruity-Pebble treat” in the shape of two dancers were also offered.

“The Black Box isn’t really the dance studio I had in mind, but that didn’t stop anyone from having a great time,” Amber Cox, freshman management major, said.

Mihai Morar, freshman international studies major, contributed many dance moves learned from his small village in Romania.

“Not everyone can dance like me, but the girls were good dancers and easy to lead,” he said. “It also didn’t hurt that they were cute.”

All students from the College were granted free admission, thanks to funding from the Student Finance Board. The general public was charged $10. “TCNJ Swing” T-shirts were also on sale, allowing everyone to show their affection for the club.

“It exceeded my expectations, and I will be looking forward to our club’s next event,” Melissa Agosto, freshman elementary education/history major, said.

The TCNJ Swing Club was first formed in the fall of 1998 as the “Ballroom Dance Club,” teaching everything from the waltz to salsa. As the neo-swing movement attracted large groups of members to swing classes, the club changed its name. It currently offers Lindy Hop lessons, a popular form of swing.

Classes will be offered for the 2006 Spring semester. Twelve weeks of lessons only cost $40 for College students and $50 for the general public. Both beginners and intermediate dancers are encouraged to join.

“I am glad the club has become this popular, and am looking forward to teaching more lessons next semester,” Avakian said.