They’re college-aged swing dancers, but they might as well be acrobats.
The K-State Country Swing and Two-Step Club had its first meeting of the semester in the student union on Tuesday, and passersby could have mistaken many of them for professional dancers.
In a crowd of nearly 100 people, women were flying in the air using only their dance partners’ strength and their own to keep them from plummeting to the union courtyard’s tiled floor.
“I like it when the girls’ feet are off the ground,” Isaac Spear, club vice president, said.
Spear said he has been dancing for 12 to 14 years. A senior in engineering, he learned to dance with his sister at a young age when his family visited a dance club in Cheyenne, Wyo.
It seemed that many people at Tuesday’s meeting didn’t have that many years of practice under their belts, but no one would have been able to tell.
ONE OF the club’s elite dancers, Thomas Weeks, has only been dancing for two years, having started as a college freshman.
“Nobody knows how to do anything like this, and I just thought it was so much fun that you can come to college and you weren’t partying — you could still have a good time,” said Weeks, a junior in communication studies.
Weeks is a member of the club’s performance team called the Swingin’ Spurs, which was started just this year. The team’s members audition, then choreograph and practice dances. They’re available for hire to perform or to give lessons.
At the club level, though, Weeks helps instruct the mass of beginning students who want to learn how to dance.
“The coolest thing for me is teaching, so I love seeing the moves like three generations down,” he said. “I taught Isaac (Spear) a lot of stuff, and he taught other people a lot of stuff, and now we have people doing stuff and I’m like, ‘You know, that’s my way of doing it.’ I think that’s one of the coolest things.”
SOME OF the “stuff” Weeks teaches are aerial dance moves such as the Star, in which a guy lifts a gal over his head with one hand as she spreads her arms and legs to form a star shape. The woman balances by putting one of her hands on her partner’s shoulder. Then the man turns, spinning them as they hold the precarious position.
“I think it’s thrilling,” Weeks’ partner, Kellie Young, said. She also mentioned another advanced move that involves the man holding the woman parallel to the floor and rolling her up over his head before dropping and catching her near the floor.
“There’s another one called the Death Drop where he dresses me and then he rolls me, almost to the ground,” she said.
CERTAINLY IT would take a lot of trust-building exercises for the women in the club to be comfortable with such maneuvers.
“When I started doing this, I had to learn how to follow a guy and not to second-guess what he was doing,” said Young, a sophomore in geology. “I had to learn how to trust a lot more, I would say.” Young said she had been dancing for only about two years. But she performed acrobatic moves with Weeks as nonchalantly as others might eat lunch.
Despite the club’s elite-level dancing, it has only been in existence for three years.
Founder Ariel VanHouse, a senior in accounting, started the club after she learned how to dance herself.
“Basically I decided we needed a club like this because I learned to two-step my freshman year here,” she said. “I went out every weekend dancing, and I said, ‘Why does K-State not have a club?’”
SINCE ITS founding, the club has grown tremendously. Nearly 200 people regularly attended weekly practices last semester, she said.
Weeks said the reason for that and for the club’s large number of men has to do simply with the love of dancing and an opportunity to meet girls.
“It’s really easy to get girls to go dancing, but it’s hard to get guys to go dancing or two-step,” he said. “But over the years, the guys have really gotten involved. It’s a great way to meet girls. The guys are starting to realize that girls really like to dance.”
The club teaches its members of any skill level to do floor work, including spins and dips, and aerial work, which is anything that involves a lift.
“The more you do it, the better you get,” Weeks said.