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Swinging into Spring: Jazz and the Lindy Hop at the Spring Swing Dance

Thomas Hardy/Manitou Messenger

Dave Hagedorn conducted three jazz ensembles on March 7 through a whirlwind of pieces, covering artists from the heart-breaker Frank Sinatra to the upbeat Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller. Students twirled across the Pause until midnight under the blue lights.

The night began with the St. Olaf Swing Club leading a beginner lindy hop lesson in one of the Rolvaag classrooms. Swofficers – or swing dance officers – gave a crash course on dancing. Their lessons did not work miracles, but in the end, they gave everyone the confidence to hit the floor running. As the saying goes, “You’re not bad. You’re new.” 

 

An hour later, Jazz II kicked off the dance with several faster songs that left the beginners in the dust as they tried to “rock step, triple step, step step, triple step” their way to success. The dancers from Swing Club took the dance floor with grace and a jaw-dropping number of flips and turns. As the night wore on, the music took a more comfortable pace and everyone began to find their groove. 

For many musicians on campus, the ensembles performing during the Spring Swing Dance hold a special place in their heart.

 “Being in a jazz ensemble has been one of my favorite musical experiences at St. Olaf,” said Emily Nolan ’21, a tenor sax player in Jazz II. “I have the opportunity to showcase my own creativity through improvisation, and it also allows me to appreciate others’ creative style.”

Swing dancers came and went throughout the night in waves. Those who wanted to enjoy the jazz music sat apart from the fray at the tables on the outskirts of the dance floor. 

Jazz brings musicians together in a more intricate and intimate way than most band ensembles. 

“There is great communication within jazz band, and each part plays a large role in the overall scheme of what we’re playing,” said Nolan. “Jazz is such a creative outlet for me, and I love the relaxed, fun atmosphere of our rehearsals.”

The Jazz I ensemble charmed the crowd with their rendition of “Ramblin’” by Ornette Coleman and their take on “Palmas” by Eddie Palmieri. During the final stretch of the dance, Aaron Linde ’20 gave an earth-shattering clarinet solo that for many was one of the highlights of the night.  

The dance was an amazing experience for the musicians and dancers alike and left everyone with a swing in their step.