Design by Grace Filbin

The student-led social swing dancing club MSwing kicked off their first lesson and open dance of the winter semester Thursday, Feb. 10. Founded in 2015, the club has consistently provided a free, low-stakes and low-commitment space for students to learn and practice the art of swing dance. The club is open to anyone interested in swing, from complete beginners to swingin’ experts.

I had the pleasure of attending MSwing’s first lesson, albeit with some initial hesitation. I am certainly not a dancer and was quite nervous about my severe lack of experience. Upon arriving at the lesson (held in the Koessler Room of the Michigan League) I was surprised and relieved to find many other beginners in the room. We began the evening with a round of introductions, which revealed an impressive variety of attendees. There was a good mix of graduate and undergraduate students from all different majors and schools, all coming together from different backgrounds to get lost in swing.

The group then split up between first-timers and more experienced dancers. Each group was instructed by one of the MSwing officers, also University students. The “beginners” instructor, Rackham student Ellie Johandes, started off by teaching us the basic four-step rhythm that is the basis of Hustle-style swing dance. We then partnered up, chose a lead and began to learn the intricate turns, spins and hand-switches of swing. Even in the beginner group, the pace of instruction was quick but there was nothing that was impossible (even for me). By the end of the hour, my dance partner, LSA sophomore Mary Kolleth, and I were pretzelling, twirling and dipping like pros. After the lesson, Kolleth said, “I think the appeal of swing dancing is that you can start to do seemingly impressive moves relatively quickly.” It seems intimidating to watch, but once you dive in and try it for yourself, it’s really quite doable.  

While MSwing’s main activity is teaching swing, the club is really about building community. The two MSwing officers at Thursday’s lesson and open dance, Johandes and LSA senior Jason Debel, said they were drawn to the club because of the sense of community it provided, with Debel noting that “MSwing always has my back.” Unable to teach partner-dancing in the era of social distancing, MSwing took a year-and-a-half hiatus but finally resumed in-person meetings in Fall 2021. Johandes and Debel both noted an uptake in the club’s membership since their return last semester, as many seek the community and interaction that MSwing facilitates. The club also allows students an alluring break from the stress of school, offering a fun, relaxing and casual space weekly. 

My evening with MSwing was some of the most fun I’ve had in a while. From 8-10 p.m., the Koessler Room was full of laughter, music and the gloriously upbeat energy of the MSwing community. My unease about dancing with strangers dissolved quickly, and I was able to sink into the easy rhythm of swing. Kolleth also noted, “There is something about the act of dancing with strangers that gives a sense of instant camaraderie that has been in short supply for the last few years.”

At a huge university like ours, there is an overwhelming list of opportunities and events happening around campus. An MSwing Lesson and Open Dance is one you shouldn’t miss. The club offers lessons weekly (usually Thursday evenings, but check MaizePages ahead of time to confirm). Lessons are always free, completely non-committal and offer a perfect escape from whatever may be weighing on you. And who knows? You may even find love on the dance floor. 

Daily Arts Contributor Maya Levy can be reached at