Students enjoy swing dance and community

Austin Esquerra, junior mechanical engineering major, lifts Mikayla McAtee, senior interculural studies major, over his head at the swing dancing club.

Since the beginning of time, humans have been dancing. From David worshiping the Lord to the Victorian era, ballroom dancing has been a large part of culture, history, life and expression. This historic theme continues within our current context with an unofficial swing dancing club on campus.

The swing dancing club meets at 9:30 p.m. every Thursday in the James Building courtyard, making it perfect for hardworking students who need a break during their late-night study session. 

Swing dancing started in the 1920s and took off in the ’30s and ’40s, so many of the moves are conservative and promote healthy boundaries between people.

Paul Pepper, senior graphic design major and founder of the unofficial swing dancing club, started this eccentric group in the 2019-20 school year after he and his family took swing dancing classes over the summer.

The club sadly fell apart in the face of COVID-19 until Pepper had a fateful encounter with Azam Shanikh, graduate student in business and current co-leader of the unofficial swing dancing club, in the fall of 2021.

The club restarted that fall with a humble but fun six members. However, the inviting learning atmosphere, made possible by Shanikh and Pepper, mixed with a little word-of-mouth marketing, has made the unofficial club boom this semester and reach attendance of around 20 students.

While the club is undoubtedly fun, it may seem too risqué for a Baptist campus. Pepper knows this and works hard to create a safe environment that promotes platonic dance partners. In spite of his efforts to create a strong Christian atmosphere, he still has doubts about whether or not to make it an official club.

“I want as many people to come and enjoy swing dancing as possible, but I’m not sure what CBU thinks of that,” Pepper said.

Shanikh acknowledged that he would like to make the club official at CBU.

“It would be healthier for (the swing dance club) to (dance) in supervision of (CBU), making sure people just stick to swing dance rather than going further than that,” Shanikh said.

Pepper made light of Shanikh’s comment saying, “We don’t tango. We are not a tango club.”

Overall, the two of them are unsure whether or not to make it an official club because they do not want to rile anyone up. However, it is clear that their work, official or not, is contributing to the Christian environment on campus.

Mikayla McAtee, senior intercultural studies major and current attendee of the swing dance club, enjoys attending.

“(The club is a) super friendly and welcoming environment that promotes great community,” McAtee said. “I also 100% feel that it is a safe space for Christians to come dance. In fact, before I began going to swing dancing, I had been praying that the Lord would provide me a safe space to dance since I love doing it, but most spaces outside of CBU are not the best environment for me to be placing myself in.”

So, whether you like exercise, want to make new friends or are just obsessed with the early 20th century, swing dancing is for you.

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