Putting a swing in their step

Area residents came together for the start of a new swing dancing class

Area residents learned some of the basics of swing dancing during their first session of a class that kicked off Jan. 12 at the Marshall Area YMCA. Darwin Dyce and Rachel Dubbeldee practiced steps while Megan Reynolds, at right, offered instruction.


The people gathered in the Marshall Area YMCA’s multipurpose room all had different levels of experience — ranging from “dancing at weddings” to years of partner dancing. But no matter their background, everybody seemed to be having fun, practicing steps while “My Baby Just Cares For Me” played over the sound system.

Having fun and meeting new people were the whole point of being there, Megan Reynolds said.

“It’s a way to connect with people, and to connect with the community,” she said.

That perspective on dancing was also a big part of why Reynolds, together with her husband Jefferson Reynolds, were teaching a new swing class at the YMCA. The first session of the class kicked off on Jan. 12. It’s the first time a swing dancing class has been offered at the Marshall YMCA, said Jessica Dahms, director of healthy living at the YMCA.

Megan Reynolds said the idea to teach a class came about partly as a way to share something she and Jefferson enjoyed.

“We’ve both been dancing for a long time,” Jefferson Reynolds said.

“Jeff and I met through social dancing,” Megan Reynolds said.

After she and Jefferson moved to the Marshall area, they had also been looking for a chance to get more involved, Megan Reynolds said. Dance classes seemed like a good opportunity.

“It’s about building community,” she said.

Reynolds said she chose swing for a class topic because it would be fun, and easy to learn.

For the first class, Reynolds focused on some of the basics of partner dancing — not just learning steps, but learning how dancers guide their partners around the dance floor, and through turns. For the group’s first exercise, everyone paired off and held their dance partners’ hands with arms rigid.

The pose looked a little awkward, but it made it easier to see how a partner could lead in a dance. When one partner steps forward, the other naturally moves, too. It’s a little bit like driving a shopping cart, Reynolds said.

After a few minutes of “shopping cart” practice, the class moved on to the basic steps of East Coast Swing dancing, while swing and jazz standards played on the speakers. To keep with the “social” part of social dancing, dancers switched partners every so often.

“Everyone is going to dance with everyone,” Megan Reynolds said.

As the class danced, the Reynoldses took turns helping to answer questions, and demonstrate tips and techniques.

For some of the students in the class, swing dancing was a completely new experience. Jazzy Lenort had experience dancing as part of a competitive team, but, she said, “This is my first time doing partner dancing.” She got her brother Kasey Lenort to come to the class, too.

“It was interesting. I liked it,” Kasey said of the class.

“I love to dance,” said class member Jan Ross. Ross said she’s part of a group that regularly goes to social dances, both in southwest Minnesota and South Dakota. It was nice to be able to have an opportunity to dance in Marshall, she said.

For Klayton and Ashley VanOverbeke, learning to dance was something they had wanted to try for a while.

“We always talked about doing it,” Klayton VanOverbeke said. The dance class was also a chance to get out and do something fun together, Ashley VanOverbeke said.

By the end of class, everyone was ready to try adding a turn into the mix, spinning their partners around.

Megan Reynolds said the swing class would be a six-week course, but she would still accept new class members for the first two or three weeks. The class will gradually build on basic skills, so new members can still catch up, she said. The class meets on Thursday evenings at the Marshall Area YMCA.