Swing of Things

Andrew Coathup’s feet fly from the floor as Frank Sinatra sings Fly Me to the Moon. He grins as he leads his partner through a spin.

Around him dozens of couples at the Ottawa Swing Dance Society’s Friday night gathering swivel their hips – the floor of
All Saints Anglican Church hall

pulsing under their feet. Coathup, a University of Ottawa physics grad, is one of the handful of students who spend Friday nights the way their grandparents did: swing

The jazzy partner dance from

At 21, he felt dancing was a skill he lacked so he attended his first SwingUO lesson in the atrium outside the campus bar. “I was immediately attracted to the positive vibe,” he says.

“I felt very accepted right away, despite the fact that I was very intimidated asking people

To keep from making those mistakes, the uOttawa history major did the moves he knew best over and over again until he got really good at them.

History major Emma Gabe, also a University of Ottawa student, was similarly persistent. It took her two years to feel completely comfortable on

the dance floor.
“What hindered me was

that I was really shy,” says Gabe.

Dancing helped Gabe over- come that shyness. She went on to become the president of SwingUO in 2013, making it her mission to boost the

I felt accepted right away, despite the fact that I was very intimidated asking people to dance

the 1920s made a comeback in
the ’90s, and in the last five years membership at the uOttawa club, SwingUO has doubled from 40 to 80 people. In 2015, SwingUO’s website received over 8,000 hits.

But more than just a peek into the past, swing helps students build self-confidence. Even though Ottawa Swing Dance Society no longer meets at that church hall, 24-year-old Coathup still kicks out wildly on the dance floor, but he hasn’t always been so sure on his feet.

to dance.”
At first he only danced with friends, but after

two months at SwingUO Coathup built up the confidence to ask even the most advanced dancers there.

Swing was similarly challenging for Kevin Van Der Linden, acting chief clerk of the Cameron Highlanders. “It can be a bit intimidating when you’re not naturally an outgoing person who doesn’t like making mistakes in public,” he says.

eight-year-old club’s dwindling membership. However, most students won’t be dancing forever, says Jordana King, a librarian at the Ottawa Public Library who taught swing in the city for nine years. “They come for a while, but I’d say a fairly small percentage keep going for a

few years,” says King.
But even after these bopping students step off

the dance floor for good, the confidence they found in swing will follow them for a lifetime.