While the third anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdowns has come and gone, many communities are still searching for ways to reconnect. Some Burqueños are reconnecting through their love of swing dance.
Swing Night, originally held at the Heights Community Center, was once an Albuquerque staple, but in 2020 COVID-19 put an end to its 30-year-long history. Now, organizers at Duke City Swing are reviving the event with a weekly dance at the Alley Kats Tap Studio.
Founder and president of Duke City Swing Christin Oberman, said she stepped up because she “was just getting tired of not having dances around.”
While the loss of the original event is felt by the community, the fresh start allowed for new opportunities for those involved, including working with local bands to throw live music events and creating its own performance team, the Duke City Swing Dynamites.
“It allowed for us to start from the ground up and envision it in the way we wanted it to be,” Oberman said.
The pandemic also caused the group to find a new location after the community center changed their hours, according to Kasia Stevens, a community member who fondly remembered nights at the Heights Community Center.
For some older or immunocompromised dancers, coming out to a social dance is a risk they can’t justify, according too Cedric Cash, a organizer and dance instructor.
“When the scene started back up again, it’s not the same. There’s still a lot of people that don’t really come out because I think they’re still fearful,” Cash said, “COVID’s not completely gone.”
However, 2020 wasn't the first time that swing dance was pushed to the brink, Oberman said.
“Swing kind of died for a while throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and it really made a comeback in the ‘90s, and Frankie Manning was a huge part of bringing swing back,” Oberman said.
Frankie Manning is considered the patriarch of the swing revival. Manning began dancing in his early teens and continued dancing for the rest of his life. He is known for the Lindy Hop, a dance pioneered by Black American dancers in the 1920s.
“I’m not interested in fame and glory. It’s just that I would like others to know what a happy dance this is,” Manning said, according to the Frankie Manning Foundation.
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UNM students with valid ID, like Makena Halen, get discounted entry to all Duke City Swing events, according to their Facebook page.
“I find a lot of joy in swing dancing and I used to go every week before the lockdown on Tuesdays,” Halen said.
“The music really lifts you up,” Stevens said. “It really improves your mood for the whole week.”
While swing dancing's popularity has ebbed and flowed through our cultural zeitgeist, it’s always managed to find an audience.
“It’s such a fun, expressive, goofy way to get out and get some exercise and spend time with people, meet new people, and learn a new skill.” Oberman said.
Duke City Swing offers beginner and intermediate lessons from 7:15 to 8:15 p.m. as well as a social dance going from 8:15 to 10 p.m. every Tuesday night.
Gillian Barkhurst is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com