The Swing Dancer swings by Hall of Fame with broken record


Andy Mitchell, [email protected]

A Guinness World Record returned to Iowa as “The Swing Dancer” Tom Roeder came to the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame.

Roeder, who is from Welton, Iowa and grew up on a small farm where his family still lives, said his whole family has been Hawkeye fans since the 1970s.

With the help of UI cheerleaders Emma Rohn, Sadie Ellsworth, Rachel Ruplinger, and Marissa Young, Roeder set the record for most swing dance flips in one minute.

This was not Roeder’s first rodeo with Guinness. In 2004, he set the record for most swing dance flips in one minute with 17 flips.

In 2017, after the record was topped, Roeder set it again at 40 flips per minute.

Roeder said he thought it was time for the record to come back to Iowa; it was taken by India in 2011.

On Feb. 16, Roeder and his partners returned to the site where they broke the record, the UI Athletics Hall of Fame. The team showed off its awards, and the members demonstrated the flips they did for their record attempt.

For Roeder, the attempt was more than the competition.

“I guess why I like to do it most is to get more people interested in dancing and the amazing health benefits of it,” he said.

He had the idea of recruiting UI cheerleaders when he saw them perform at an Iowa basketball game doing rotations, he said, and he thought it would work for swing dancing as well.

“They were phenomenal,” Roeder said. “We wouldn’t be here without them.”

In their initial practices, he only had three partners — Ellsworth, Ruplinger, and Young — and they fell just short of the record numerous times. Ruplinger said they were driven by being so close to the record.

When Rohn joined the team, they had the missing piece of the puzzle. They broke the record in 58 seconds with around 1.5 flips per second.

“It’s definitely something I never thought I’d accomplish,” Young said about being a record breaker.

Prior to their involvement in the world-record attempt, none of the cheerleaders had experience with swing dancing. But after a couple weeks of practice and a long period of processing by Guinness, they were record breakers in a field they had never tried.

“Just because you haven’t done something doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish great goals and have fun doing it,” Ellsworth said.

Roeder said his interest in swing dancing started with seeing Grease at a Clinton, Iowa, drive-in theater in 1978. Seeing the fun Olivia Newton John had on screen, he thought that was what he wanted to do.

Fifty-five-year-old Roeder’s career as a swing dancer has been more than just setting records. He has appeared on numerous talk shows and performed, has danced for Guinness World Records, has his own line of instructional DVDs, and has a YouTube channel with more than 1 million views.

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