Great Gatsby Dance swings through the IMU

The UI Swing Dancing Club hosted a 1920s-themed dance Saturday night.


Reba Zatz

A couple dancing and dressed in 1920s style clothing at the Swing Dance Club’s Gatsby Dance on Jan. 26 at the IMU.

Adrian Enzastiga, Arts Reporter

The noise of jazz fills the air, the arms and legs of every guest caught in its catchy rhythm. Colors flash around the ballroom, light reflecting off sparkly flapper dresses and multicolored ties. The room has been transported almost a century back in time, highlighting the style and class of the Roaring ’20s.

This was a scene from the Jan. 26 2019 Great Gatsby Dance, put on by the UI Swing Dance Club. Students and others came dressed in their best ’20s attire to the IMU Second-Floor Ballroom.

UI senior Ashley Moy, the treasurer of the UI Swing Dance Club, has stuck with it not just for the dancing but for the people, too.

“The community is great. The core people that keep coming every time, we’ve become really solid friends outside of the club, and so it’s like a family basically from that. We all get to share love for swing dancing,” Moy said. “I never danced in high school. Just popping in and not knowing what swing dancing was, I stuck with it because I wanted to swing dance, and I loved doing it. The people are very friendly and inviting, and the community across the nation for swing dancing is very family-oriented, just friendly and inclusive, and super nice.”

Reba Zatz
A couple dressed in 1920s formalwear dancing at the Swing Dance Club’s Gatsby Dance on Jan. 26 at the IMU.

Another member of the club, UI sophomore Sasha Zelenski, was excited about the Great Gatsby Dance.

“I love the dancing aspect of it, because that’s something I never saw myself doing,” she said. “I was never a dancer. But then I joined Swing Dance Club, and I became a dancer, I guess.”

Before the dance began, members of the club taught lessons to the guests. They showed off the Lindy hop and the Charleston and went through each step by step. The guests were asked to switch partners every few minutes, forcing them to socialize with the strangers around them. Only a select few were able to truly master the Charleston, and those that did showed themselves off as the superior swing dancers.

Once the social dance began, guests were able to dance freely while the Des Moines-based NOLA Jazz Band played. It was slow at first, but within minutes everyone was out on the floor, grooving and showing off their best ’20s moves.

Members of the Swing Dance Club came extra prepared with their own set of dances, consisting of the ’30s Charleston and various spins, turns, and kicks. The guests continued to practice throughout the night, combining dances and adding their own moves to create a unique flair. The constant “Back step, triple step, triple step …” flowed with the rhythm of the jazz tunes.

During the last hour, a dance circle was formed, allowing for couples to step up and show off their best swing moves. It was a tangle of arms and legs that transported the ballroom back in time. It was practically a re-creation of one of Jay Gatsby’s legendary parties.

Although the dance was catered mostly to students, community members attended in as well. Couples of all ages were present, and many seemed to be reaching their 60s. They were, impressively, still moving as quickly and fluidly as most of the students.

One highlight of the night was when three members of the NOLA jazz band, playing the trumpet, trombone, and clarinet, walked down the ramp off stage and through the dancers, while continuing to play. They moved to the music, swaying side to side with every step, earning cheers and applause from the dancers.

The woman singing with the band had a lovely voice; her soft lyrics could have been taken right out of the Roaring ’20s with an exception: She and the band busted out an acoustic cover of “All About That Bass.” She wore a velvet green dress with a light pink flower in her hair tied up in a bun.

The guests’ costumes did not disappoint anyone, either. Many of the women wore flapper headbands and fringed skirts, topped off with black, silk gloves, and fishnet leggings. Sparkles were embroidered in intricate patterns onto each dress to create a perfect ’20s aesthetic.

Before the final song, the band’s singer encouraged the guests to have fun with one last dance by saying, “Dance in slush, dance in snow, just keep on dancing.”