The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Haley Flanagan: swingin’ into old-style dancing in the 21st century

City College freshman Haley Flanagan (third from left) swing dances with partner and dance team at “Camp Hollywood” a dance competition in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Steve Hwan)

by Jenelle Lum| Guest Writer

One of the ways City College freshman Haley Flanagan expresses herself is through swing dancing.

“It’s a mixture of Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing and Charleston moves,” said Flanagan, age 18. “We do some basics—swing outs and turns—but on the team we do some aerials and trickier moves, too.” 

Swing dance is a variety of dances set to swing style jazz music. This type of dance was popular from the 1920s-40s, and Flanagan is one of the younger dancers helping to bring this style back again.

“I first started swing dancing in middle school,” said Flanagan. After learning about swing dance, she began to take classes at the Sacramento Ballroom, which she did for about three years. 

Flanagan acknowledged that a lot of younger people do not know much about swing dancing.

“When I mention that I swing dance, a lot of people are usually surprised,” she said.

Flanagan said the current generation has problems connecting with others and instead of going out to interact or socialize, everyone turns to their social media. She also sometimes chooses not to tell everyone that she swing dances because of the reactions she receives from them. Midtown Stomp/Spotlight Ballroom is where she currently dances is divided between older and younger dancers.

“The older crowd does the Lindy Hop, and the younger crowd does East Coast Swing,” said Flanagan. “I like to look at other people around me and create my own style of swing.” 

Some swing dancers Flanagan admires are Norma Miller, one of the original swing dancers known as the “queen of swing,” and Frankie Manning, one of the male founders of the Lindy Hop, which is a jazz dance that originated in Harlem, New York.

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After scrolling through her phone for a few seconds, she pulled up her Spotify playlist of her favorite dance songs: “My Baby Can Dance (Fast Version)” and “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon.”

“I enjoy the faster beats and tempo changes,” said Flanagan.

Flanagan described the swing dance class environment as welcoming and supportive. 

“Everyone comes together as a community [when dancing] and I consider them as a second family,” she said.

Swing classes are on Fridays, and afterwards are social dances, which happen all year. She said anyone is allowed to attend the social dances and they can receive a free, short private lesson. She said she is always meeting new people because they switch partners each time they dance.

“My favorite part about swing dance is that the community has become my second family. Everyone is so kind and supportive,” said Flanagan. 

During spring and winter, she participates in swing dance competitions and various performances. In summer, she goes to “Camp Hollywood,” which is a dance competition in Los Angeles.

“During each competition, our team goes with a color scheme. Usually, the instructors go for more of a ’50s or retro style,” she said. 

Other groups she has competed with in the past have based their costumes off of the music they were dancing to. One competitor stood out especially to her because the group wore bright colorful clothing and flowers.

“The swing community is the most welcoming and fun,” she said. “I would not have what I have now [swing dance friends] if it wasn’t for swing dance.”

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  • T

    Tam FrancisJan 29, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    Wonderful article. I was at the first Camp Hollywood and write dance fiction. It’s amazing Camp H is still on. So cool! Best of luck to you team!

  • R

    Ronald ThompsonJan 29, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    Always a joy to have you dancing with us!

  • M

    Midtown StompJan 29, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    This is so awesome. Haley is one of our favorite people!