NYU Holds 4th Annual Swing Exchange


photo NEW YORK—Dancers hit the floor for New York University’s fourth annual NYU Intercollegiate Swing Exchange (NISE) in the Kimmel Eisner building Feb. 16. The event, put on by NYU’s Swing Dance Society, featured free Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced  swing dance workshops from 10 am to 4 pm, followed by a $10 social dance and competitions from 7:30 pm to 12 pm.

The event, attended mostly by students from universities throughout the city, is open to all dancers and as an inexpensive opportunity for dancers (especially those on a college student budget) to meet for the dance they love.

Tony Kauffman, an NYU student four years into a five-year dual degree program in NYU Physics and Stephens Institute of Technology, has attended the NISE since it began his freshman year. His first exposure to swing dancing came when he joined friends going to NYU’s Swing Dance Society and fell in love with the dance, finding it easy and fun to learn new moves. Kauffman’s favorite part of NISE is the competitions, which he says give students a unique opportunity to participate in lighthearted competition.

“We’re not cutthroat--we joke around with all the competitors, but there’s not many opportunities you get to do a solo Charleston competition or a collegiate performance competition of it, and that’s a blast,” Kauffman said.

Adam Lee and Elaine Silver taught the Beginner workshops, Felix Pitre and Akemi Kinukawa the Intermediate workshops, and Brian Lawton and Samantha Siegel the Advanced workshops. Lunch and each of the four corresponding workshops per level lasted about an hour. President Roy Graham and Vice President Therese Miranda planned and oversaw the festivities.

The Beginner and Advanced Strictly Swing competition was held first, followed by Solo Charleston, a Team Showcase, a Jack and Jill, awards at 11:15 and 45 more minutes of social dancing until the event’s close.

Brian Lawton and Samantha Siegel teach the Advanced class. Photo by: Rebecca Jacobson

Lawton, president of the Swing Dance Society for two years and president and competitor in the Latin Ballroom Dance Club, began NISE his junior year as a way to make swing dancing affordable and accessible to students. He has taught at the event the past two years, including last year's beginner class and this year's the advanced with Siegel, his girlfriend. They met as RA’s in a freshman dorm.

He has been dancing Lindy Hop (one of many types of swing dance) for six years, and Siegel for two, last year’s NISE being her first social dance. Both were classically trained in ballet for years before.

“The slogan for NISE is ‘it’s all about the connections.’ And it’s true,” Lawton said. Lawton explained that the point of colleges coming together is getting to dance with people who aren’t a part of your class and therefore didn’t just learn the same moves that you know. Lawton described the event as “kind of uniting New York and surrounding states of the swing scene.”

Siegel also acknowledged the learning experience that takes place when they dance with other partners who have different leads and different connections. She explained how they’re able to learn in different ways both in the classes and the social dancing, “you learn just as much from dancing—from different bodies especially.”

Siegel shared that she loves how swing dancing can bring together people of different majors, backgrounds and interests with the common bond of dancing and finding connectivity in dance, allowing dance to become just another sparkling facet in the lives of its participants.

NYU’s Swing Dance Society meets every Wednesday for classes from 6-7 and 7-8, and is open to non-NYU students interested in learning the dance. Siegel and Lawton have been dancing together professionally and teaching for about a year and offer reduced-rate $10 dance classes to students.