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August 28, 2013

Locals swing dance weekly in Farmington, hope to garner interest from others

By Sherri Kolade
C & G Staff Writer

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Locals swing dance weekly in Farmington, hope to garner interest from others
Jess Schwartz, 26, of Saline, holds on to Gabe Brandel, 28, of Livonia, during a dance.

FARMINGTON — Swinginfusion Farmington is not your mother’s swing dance group, although your mother would approve of it, group organizer Alexander Steward said.

“It is a clean, safe environment for teenagers, college students, and for those post-college,” the 24-year-old Livonia resident said. “It is not bumping and grinding. We want people to feel welcome and safe, and parents to feel like they can drop off their teenager there; but also, we want college students to feel like they can come.” 

Swinginfusion Farmington meets from 8:30 to roughly 11:30 p.m. on Thursdays at the Farmington Pavilion, 33113 Grand River Ave.

And for a $1 donation every Thursday, participants 15-35 years old can let their hair down and dance the night away to songs from the 1920s to today.

“This is not a bar or a restaurant,” he said. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money.”

Steward, also the not-for-profit-group’s DJ, said he plays songs that vary from big bands to Louis Armstrong, rock ‘n’ roll to blues, and with artists such as Little Richard and Taylor Swift.

“(There are) so many different genres and influences where all the music is connected in different ways,” he told the Press recently. “We’re very adamant about finding good quality songs. So, every type of genre that has a swing beat.”

South Lyon resident Sam Johnson founded the group in 2007.

The group, originally called Gen Y Swing, was created to be a place for young adults to blow off steam, socialize and get moving, Steward said.

The swing dance group became so popular, it now has chapters in Milford, Brighton, the Ann Arbor-Saline area, Clarkston and Spring Lake.

The Farmington group brings anywhere from 80 to 200 people to the pavilion each week.

“I think the reason why dance groups have taken off so much is because it provides a safe place for teenagers,” he said. “The reason Farmington is so unique is because we really outreach to the whole entire community. We bring in people from Novi, Detroit, Dearborn. I have people who come from Taylor, Flat Rock. It is word of mouth. Basically, all around metro Detroit.”

Some of the most common dance styles are East Coast Swing, Lindy Hop, the Charleston and Country Swing, among other types of social dances, according to http://swinginfusion.com.

Steward said several teachers give weekly lessons on how to swing dance before the event.

Rebecca Lewis, who is one of the swing dance teachers, said she started teaching two years ago after joining the group in 2010.

“It’s very informal. I’m not a professional; I just do it for fun,” the 23-year-old Canton resident said.

Swinginfusion member Mark Benjamin, 23, of Livonia, told the Press that he has been in the group for about four years.

“Swinginfusion got me into swing dancing,” he said. “I started in college when I was in this competitive business program, and (swing dancing) was always a good way to blow off steam.”

He said a lot of his great memories have been tied to swing dancing, whether hanging out with his friends or dancing with others.

“I guess it does have a spiritual component to it,” he said.

He added that swing dancing exposes others to the likes of Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, and “all of this culture.”

“It is this culture that, you know, frankly, suburban white kids would never get exposed to. It is kind of cool that we can do that,” he said. 

For more information, go to http://swinginfusion.com/, https://www.facebook.com/groups/swinginfusionfarmington/ or contact alexanderdsteward@gmail.com.

The group meets at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 23225 Gill Road, in case of rain. The group meets at the pavilion May through October, and at the church November through April.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sherri Kolade at skolade@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1046.