Participants learn to swing dance at the Athens Swing Night dance class at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia on Tuesday, September 4, 2018. (Photo/Jason Born)

Forget flossing or the whip and nae nae — swing dance has taken over Athens. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced in partner dancing, Athens Swing Night brings swing dancing to the community every week.

A happy accident

Athens Swing Night has hosted dances since 1997, but the event at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA did not begin until 2015.

“It was sort of a happy accident in a way,” said Melissa Gogo, one of the organizers of Athens Swing Night.

Gogo said a swing band was performing at the 2015 Valentine’s Date Night at the Botanical Garden, and Gogo and her friend were asked to teach a swing dance lesson so people could dance to the music.

“The people who attended that event loved it...those individuals who attended that date night asked about other dance opportunities at the Garden, “ Gogo said.

After the success of the event, Gogo and Athens Swing Night were asked to host dances occasionally at the Botanical Garden, which eventually grew into a monthly event beginning in January 2018.

From Lindy Hop to East Coast Swing

The format of each Swing Night depends on the location.

Each class begins with attendees learning East Coast Swing or Lindy Hop, two types of swing dance. Gogo recommends East Coast Swing for beginners and Lindy Hop for people with partner dancing experience. After the lesson comes social dancing, where students practice their swing dancing skills.

At the Botanical Garden there is more flexibility because of the space at the venue, and the two classes can be taught simultaneously in different rooms. This allows the classes to end earlier as well.

Despite the differences in capacity, there are pros and cons to each venue, according to Dawson Horah, a junior mathematics major at the University of Georgia who regularly attends Athens Swing Night.

“Athens Fit Club has a nice floor, and it’s local and an easy drive from pretty much anywhere in Athens — but then, the Botanical Gardens is a really beautiful place to dance,” Horah said. “It has an atmosphere that you don’t really get anywhere else.”

Part of a community

For Horah, a friend bringing him to Swing Night his freshman year was just the beginning of his involvement in Athens Swing Night.

“After about eight months, I got plugged in with more people more on the regular and started chatting with instructors and the DJs,” Horah said.“Then I started to show up more regularly and make it more of a weekly commitment I knew I was going to do on Tuesday nights.”

Horah became more involved with Athens Swing Night after participating in weekend workshops and exchanges, particularly the Atlanta Lindy Exchange in June 2017, with other members of the organization.

“The thing that made me start to commit or feel like part of Swing Night was actually traveling with some of the people from Swing Night,” Horah said.

Horah also helped plan Classic City Swing which took place on Sept. 21-23. The event brought together 250 dancers from around the country with eight instructors.

“I feel extremely grateful that the community has allowed me to become one of them and then become someone who starts to grow it myself,” Horah said.

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