River City Dance Club is on a mission to bring vintage swing to Chattanooga.
They’re off to a good start with their weekly Monday night social dance, where people of all skill levels can learn different forms of swing from the 1920s and 1930s.
Participants who have a few dances under their wingtips can show up at 7 p.m. for the intermediate class. Beginners can learn the basics at 7:45. Then everyone can join in the social dance at 8:30.
River City Dance currently meets at ClearSpring Yoga, located downtown at 105 N. Market St.
Co-founders Etienne Van Wyk and Lindsey Miller formed the club last year to give people a place to meet, socialize, and dance with others, regardless of their experience.
“As with any art, dancing is a learned skill,” Van Wyk says. “And anyone can acquire this skill. You only need to participate to learn.”
In the beginner’s class, participants learn how to swing dance, and how the music of the ‘20s and ‘30s inspires the way people move. “We mainly teach the Lindy Hop,” says Van Wyk. “We also teach Blues Dance, the Balboa, and the Charleston.”
Couples are welcome, but Van Wyk says there’s no need to bring a partner, as they rotate the participants so everyone has an opportunity to dance together. (Couples on a date night can choose to dance only with each other.) He does, however, recommend bringing a pair of non-marking shoes that fit well. “Most of us wear sneakers,” he says.
People concerned about having trouble learning will be relieved to know Van Wyk and Miller emphasize movement over moves. “For a lead, that means leading a dance that will make your follow smile,” Van Wyk says. “For a follow, that means being responsive to how your lead is interpreting the dance. Communication and connection are what define social dance for us.”
Van Wyk has been dancing since 2004, when he moved to Chattanooga after immigrating from South Africa to the U.S. in 1996. He got his first taste at Shirley’s, a square and swing dance venue where he learned what he calls street swing on his own. “For a few years, I was there almost every Saturday night,” he says.
After dancing ballroom for several years, Van Wyk found the vintage swing dance culture in Nashville, and has been enjoying it ever since.
Miller grew up in Chattanooga and started taking East Coast swing dance lessons as a teenager at the Chattanooga Theater Centre. She learned the Lindy Hop while in college, and was introduced to West Coast swing dance while in Huntsville.
“I’m passionate about all forms of swing dance, and am constantly seeking to improve my skills by attending workshops and dance exchanges,” she says.
For all of their experience, Van Wyk and Miller understand the joy of dancing begins with learning the basics, and they are ready and willing to teach all who will come on a Monday night.
The Monday night dances are $7 per person, or $5 with a student ID. To learn more, search Facebook for “River City Dance Club.”