By Kameko Lashlee
Every Tuesday evening on the corner of Fourth and Plum Street, a cacophony of uptempo jazz music and foot-stomping emanates from the second-floor ballroom of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Ballroom and Conference Center. This weekly shindig, broadly known as Oly Swing, is a time capsule of sorts: a revival of 1950s-style dance halls available to beginners, swing veterans and everyone in between. Oly Swing is hosted and sponsored by Oly Dance, a performing organization co-owned by local dancers David Accurso and Madison Paguirigan. Each Tuesday night kicks off with a beginners’ lesson on swing steps and fundamentals. The music begins at 7:30 as amateurs and aficionados alike dance with friends, partners and complete strangers.
Not only do Accurso and Paguirigan teach many of the workshops offered by Oly Dance, they hire other teachers from around the area and book local bands to play at fundraisers they host. Their next live-music event is a SafePlace fundraiser July 31 headlined by musicians Jessica Blinn and Vince Brown.
Swing dance refers to, not a single set of dance moves, but an amalgamation of different dance styles: the Lindy Hop, West Coast swing and the Charleston that became popular along with the swing style of jazz music from the 1920s to 1940s. In the 1950s, when jazz was found more in lounges and less in ballrooms, the first era of swing dancing drew to a close. Within the last decade or so, however, many forms of swing dance have made a resurgence in cities throughout America. Olympia is no exception.
At its core, Oly Swing is an inclusive space for people to learn from each other, hone dance skills and cultivate community. An important aspect of modern-day swing, one differing from the first swing movement, is its diversity. “Part of our philosophy is that dance is for everyone.” explains Accurso. “I love dance but I also love how it creates community. Dance is a time when we can have personal interactions with people. Young people dance with old, Evergreen students dance with military … I like that we’ve cultivated a space that gives people permission to dance without being professional.”
Stop by the Eagles Ballroom and see what Oly Swing has to offer. It’s like becoming versed in a universal language.
7-11 p.m. Tuesdays,
beginner’s lesson 7-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays
$5; $10 during fundraisers and live-music nights
Fraternal Order of Eagles Ballroom and Conference Center,
805 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia