Swing Dancing: Live Music Needs to Waltz Its Way Back to Formal

On a typical Saturday night, dances are characterized by flashing lights and the booming bass lines that are so prevalent in today’s music. The student center is roaring with contemporary dance music that we listen to everyday. So why, when this type of music is so popular, was the Hall so empty during Winter Formal?

On the night of Winter Formal, most of the student body abandoned the DJ in the Hall for the swing dancing music of Evan Long ’14 in Gammons. People listen to the pop music associated with Saturday night dances much more often than swing dancing music, yet for Winter Formal, everyone moved to Gammons to swing dance.

Winter Formal swing dancing was traditionally popular at Groton until a few years ago, when the school opted to replace a live band with a DJ because students had complained that the music was not modern enough. Based on the attendance in the Hall on the night of this Formal, however, that was not a good move. At any given time, there might have been at most twenty students milling around in the Hall, while there were at least fifty dancing in Gammons. The traditional swing dance looked much more lively and fun and was obviously more popular than the dance in the Hall.

Although contemporary music is favored for regular Saturday night dances, traditional swing dance music is better suited for formal dances. While pop works for anyone who wants to have a fun Saturday night, swing sets the atmosphere much better for a formal dance. Saturday night dances are pretty common at Groton, so whenever there is a formal dance, students will jump at the chance for something unique. At Winter Formal, people will want to dance formally and not jump around like they would at a regular dance.

Furthermore, the tradition of Winter Formal at Groton is more compatible with swing music than pop music. Everyone makes an effort to dress up, which is something that isn’t a very frequent occurrence here. It is hard to imagine that sort of attire and atmosphere fitting along with electronic and hip-hop music; the tradition and classiness associated with swing music better fits the formal look that the student body has.

Swing music also offers a personal touch that can’t be found by dancing along to the DJ: people would much rather enjoy the interactive, personal aspect of dance with their dates that comes through dancing to swing music than just idly dance along to pop music. “Swing dancing is more intimate. It gets personal,” said Alex Taber ’16.

Clearly, the numbers from this Winter Formal show that there has been a shift in the opinions of the student body. While students were originally the ones who opposed having live music played, it is clear that a large majority now appreciate the uniqueness and refreshing aspects of having swing music on Formal nights. Bringing back live music instead of having a DJ makes sense for both the students’ interests and for capturing the spirit of having a formal night.

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