Heights Community Center hosts Swing Dancing Sessions


Upon entering the Heights Community Center on a Tuesday night, you are immediately transported to a 1940s swing dance. Dancers spin around with their partners in free-flowing, energetic steps while spectators cheer and relax against the walls. Skirts twirl, laughter rings out, and hundreds of people dance simultaneously. Upon closer inspection, however, you notice that you are not actually in the 20th century. You see modern clothing and technology scattered throughout the crowd and the illusion is shattered. Though it is currently the 21st century, the Calming Four Primordial Swing Dance Group has done a fantastic job of convincing their patrons otherwise. Swing dancing, which seemingly died out in the latter half of the 20th century, has rapidly gained back some of its past popularity in the last 20 years. Now, almost every major city across the country has a thriving swing dancing community, bringing back the cultural heritage of one of America’s most popular dances.

The Calming Four Primordial Swing Dance Group was founded nearly 17 years ago with a mission to teach swing dancing in a fun, informal way. The Calming Four started out as four friends learning how to swing dance at a local coffee shop but soon developed into something much more. Patrons of the coffee shop began to notice the group, and soon they were asking for lessons. “We started teaching lessons even though we didn’t know anything ourselves,” Desi Brown, the only original founder still involved in the organization, said. Over time, these informal swing dance lessons attracted more than a hundred people. It was then that Brown and the other three decided to make it an official business, dedicating themselves to helping establish New Mexico’s swing dance community.

The Calming Four Primordial Swing Dance Group is a non-profit which relies solely on volunteers and recommended four-dollar donations which serve as an entrance fee. A large chunk of the donations go toward expenses; however, any leftover money is donated to various charities and fundraisers. As of 2015, the Calming Four Primordial Swing Dance Group has donated approximately $60,000 to schools, relief funds, youth groups, and other charities. “We tend to donate to social justice groups [to assist] people who are doing really great work,” Brown said.

The swing dancing events take place every Tuesday night from 7 to 10:30 p.m. at the Heights Community Center on 823 Buena Vista Dr. SE. In addition to open dancing, the Calming Four also offers lessons from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. and caters to different skill levels by hosting three separate lessons: beginning, intermediate, and advanced. During the beginner lesson, a dancer learns the basic steps of the Jitterbug, one of the easiest and most popular styles of swing dancing. The intermediate and advanced lessons are for building and refining your dancing skills. “The basic steps are really simple to pick up, and then once you have that down there are a lot of really cool moves that you can try out,” Maria Stevens ’17, a frequent visitor to the dance hall, said.

A majority of the participants, however, skip lessons altogether and instead choose to arrive around 8:30 p.m. after the lessons have ended and the open dancing has begun. During the open dance, patrons dance with their partners, who are often strangers with varying degrees of skill. “Everyone knows that there is a big range in ability, so no one really cares if they ask you to dance and you turn out to be less experienced than they are; it’s all just for fun,” Elle Wolfley ’17 said. The Calming Four encourages patrons to dance with people they normally would not interact with. “You have high school students dancing with eighty-year-olds,” Brown said. “[The dancing] allows people to look at their community a little bit differently.”