The Rapidian

Grand Rapids Original Swing Society hosts prom theme night

The Swing Society hosted a night full of dancing despite last minute changes.

Join the fun

Tuesdays: 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. at Rosa Parks Circle

Wednesdays: 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. at Jam N’ Bean

Thursdays: Line Dancing 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. at Rosa Parks Circle

Swing dancers at Swing Dance Prom.

Swing dancers at Swing Dance Prom. /Tom De Vette

Whether you wanted to experience prom for the first time or just wanted to relive the experience, the Grand Rapids Original Swing Society allowed people to do just that with its Swing Dance Prom Night theme on Tuesday, June 25. Originally scheduled to take place at Rosa Parks Circle, the event's location was changed to the Woodland Skating Center due to the possiblity of rain and thunderstorms, says Steve Zaagman, founder of Swing Society.

After announcing the location change the day of the event, Zaagman had to update the group's social media accounts, write a message in chalk at Rosa Parks Circle, hire photographers and decorate the skating center just several hours before the event started. 

"We want people to treat it like a prom, invite someone down like a significant other," says Zaagman. “We get them to dress to the nines. It’s all about keeping things fresh and fun."

More than 570 people attended the indoor event. The Swing Society's weekly events, held outdoors during good weather conditions, get a crowd of about 1,000, says Zaagman.

Despite the lack of rain outside and air conditioning inside, Zaagman says the event was still a success.

"People really loved it," says Zaagman. "I think in the end the night turned out to be really awesome."

Opinions on the location change varied among those in attendance.

"I have enjoyed swing immensely since I started going about three years ago," says Graham Polinder, who attended Swing Dance Prom. "The only aspect I did not particularly enjoy Tuesday night was the heat, other than that my spirits were high."

For some, the smaller crowd made the event more enjoyable.

"I thought it was better because you didn't have people go there to just hang out and distract others from having a fun time," says Tommy Daly, who has frequently attended the Swing Society's events throughout the past year.

Attendees danced the night away under disco balls and multi-colored lights. However, everyone did go outside for one dance of the "Hokey Pokey" in the center's parking lot.

While Swing Dance Prom is an outlet for dancing, it also offers the opportunity to build relationships.

"People are meeting their significant others at [Swing Society] events, and Prom kind of helps continue that trend," says Zaagman. "It breaks down barriers. It's getting people to dance and talk and interact with strangers."

Daly, who followed Zaagman's suggestion and took a date to Swing Dance Prom, enjoyed the slow dances throughout the night.

"[My highlight was] the slow dance to Bruno Mars' 'When I was your Man' with my date," says Daly.

The Swing Society meets weekly on Tuesdays at Rosa Parks Circle from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Various theme nights are held throughout the year, including one based on the show “Dr. Who.” Basic dance moves are taught each week for those who are new to swing dancing.

Indoor events cost $5, while events held outdoors are donation recommended. Zaagman currently pays for the weekly events out of pocket. A grant from the Grand Rapids Downtown Alliance helps with the cost.

“[The Downtown Alliance grant] goes a long way, but [Swing Dance] has gotten so big I’ve had to hire extra security, which wasn’t in my initial budget,” says Zaagman. “I have to get around $1,000 just in donations to continue to put it on."

The Swing Society’s growth, however, helped claim a spot in the Guinness World Records last year.  In August, 756 participants gathered at Rosa Parks Circl to dance their way into the record for the largest swing dance.

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