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Hawkeye Swing Festival returns this weekend

BY COURTNEY SPEARS | APRIL 16, 2009 7:38 AM

Swing, the biggest dance and music craze of the 1920s and ’30s, will swoop through the UI campus this weekend.

The Hawkeye Swing Festival will return for its fourth year of lindy-hopping mania Friday night and prance through April 19. Seven teams and individual competitors from the Midwest gather to test their skills, and dancers of all levels have the opportunity to learn and practice swing.

The event, put on by the UI Swing Dance Club, features live music, professional instruction, and competition.

“Lindy-hop is the hip-hop of the 1920s,” said Michael Brafford, the event’s project coordinator and cofounder. “It is the American dance form.”



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The Des Moines native went swing-crazy after taking a ballroom physical-education class at the UI in 1997, and he has traveled the United States learning and performing different styles of the dance ever since.

“I took to swing,” he said. “It’s a great part of American history. It’s fun. Everything about that era is fun.”

Brafford came back to the UI in 2004 to resume his studies. A swing club had been established in 2001, but it was inactive when he returned. Wanting the club to make a comeback, he contacted members left over from the old group. Two years later, he spearheaded the Hawkeye Swing Festival along with other lindy-hop fans.

“I had the idea in my head before I got to Iowa that I wanted to put something like this together,” he said. “The UI is a perfect place in that it helps and supports student organizations to get things going.”

Matthew Fuld, a UI doctoral student in biomedical engineering, cofounded the festival with Brafford in 2006. Hailing from Baltimore, Fuld knew a swing culture in which fans could find a dance venue five or six nights a week.

“We both came to Iowa, and realized there was nothing like it,” Fuld said. “We wanted to bring our love of swing dancing to Iowa.”

The festival has grown significantly since its first year. In 2006, the event consisted of 75 dancers, one live band, and a DJ.

This year, 225 people have registered for the weekend’s festivities, and four live bands — Twin Cities Hot Club, the Hot Swing Combo, Mutiny in the Parlor, and Patty and the Buttons — and DJs Jason Zabinski and James Pustejovsky will bring the sound.

“It’s great to have that many live bands,” Fuld said. “Dancing to live music is the best.”

The festival includes six events, including the team competition in which seven teams vie for the “Cutter’s Cup.” The UI Swing Dance Club’s competitive team, the Flying LindyHawks, is the defending champion in the event, and it will compete against swing teams from Des Moines, Minneapolis, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Chicago, and Truman State.

While beginners’ classes are full, the festival’s organizers encourage interested novices to attend Friday and Saturday nights’ dances.

“We are glad that so many people are supporting swing dancing in the eastern Iowa area,” Brafford said.


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