By Jacel Egan
Every Wednesday, Ely Hall at Vassar College shines in a new light. The old brick building emanates a golden yellow, with humming jazz tunes lingering in the air. The air thick with excitement and anticipation, dancers circle around to start the night.
Glenn Katzen, one of the head coordinators of PoTown Swing, explains how the weekly event came into fruition.
“I just started working for IBM in Poughkeepsie after graduating from RIT, and I happened to know a couple of the IBM summer interns from swing dancing in Rocheser,” Katzen said. “One of the interns discovered that the Muddy Cup Coffee House had a great space which they would allow us to use for free. We began dancing there on Wednesday nights to music from my iPod.”
Since the space was provided at no charge, PoTown Swing could be opened to the public for free.
Flyers, a Facebook group, and word of mouth helped spread the news to other IBM employees, local dancers, college students and Muddy Cup patrons. After the Muddy Cup closed in Dec. 2008, attendees employed by Vassar helped the event relocate to its current location in Ely Hall at the school.
“We’ve been doing this since June of 2007 and have held session almost every Wednesday since then,” Katzen said. “My passion for swing dancing and a hope that we could get more young people involved in the Poughkeepsie swing dance community really inspired me to start all this. Holding a free event helped young people to grow in this community, in addition to having a lot of fun in the process.”
Weekly participants range from college-aged students to senior citizens. One student shares his experience with PoTown Swing so far.
“I’ve been going to PoTown Swing for about five weeks now,” said David Powlyk, a freshman at Marist. “I go with a bunch of friends from the Frisbee intramurals, and I guess what I enjoy most is trying to learn new style of swing dance while meeting new people. It’s a really good time for everyone that goes.”
Stephanie Bushman, a senior at Marist, has been going to PoTown Swing since late January this year.
“I usually go with my friends from the Frisbee team. We wanted to do something we considered classy, educational and fun. Plus I’ve always wanted to learn to dance for a long time. I love being able to practice regularly in a low-key environment with friendly and helpful people. We can all get together and have a fun time.”
Despite the old-fashioned nature of swing dancing, the traditional style continues to appeal to a younger crowd.
“I think many people like the dance itself and the challenges it provides in terms of learning new moves,” said Tom Lotito, a Marist sophomore. “I personally love the music and atmosphere. It’s really social, with a lot of opportunities to meet tons of people from different walks of life.”
According to Katzen, the most rewarding aspect about running PoTown Swing is to see new people become better dancers and enjoy swing dancing even more.
“Helping people learn and seeing them have a good time makes running the event a pleasure every week,” Katzen said.
The event starts each week with a half hour beginner’s lesson at 8 p.m., with regular dancing from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Katzen and other coordinators make their way around the room during that time to help dancers and mingle with participants.
Other swing dancing opportunities are available nearby, such as the Hudson Valley Community Dance held on the first and third Sundays, as well as the fourth Friday of every month. Muddy Lindy, held at the Muddy Cup in Kingston and the Frim Fram Jam in the city on 8th Ave. are also popular events.