Grinnell Chamber

Community Calendar

Swing Dance Class

Event Details:

Event Type: Announcement
Location: Harris Center, 1114 10th Ave, Grinnell, IA 50112
Time: Friday, May 5, 2023 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Categories: Entertainment

Event Description:

When you hear “Stompin’ at the Savoy” — one of the signature tunes of the Chick Webb Orchestra — you’ll likely find that your feet just can’t keep still. Why even try? Let your feet carry you to the Harris Center on the Grinnell College campus on May 5 for a swing dance class at 7 p.m. followed by a Jazz Ensemble performance and open community dance at 8 p.m. 

Jazz Ensemble Director Mark Laver says the band will be performing the music of Chick Webb — music that was made for dancing. Visiting scholar Christi Jay Wells will lead the dance class before the concert, giving everyone, even beginners, a bit of swing dance experience so they can join in the dance that follows.

The event is one of the highlights of Wells’ visit to Grinnell. The jazz historian, musicologist, and dance scholar’s work focuses on the history of Black vernacular dances and their intersection with jazz. In addition to this event and numerous class visits, Wells will present a research talk at 4­ p.m. on Wednesday, May 3, in Bucksbaum 152. Wells, an associate professor at Arizona State University, is also an expert on the music of Chick Webb, who led the world-famous house band at the Savoy Ballroom in New York City in the 1930s.

Laver says Webb’s music is challenging because it was written for professional musicians, and they played very up-tempo. Playing for dancers adds its own challenges. “You need to swing groove really hard to keep dancers engaged,” he explains. “The goal is to give energy to the dancers.”

And that energy comes right back to the bandstand. “There’s a kind of reciprocal exchange of energy that’s really exciting, but it largely comes out of the rhythmic precision and drive that you put into the music as a player,” Laver says.

These events are open to the public, and no tickets are required. Laver advises attending the dance class at 7 p.m. to “benefit from all the wisdom and expertise that Dr. Wells has to offer.” And, he adds, “It’s fun to dance close to the band.”


Concert and Dance Class- Friday, May 5, dance class at 7 p.m.; concert at 8 p.m. 


1114 10th Avenue, Grinnell, IA 50112


This event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.  


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