Island Senior: First Friday Swing Dancing
On the first Friday of each month from 7:00 to 9:00 pm people of all ages and abilities gather at the Mullis Center for a fun evening of swing dancing. Instructor Bill Gincig, who comes over from Orcas, has a wealth of knowledge and experience in dance. He explained to me that “swing” encompasses; rhumba, cha-cha, waltz, tango (ballroom tango, not Argentine) and salsa but that it is “east coast swing” that is most popular with the First Friday crowd, not to be confused with west coast swing, jive, lindy hop, or boogie-woogie. If all of those names have you confused, Bill can fill you in and teach you the distinctions. Mostly, the favored style is danced to the big band sounds of the 1940s such as the Glenn Miller Band but some more contemporary tunes are be heard as well.
The sessions are loosely set up to teach those who need instruction during the first hour and then enjoy dancing the rest of the time. The Friday I attended folks were eager to hit the dance floor. One couple, new to the Island, had been dancing together for decades. Others came with no or little experience and received some basic instruction, just enough to get out on the dance floor and have a good time.
Dancing is of course good for you! Dancing reduces stress while increasing strength and balance. A study published in the journal Circulation found that people with stable chronic heart failure “may derive the same aerobic advantages from learning how to waltz as they would from more traditional forms of cardiovascular exercise, such as cycling or walking”. Another study in the New England Journal of Medicine determined that older adults who danced regularly significantly reduced the risk of developing dementia. It’s the fun factor though that seems to be the primary motivation for these First Friday dancers. As Pat Ball said, “It’s lots of fun!” then added… “and its good exercise”.