Sneakered feet shuffle over the linoleum floor as partners grasp hands and face each other. A lively voice rings out from the giant speakers to the side of the gymnasium, telling people to “frame up!” As the 24 students shift into position, Glen Miller’s “In the Mood” fills Phillips 033 with bold brass horns and a steady, light drum beat in the background.
The dancers take off.
Students rock from side to side and back and forth, swinging each other under their arms and spinning in place. The voice coming from the speaker calls out different maneuvers:
The students comply, stretching their arms up and sliding underneath until the partners grasp one another by their fingertips before pulling each other close once again.
Ten weeks ago, many of these students would not have known the difference between a rock step and a half box. But in KNH 110S/T: Social Dance, learning these basics and more is the first step toward becoming a more experienced dancer.
Under the tutelage of former professional dancer Michael Scoggins and his “squad” of TAs, students enrolled in Social Dance learn how to swing, waltz, salsa and meringue by the end of the semester. The 55 minute class is technically split into two sections for registration, men’s and women’s, but that’s just to make sure the numbers are even for partners.
No dancing background is necessary to take the class and, ultimately, Scoggins hopes that he can dispel the timeworn excuse most people give when asked whether they can dance.
“The purpose behind the course was to share dance and the joy of ballroom dancing and how easy it is,” Scoggins said. “Because most people get this stigma: ‘Oh, I can’t dance.’ And in actuality, if you can walk, you can dance. It's just that they need to know the tricks and the secrets and the breakdowns. Once they begin to understand that, they begin to enjoy the dance.”
Students start off the semester learning how to swing dance, but after learning the basics and about five to seven maneuvers, Scoggins will quickly switch them over to the waltz. Then, during the waltz unit, he’ll have them brush up on their swing dancing and teach them a new maneuver so that their swing skills don’t get cold.
Scoggins continually comes back to dances throughout the semester, both to keep up skills in all four dances and so that students don’t get bored of a dance before he has a chance to teach them all of the moves.
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“There’s always a little bit of a review at the beginning of class,” Scoggins said. “Last time we did waltz, but we’re just gonna review the swing for two songs here. Just gonna call the maneuvers, you guys execute, and then I’m gonna give you a song, and you just play.”
Several students, like first-year marketing major Adrianna Parker, are happily surprised by the amount they’re learning.
“I love the course because I do my own dances, but I didn’t know that a waltz was so easy,” Parker said. “I didn’t know it was so easy to get in your brain. I also knew about the salsa, but I didn’t know the different maneuvers, and we learned all about that.”
During their class last Tuesday, students learned how to do a rolling swing dip. The man first twirls his partner into the sweetheart position: right arm wrapped around her back with her arms crossed in front of her. Then he rolls his partner away from him before pulling her back in. The woman spins once, and on the second spin, hooks her arm behind her partner’s neck as he dips her.
After numerous attempts, several couples succeeded in doing the dip, so Scoggins moved on to showing them how to “enter” and “exit” the maneuver from a starting basic step. When Parker and her partner successfully completed the move all the way through, they broke into wide grins and congratulated each other.
Parker’s partner, senior sports leadership and management major Chase Munroe, is a former varsity player for the men’s ice hockey team. He and three other varsity hockey players took the course to improve their dancing skills so they could use them in weddings and other social events. Munroe wanted to challenge himself and try something different.
“I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone. And to be honest with you, it’s the most fun class I’ve been in this far at Miami,” Munroe said. “Scoggins and squad do a great job teaching the class the dances, getting everybody involved, and everyone’s having fun for a good 55 minutes.”
At the end of the semester, Scoggins hopes all of his students will feel comfortable stepping out on any dance floor.
“So many times you’ll go to a wedding or [social] event, and they’ll have a nice band or a DJ, and the dance floor is empty,” Scoggins said. “Nobody wants to get up there because they think they can’t dance. Well, there goes my students, getting out on the floor and having a great time. It’s all about fun and enjoyment of dance.”