Getting back into the swing of things

Brian Graham, an aviation major at the University of Alaska Anchorage, was playing a game of pool in the Student Union Friday night when he heard something that sounded a little more entertaining.

Swinging Elvis beats, courtesy of disc jockey Matt Juba, had about 50 UAA students on their toes in the lower level of the Student Union Sept. 17 for a swing dance put on by Student Activities.

Graham quickly found a dance partner and suddenly his evening was all a Friday night should be. And it was free.

“I’m having fun! I met this nice lady, Stephanie Houser, and she taught me how to dance. So, it’s all good,” Graham said.

Houser, a music major, showed Graham a thing or two. She was one of the more experienced on the dance floor. Houser took a few classes before and learned a few moves from friends.
At the dance, people of all skill levels let loose. Student Activities provided dance instructors to help get everyone moving. Participants learned East Coast swing. Beth Smart, Student Activities coordinator, said they had scheduled a live band but the band cancelled and event planners were unable to find a replacement.

Regardless of some snags in planning the event, she was pleased with the outcome.
Students Richard O’Connor and Katie Behnke are long time fans of swing dance. They both were members of their high school swing club. They heard about the event and decided to come show off. They even dressed for the occasion. O’Connor wore a suit and Behnke dressed in a flowing white dress.

“I don’t think it matters how well you’re doing out there,” Behnke said. “What matters is that we’re having fun. And, it is fun to play in swooshy dresses.”
Tatiana Ozhuwan, a pre-nursing major, was one of the least experienced dancers, but she fell right in step.

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“I’ve never done this before. It’s just a new thing, so we came and tried,” she said.

Her dance partner and friend Jason Chocknok, also a pre-nursing major, was able to help her out. Chocknok is from a village called New Stuyahok, about 45 miles north of Dillingham.

“Back in the village, there is this one particular elder who is a really awesome swing dancer. Watching him, I learned a lot,” Chocknok said.

The dance instructors at the swing dance also teach classes at Club Soraya downtown, a 21-and-over venue known for its swinging dance floor. Lessons are every Tuesday at 7 p.m. and admission is $5.

To find out more about upcoming Student Activities events, see or check out the Northern Light calendar.