The Rapidian

Swing Society brings social opportunities to Grand Rapids

The Grand Rapids Original Swing Society is bringing young adults into Downtown Grand Rapids on Tuesday nights for a bit of fun.
Underwriting support from:

Upcoming Theme Swings:

October 25 - Stop Light Swing
Masonic Center (3rd floor)
233 Fulton St.
See linked Facebook event for more details

November 1 - Halloween Costume Party Swing Dance
Public Museum of Grand Rapids
272 Pearl St NW.
See linked Facebook event for more details.

People brought all kinds of hats to Wear an Awesome Hat swing night to enjoy a night of swinging, hats and socializing.

People brought all kinds of hats to Wear an Awesome Hat swing night to enjoy a night of swinging, hats and socializing. /Photography Princess

In the early hours of the swing meet, Rosa Park Circle is bustling with dancers of different skill levels and ages.

In the early hours of the swing meet, Rosa Park Circle is bustling with dancers of different skill levels and ages. /Photography Princess

Two high school-aged girls work on their swing moves while enjoying the social atmosphere

Two high school-aged girls work on their swing moves while enjoying the social atmosphere /Photography Princess

Every Tuesday night, young adults all over Grand Rapids descend on downtown for a night of socializing and dancing courtesy of Grand Rapids Original Swing Society (GROSS).

GROSS meets on Tuesday nights at Rosa Parks Circle, Grand Rapids Public Museum or the Masonic Lodge. Where the group meets depends on factors including the group's needs, the weather, or suggestions from GROSS members. Most dances, however, are held at the Public Museum in the winter thanks to the museum’s partnership with the swing society.

GROSS’s Facebook page sends out Facebook events about upcoming swing meetings and location announcements. General directions to any of the three different locations can be found on their website.

Once a month they’ll break from the usual grind of day to day wear for a bit of fun with theme nights. Theme nights are nights, generally requested by GROSS members, where dancers can come up dressed up for the night’s theme. According to GROSS's founder Steve Zaagman, attendence varies with the popularity of the theme among GROSS's Facebook base.

“The cool thing about GROSS is that we try to listen to listen to members,” says Zaagman. “Someone said ‘it’d be really cool if we did glow sticks once,’ so we’re doing glow sticks [for Art Prize].  Someone said it’d be cool if we did a prom theme, so we did that once.”

Who’s Dancing at GROSS?

GROSS’s 3,000 members range from high schoolers to young adults from all walks of life. Being a group that largely thrives by word-of-mouth and invitations through Facebook, many members of GROSS find out about the dance group from friends.

The benefits people can gain from swing dancing is the social atmosphere GROSS creates through its events. Outside of the social atmosphere, individuals who join GROSS find additional individual benefits to joining swing nights.

“I struggle with depression, so going to swing, being happy, and getting out of the house are very important things. I look forward to Tuesdays all week and when jobs say do you have any schedule conflicts I mention that Tuesday nights are not free,” says 24-year-old Kelly Vanderwell.

For 29-year-old Leah Schaap, it started out as a reason to get out for a decent workout. Then she started creating networks with people and eventually approached Zaagman for help in starting up an offshoot group, Holland Original Swing Society, in Holland, Mich. “He mentored me by giving me some tips on how to do it. It gave me a whole new appreciation for him and the needs of the different dancers after walking a mile in their shoes.”

Other people like 19-year-old Leah Woltanski have grown as an individual from Tuesday night swing nights. “I've learned to come out of my shell, carry on real conversation, dance, be unafraid to be myself and love music!”

How to join in

Anyone at any skill level can come to Swing nights by monitoring the Facebook page for information on location and events. This information is easy to access with the group being public and open to anyone who wants to join. So how do you know if you’re the right kind of person to come?

As Schaap says, “Dance is for anyone who is young or old, round or stick-like, paired or single. Swing is entertaining and easy to get involved in. If people are willing to get out there and dance we can learn a lot from each other.”

Most people attending swing events will tell you they came to GROSS knowing nothing about swing dance. For those new to swing dancing, there is always a brief lesson at the beginning of the event at 7 p.m. The lesson is 30 minutes long and costs a suggested donation of four dollars to help cover costs for running the event, a cost that is otherwise paid by Zaagman.

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