Meadows Jazz Orchestra hosts first Swing Jazz Dance Concert

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The Meadows Jazz Orchestra is an ensemble composed of SMU students selected by audition each fall. Photo credit: Madeline Frizell

On Saturday, Oct. 24, the Meadows Jazz Orchestra traveled back in time to the ‘20s and ‘30s.

The Taubman Atrium in the Owen Arts Center turned into a “speak easy,” bringing together musicians, dancers, students, staff, faculty and community members for a fun and lively evening at Meadows.

Local swing dance experts Emily Spraggins and Matthew Edwards kicked off the event with introductory lessons. People paired off and circled around the experts as beginners and more advanced dancers performed a variety of steps, turns and dips.

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SMU students swing dancing. Photo credit: Madeline Frizell

Matt and Kelly Schlitz of The Colony, Texas stood pressed up against the atrium wall in the packed room.

“We’re just letting the beginners take the floor to learn the steps,” said Mr. Schlitz. “And honestly these triple steps are a little basic for us.”

“We’ve been swing dancing for eight years now,” Mrs. Schlitz added. “We love going swing dancing, we’re taking a class right now at the Plano rec center to learn some new steps.”

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The concert had a Gatsby-esque decor. Photo credit: Madeline Frizell

SMU student Holly McCuistion sipped on refreshments at a table on the edge of the atrium while watching the swing dance lessons. She came with a few friends to support their friend Jake Oien, who plays trumpet in the Meadows Jazz Orchestra.

“I like jazz music, but I don’t have a super great knowledge of it and I’ve never tried swing dancing before,” said McCuistion. “I looked up swing videos on YouTube before coming here so I had an idea of what I was getting into.”

After the one-hour dance lesson ended, the Meadows Jazz Orchestra played three sets. The sets consisted of a combination of jazz’s greatest hits and Meadows Jazz Orchestra Director Dylan Smith’s favorite compositions.

“We have been preparing diligently and enthusiastically all semester for this event,” said Smith. “I have emphasized to the ensemble that our priority is not just to make people want to dance, but to make them need to dance! We are striving to reach our peak swing level.”

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Dylan Smith is the director of Meadows Jazz Orchestra. Photo credit: Madeline Frizell

The atrium was packed with an estimated 200 people, according to the woman in charge of ticketing.

The Meadows Jazz Orchestra lit up the atrium with spirited jazz tunes that kept the dance floor packed during every song. The crowd jived across the floor in pairs to hits from jazz greats Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Woody Herman and more.

“I have always loved the combination of live music and dancing and have discovered that in every town there is a cult community of expert swing dancers that salivate at the opportunity to dance to a live jazz band,” said Smith.

Smith hopes to hold this event again in the future, as it was a terrific project for the Meadows Jazz Orchestra to prepare for.

“I think it will be up to the attendees to make their voices heard and decide if they want another dance next fall,” said Smith on making the swing dance concert an annual event.

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Beverages and snacks were served at the swing dance concert. Photo credit: Madeline Frizell

In case you didn’t catch the swing dance concert, the Meadows Jazz Orchestra will have its fall concert at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22 in the Bob Hope Theatre.

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