Jazz Ensemble lets students put swing in their steps

Step back in time with a little swing dance and big band music Saturday night, played by the UK Jazz Ensemble.

The night starts off with free swing dance lessons at 7:30 p.m., provided by the Hepcats Swing Dance Club. Music and dancing starts afterward and lasts until midnight.

The Rhythm Cats, a Hepcats performance group, will perform swing dances as well.

“The thing that people like about these big band collaborations is the music because the band plays the original arrangements,” Mike Richardson, a Hepcats instructor, said. “It’s hard-driving, hard-swinging music we like to dance to.”

The band will play arrangements from artists like Count Basie and Duke Ellington, Richardson said.

The event is a fundraiser for the Jazz Ensemble, with proceeds going toward the Ensemble’s summer trip to European jazz festivals.

The Jazz Ensemble only has $30,000 left of the $110,000 that it has to raise, Miles Osland, the UK director of jazz studies, said.

“It’s a real good educational event for the students, getting to play a gig like this where we have to play a lot of music in a very short amount of time,” Osland said. “It’s a real-life situation for the band. Plus, it’s always great playing for a group of people.”

Richardson said there is a mutual respect between the dancers and the musicians.

The Jazz Ensemble normally does events like this once a year, Dieter Rice, a graduate student in the Jazz Ensemble, said.

“I think it’s fun to play not just a concert where people are sitting and listening. It’s fun to play and watch people dance,” Rice said.

Richardson and Rice said there is something for everyone.

“It’s a great opportunity to come out and hear some of the great music of the big band swing era performed by very, very talented musicians,” Richardson said, “and you’ll see some really good dancing.”