Swingers tear up the dance floor: Jazz Ensemble, Hepcats team up for semi-annual event


Swing Dance instructor Mary Richardson joins a student in a dance at Saturday’s event. Photo by Dean Johnson.

By Neal Bassett

Swing dance couples spinning like cyclones to the piercing sounds of saxophones and trumpets made the Big Band Swing Dance on Saturday a big hit.

Students and swing dance enthusiasts joined together in the Student Center Grand Ballroom for live swing jazz from the UK Jazz Ensemble while the Hepcats Swing Dance Club provided dance instruction.

Head instructor Mike Richardson was excited about dancing to the live sounds of the Jazz Ensemble.

“It’s not often you hear or see a band play while you dance,” he said. “These musicians play authentic music and they are pretty impressive.”

Jazz Ensemble Director Miles Osland played tunes to the beat of Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Jimmie Lunceford and other swing jazz musicians.

Richardson said the combination of live music with the excitement from the dancers brought a great energy to the event.

“There is a synergy in the room when the band is playing and people are dancing,” he said.

Richardson had always wanted to learn how to dance, and so after he retired from the Army in 1999, he decided to work on his dancing.

Richardson has been involved with Hepcats Swing Dance Club since 2001 and has been dancing with his wife, Mary, since 1999. The Big Band Swing Dance is a semi-annual event at UK since 2005 and attracts people from across the state as well as the Cincinnati area.

Since the event’s inception, Richardson has been cutting up the carpet and trying to connect the community to dancing.

“We are a community-focused organization,” he said. “It is about community engagement and sharing what we love to do with other people.”

Alicia Garrison, a social work graduate student, said she appreciated the instruction from the Hepcats.

“The lesson was really helpful for the steps as well as feeling comfortable about who you are dancing with,” she said.

Richardson said one of the best parts of the event is the variety and the number of people who attend.

“We get a very diverse group of people who come in, which makes it more enjoyable for everyone,” he said.

And when the combination of live music with lively dancers is just right, a good time ensues for everyone, Richardson said.

“The band is a highlight to the UK community and when they see us dancing to their music, it really gets them excited and it excites us as dancers,” he said.