Updated: Jan 18
Rachel Itsell and her partner Mike Arteno have been keeping the spirit of the swing era alive and well at Kenmore’s Rialto Theatre by hosting “Swing Nights” twice a month for the past five years.
Rachel, a Pennsylvania native who first discovered her love of swing dancing during a night out 17 years ago, eventually decided to approach the Rialto Theatre about hosting regular “Swing Nights” after relocating to Northeast Ohio. Each Swing Night includes an hour-long lesson followed by two hours of dancing.
“[Swing Dancing] is my passion, so I like sharing it with other people,” Rachel said. “Having the opportunity to build a new scene and watching it consistently grow over the past years and knowing I play a part in its success is so exciting.”
Not only has Rachel seen support and attendance for Swing Nights grow and become more diverse during the past five years, she’s seen the Kenmore Boulevard Historic District evolve as well.
“I have seen the aesthetic build up and the street change with new parking spaces and new businesses,” Rachel said.
Swing dance first gained popularity around 100 years ago as a group of social dances developed around the swing style of jazz music. Hundreds of styles of swing dancing were developed such as Lindy Hop, Balboa, Collegiate Shag, and Charleston.
While Rachel refers to the version of swing she presents simply as “vintage swing,” the music played at Swing Nights comes from multiple eras and includes artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Glenn Miller, The Squirrelnut Zippers, as well as some modern fusions.
Swing Nights at the Rialto are open to dancers of all skill levels, but if the thought of learning a new skill with people you don’t know scares the bejesus out of you and gives you a bad case of the heebie jeebies, don’t worry, because you are not alone.
To help overcome any anxiety you may feel about jumping in as a swing scene newbie, Rachel recommends to bring a friend with you or attend a lesson prior to dancing to help shake the jitters and get a few moves down.
“People are always pleasantly surprised by how easy swing dancing is to learn, said Rachel, “It is important to remember that you are in the same boat as everyone else in the room, everyone is learning something new.”
What you can expect when participating in a swing dance lesson at The Rialto Theatre:
Jazzy, upbeat swing dance styles like East Coast and Jitterbug
A community of friendly people expressing their passion for dance
An affordable and unique experience
A good workout!
How to prepare for swing dance lessons:
Wear comfortable shoes that glide easily on hardwood floor such as Converse or Keds
Bring a friend or come alone – everyone will be welcomed and incorporated in the dance
Wear clothes that are comfortable to move around in
Swing dancing at the Rialto Theatre is held the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. The lessons are held 7 – 8pm and the social dance is 8 – 9 pm. Lessons are only $5.00, and the social dance is $3.00 ($8.00 for both).
For a fun, affordable and unique night out with good music and friendly faces, check out swing dancing at The Rialto Theatre.
For more information, check therialtotheatre.com/events.