Erika Ring and Bit Betancourt dance at a Moab Swing Dance Community event in 2018. [Courtesy of the Moab Swing Dance Community]

Swing dancing is a social dance that originated with the styles of popular jazz music from the 1920s to the 1950s. The up-tempo beats lend themselves to dance moves in which partners lift, spin and even flip each other while dancing—and Erika Ring, an instructor at and member of the Moab Swing Dance Community, has found that most Christmas songs fit swing dance tempos perfectly.

“Pretty much everything you hear as part of the Christmas genre started during that swing era,” Ring said. At the Swing Dance Community’s last social of the year—the Christmas Dance and Social—they’ll exclusively play Christmas music. The playlist will feature classic versions of well-known Christmas songs, like Ella Fitzgerald’s recording of “White Christmas,” Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and Tony Bennett’s “Silver Bells.”

The Moab Swing Dance Community is an organization that gets together once a week to offer swing dance lessons and open dance socials. Their Christmas Dance and Social will take place on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 6 p.m. at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center.

The event will kick off with a beginner-friendly lesson, then transition into an open dance and social. At the end of the night, members of the community will put on a performance. Anyone is welcome to attend, and masks and proof of vaccination against COVID-19 are required—dancing is an up close and personal sport, Ring said, so she wants everyone to be safe.

The term “swing dance” encompasses a few different swing dancing styles, including the East Coast, West Coast, Charleston, Blues and Lindy Hop. In the beginner lesson, Ring will go over the basic steps of and several moves of the East Coast swing style, the easiest style to learn. Participants don’t need to show up with a partner, or with any prior swing dance experience.

“I think the best thing about the Swing Dance Community is that it brings together people of all ages and all walks of life,” Ring said. “And you all come together just to exist in the now, and to interact and have fun doing it.”

The swing dance socials returned in-person in the fall, after a hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic. This year, the community decided to learn the 2021 “flash mob” routine set by the International Rally West Coast Swing organization. Each year, the international organization creates a choreography that’s learned and performed by swing dance communities all over the world.

The choreography for this year’s routine was released in July, and the Moab community will perform it at the Christmas event. A swing dance community from Grand Junction, the “Grand Valley Swing Dancers,” will come to the event to perform the dance routine alongside the Moab swing dancers.

This event will be Ring’s last—she’s moving out of Moab and transferring her role as an instructor to Katie Grauel. This community was one of the first groups she joined when she moved to Moab, and she took to it instantly, she said, becoming so talented that she won the 2019 Dancing with the Moab Stars event alongside Dr. Pablo Johnson.

Grauel has been a member of and instructor with the Moab Swing Dance Community for a few years. She’ll be taking over responsibilities for planning events and weekly meetups in 2022.