BY MICHAEL LAKIND
Amid the stressful pacing of everyday life on the Carmel High campus, the calmingly groovy rhythms of Elvis’“All Shook Up” and other toe-tapping jukebox staples from the 1960scan be heard playing from the dance room every Friday at lunch, where a plucky dozen or so make up the inaugural swing dance club.
The club has come about this year thanks to CHS senior Libby Lambert, who performs in The Dance Center’s musical theater program. She has been enthusiastic about forming a swing club for a few years, and with the luck of physics teacher Don Freitas’ arrival last year, she has found a vehicle to introduce the school to one of her favorite activities.
“I’ve actually wanted to start this since freshman or sophomore year,” Lambert recalls. “I just never had an opportunity until Mr. Freitas came along, and he was excited about doing a swing club.”
Freitas brings all the right moves to CHS, having spent much of his free time in college on the dance floor. By dancing in a student club, he picked up the expertise of a teacher.
“I teach swing dancing here locally at different places [such as] the Moose Lodge in Monterey,” says Freitas of his experiences around the peninsula. “At my old school, Pajaro Valley High School, I did teach a club for a little bit and [we] did a performance at the student talent show.”
But don’t just take Freitas’ and Lambert’s word for it. The club has started to draw attention from students new to the CHS universe through other dance programs, such as musical theater at TDC, where freshman Ella Rasmussen’s interest was piqued by Lambert.
“For swing we’ve been doing a lot of different steps and stuff,” Rasmussen says. “I think everyone should be somewhat coordinated with dance.”
In a regular school day, the only physical activity many students get is their walk between five-minute-long passing periods, but the swing club offers a chance for students without a P.E. class to use otherwise-wasted energy in a day normally comprised of sitting still in a cramped little desk.
In addition to exercising and vibing with the music, Freitas loves the social aspects of dancing, especially in a high school setting. Many student activities are highlighted by the zing of meeting new people and making friends through common interests, and the teacher notices that swing dance shows no difference.
“A lot of the time it’s a social dance, so you’re rotating and dancing with different people all the time,” Freitas comments. “It’s not sticking with the same partner, so you get to meet a bunch of people that you don’t know.”
The group is hoping to perform in a few different events, including some school talent shows and local dance-oriented gatherings. This March will be the annual Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, and Freitas has made it a goal to attend the Bash with this year’s club.
Students interested in learning some new moves can swing on by the dance room on Friday.