Swing dancing groups dominate in the Palouse

Organizations welcome people of all skill-levels; social dances provide entertainment, community



Mariah Eckwright, instructor and board member, dances with a fellow board member of the Swing Devils of the Palouse last Thursday night at Moscow Moose Lodge. Instructors wish to get participants excited about dancing, Eckwright said.

CARSON HOLLAND, Evergreen columnist

WSU and the surrounding community host numerous organizations, clubs and groups devoted to teaching the wide variety of swing dances.

“It is probably one of the most, if not the most diverse dance that can be done,” said Alex Boughamer, treasurer of the Swing Devils of the Palouse, one of the organizations that put on swing-dancing events. “You can change your style, you can change your speed, you can change everything about it.”

Groups around the Palouse offer everything from country, to Lindy hop, to East Coast, to West Coast swing and the many forms of swing dance that lie in between.

“It’s a totally unique form of music, and the dance and music go hand-in-hand,” Boughamer said.

Swing dance was developed alongside jazz in the U.S. around the early 1900s, making it an original American style of dance.

“[The Swing Culture in the Palouse] is very open and very friendly,” Boughamer said. People realize swing dancing allows them to exercise, have fun and listen to good music, he said.

When you think of the rolling wheat fields that surround WSU, the idea of a thriving swing dance community doesn’t immediately come to mind. Yet Pullman and the Palouse have a large swing dance scene.

“If I can do it, anyone can,” Boughamer said. “I was the poster child for someone who couldn’t dance … never danced in my life until I was twenty-four. It is like learning to drive a stick shift or shooting a basketball.”


Even for those who believe they can’t dance, it is a common consensus that swing organizations can show and encourage them through it.

“Our main goals as instructors are to introduce people to the dance and to get them excited about it in the same way that we are excited about it,” said Mariah Eckwright, a board member and instructor for Swing Devils.

Most of the clubs and organizations around the Palouse cater to both beginners and more advanced dancers, so even if you have no experience in dance at all, you can still go, have fun and learn.

“We provide a place where you can foster the teaching environment for people who want to learn … for people who already know, they can dance or help out,” said Jennifer Warren, the president of the Country Swing Dance Club at WSU.

“The most fun I ever had was my very first swing dance … I walked in the door and some girl grabbed me by the hand and said that I was new, [and to] come and dance,” Boughamer said. “That’s the magical moment I think everyone likes to create when new people come join us for dancing.”

Price for these events and venues vary from free to about $10.

“We are the cheapest date in town … but you don’t necessarily need someone to come out with,” Boughamer said. “It is a social dance, and we are very open about welcoming other people and dancing with them.”

“If you are interested in it then just try it,” Warren said. “If you want to do it there should be nothing standing in your way.”