Spreading his arms as if he were flying, Cole Weaver executes a move he calls “the bird,” for the fifth time. It’s one of 100 sequences he learned in one month this summer.
Weaver, an economics junior and co-president of the Texas Swing Dance Society, started swing dancing in high school and will participate in the Austin Lindy Exchange, an opportunity for swing dancers from around the world to show off their talent while dancing to live bands. The event, hosted by Austin Swing Syndicate, will be held Nov. 17-20 at The Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs.
Weaver became interested in swing dancing while he and his father were on a transnational hitchhiking trip in 2013. While traveling, the pair met an aerial swing dancer who showed them swing dancing videos, piquing Weaver’s interest and inspiring him to learn himself.
The woman he met in St. Louis recommended he learn Lindy hop, an eight-count dance with swing outs, because it has a high energy and is popular among students. When he returned home, Weaver tried a few classes, but was disappointed to find there weren’t many other dancers his age.
“It was more young professional-aged people, in their late 20s [and] early 30s,” Weaver said. “That was a little discouraging, and might have been one of the reasons I didn’t go back for a while. The only people my age were the people I ended up bringing, but the dancing was still fun.”
When he began classes at UT in 2014, Weaver found Texas Ballroom’s “Free Week,” where students can try different dances for free. He gravitated to dances like Lindy hop and East Coast swing. By the end of the semester, Weaver started dancing at The Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs, or the “Fed,” which has hosted weekly swing dance nights since 1999.
It was during this time that Weaver met John Jennings, a mechanical engineering junior and his current TSDS co-president. Like Weaver, Jennings joined Texas Ballroom to swing and ended up at the Fed to get his fill.
“You just start going all of the time,” Jennings said. “You may have homework due on Friday, but if you miss going to the Fed, then you’re going to feel terrible and not want to do the homework. You might as well dance for three hours and then stay up late.”
Over lunch one day, Weaver and Jennings discussed a podcast about deliberate practice, or the belief that with time and dedication anyone can become an expert in any given field. Both wanted to be the best swing dancer at UT and put the theory to the test. In one month, the two learned 100 new swing dance moves with each other as partners, something they called the “Lindy 100 Challenge.”
“We don’t remember a lot of those moves, but we can have the feel of them,” Jennings said. “It gave us a really good idea of what was out there and it made it a lot easier to make up moves.”
Both dancers now have partners and are preparing to compete at Lindyfest, a competition in Houston next year. Weaver and Jennings have found their passion in swing dance, but know it wouldn’t have been possible without practice.
“People tend to think that you have to be passionate about something in order to do it,” Weaver said. “Everyone starts with an interest and you’re not passionate about it until you’ve lived with it and grown with it. The key is to pick an interest and decide to get good at it.”