Grace Fitzgerald swing dances her way out of her comfort zone

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Grace Fitzgerald

Grace Fitzgerald puts a swing in her step as she navigates out of her comfort zone.

On one Tuesday night in downtown Grand Rapids, senior Grace Fitzgerald found herself accidentally knocking someone’s glasses off while performing a dance move.

Having never tapped a toe to the dance floor, Grace recently took a step out of her comfort zone and picked up swing dancing this year. Even with zero ounces of experience, she joined her friend that attended swing dance class and ended up loving it.

“You don’t even have to worry about being awkward,” Grace said. “I was literally tripping over myself at first. I knocked off someone’s glasses the first time I danced with someone new, and they’re like, ‘It’s fine, don’t worry about it.’”

The class is held every Tuesday night from 7-9 p.m., usually in the Grand Rapids Public Museum. From 7:00 to 7:30, fifty to one hundred people of all ages learn some basic moves, and then the time from 7:30 to 9:00 is free time, where the dancers can dance with each other and practice their newly acquired moves.

“It’s a decent-sized class,” Grace said, “and you’ll dance with like 30 different people a night and not even realize it. Then you’ll see them again the next time and feel really bad when you’re like, ‘I know I’ve danced with you, but I forgot your name.’”

Though Grace would consider herself an introverted person, she feels that this class may be the beginning of what might push her to go out of her comfort zone more often as she has progressively done with swing dancing.

This niche part of Grace’s life is a shocking revelation to most when she explains her swing dancing endeavors.

“I definitely have been a lot more willing to do new things where I’m like, ‘That’s going to embarrass me,’” Grace said, “but then I’m like, ‘Well, it could also be really fun.’ I know for the first few times I went [to swing dancing], I didn’t ask anyone to dance, and it was so boring. But when you go out and ask people and get to know people, you realize it’s a lot more enjoyable than sitting alone in a corner.”

You’ll feel better about yourself because you’ll meet really bad swing dancers and you can be like, ‘I’ve gotten better.’”

— Grace Fitzgerald

Another element of the swing dancing class that Grace finds enjoyable is the variety of skill levels among the dancers. Since the swing society includes a variety of different people that may come from all over, the levels of skill are influential.

“There’s this one guy,” Grace said, “[and] when you’re dancing [with him], you don’t even have to know what you’re doing because he’ll just lead you through it. There’s a lot of trust that also goes along with that because you don’t want your partner to just lead you into a turn into some other person, which does happen sometimes.”

The class meets every Tuesday, but sometimes, not everyone can make it, and there are likely new people joining each time as well.

“You have people that are old and [some] people that are young, like our age,” Grace said. “There normally aren’t any little children running around, but you have people that have been doing it for six years [and some that] literally started that night. You get this whole range from Grand Rapids since it’s kind of a big city, and people come from outside of it, and so you get a little bit of everything.”

With the wide range of skill sets comes a wide range of confidence. Grace may not feel that she is the most coordinated dancer there, but the community makes her feel welcome and has created a very accepting atmosphere—which is encouraging for someone with little to no experience with dancing.

“It’s so fun,” Grace said, “especially when you all get out there and there are some really good swing dancers that will teach you a whole bunch. And then you’ll feel better about yourself because you’ll meet really bad swing dancers and you can be like, ‘I’ve gotten better.’”