VIDEO: Swing dance nights in Deep Ellum keep the jive alive

Swing dancing has a rich history of bringing people together in lively social gatherings. Jerry Warwick and his wife Cat Warwick, a seasoned swing dancing instructing duo, have been sharing the joy of swing dancing at the iconic Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum, Dallas, for over two decades.

“We got married in 2002, but we actually met in 1999. I started swing dancing in 1998, and she joined in 1999,” Jerry said.

During this time, swing dancing experienced a cultural resurgence, with swing music finding its way into top 40 charts and various clubs hosting swing dancing events throughout the city.

A couple dancing

Jerry Warwick and Cat Warwick teach the swing dancing class at Sons of Hermann Hall on Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A dance lesson in a dance hall

Dancers rotate partners throughout the class at gathers in a circle, giving each person a chance to learn with new people. Photo: Jessica Waffles

When they took over teaching in 2005, the average nightly attendance was around 80-90 people. As they continued to teach and even took on DJ responsibilities in 2011, the numbers swelled.

The dance nights saw a surge in attendance, reaching levels of 200-250 people on average and even hitting a peak of 375 attendees in a single night before the pandemic hit.

Dancers learning steps

Guests learned basic steps before the dance floor opened for general dancing at 9:00 PM. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A full band on stage

The Black Powder Vipers played swing music at Sons of Hermann Hall. Photo: Jessica Waffles

The pandemic-induced hiatus lasted around 14 months, causing a temporary halt to the dancing. The numbers have not fully returned to their pre-pandemic glory, but the community spirit remains strong.

“Last Wednesday, we had around 120-130 people dancing,” Jerry said.

The night featured live music by the Black Powder Vipers, a local jazz and swing band that brings standards to life with a full brass section and talented vocals.

Dancers dancing

Some dancers were more seasoned than others, showing new steps to their fellow dance lovers. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Dancers dancing

Dancers showed off their moves at Sons of Hermann Hall. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Dance lessons start at 8:00 PM on Wednesdays at Sons of Hermann Hall, then the dance floor is opened to all dancers at 9:00 PM.

For those unfamiliar with swing dancing, Jerry has a welcoming message: “The big thing is, embrace the thought that everybody was a beginner at some point.”

He emphasizes that everyone starts as a beginner and might initially struggle, but the key is to overcome the fear of embarrassment. Jerry and Cat make their classes open, inviting, and accommodating to newcomers, offering a simple and approachable learning curve. Each week, they introduce new beginner-friendly moves to keep it interesting for everyone, including returning students.

A trombone player on stage

The Black Powder Vipers played Sons of Hermann Hall for the first time in a year last Wednesday. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Dancers dancing

The joy that dancing brings was apparent on the faces of attendees. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Cover charge on nights with just a DJ are $10, and when there’s a live band the cover charge ranges from $16 to $20.

Swing enthusiasts can look forward to a special live music night on September 27 with Swinganova, a swing big band with 10-12 musicians based out of Plano.

Mark your calendars for New Years Eve at Sons of Hermann Hall with Black Powder Vipers, and dance your way into 2024.

Dancers dancing

People of all ages are welcome to come learn the art of swing dancing at Sons of Hermann Hall, Photo: Jessica Waffles

A tuba player on stage

The Black Powder Vipers will be playing the Scat Jazz Lounge next month on September 9. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Jerry closes with an important reminder, “The whole thing is meant to be a fun time. We try not to make it intimidating; it’s very open.”

The swing dance community at Sons of Hermann Hall encourages an inclusive atmosphere where anyone, regardless of experience level, can join in. It’s a space where dancing isn’t about impressing someone for a date but about sharing a common love for the dance itself.

In this safe and vibrant environment, swing dancing becomes a liberating experience, providing a platform for people to connect, learn, and groove to the infectious rhythms of swing music.

Dancers dancing

The dance hall is a perfect location for people to get into the rhythm of swing dancing. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Dancers dancing

Jerry and Cat Warwick on the open dance floor at Sons of Hermann Hall. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Jessica Waffles is a freelance photographer/videographer and regular contributor to KXT.ย 

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