Members of the University of Wisconsin-Stout Swing Dance Club are going to help break up the doldrums of winter by sharing some dance steps during the Snow Ball at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9.
The Dunn County Historical Society last year revived a tradition of joint university and community celebrations dating back to the 1930s. The dance will be held at the Russell J. Rassbach Heritage Museum, 1820 Wakanda St. N.W.
“Last year a number of Swing Dance Club students came to the event,” said Melissa Kneeland, the museum’s director of education and programming. “We were so excited and pleased to have them come and participate and to see younger people participate in a social dance. We thought it would be great to have them come give lessons to those who might be nervous about going out on the dance floor.”
The students will be giving some lessons at the beginning of the dance and then about half way through, Kneeland said.
“This event was traditionally held for Stout students,” Kneeland said. “It is exciting to have students come back and help bring life to this event. So often Stout students participate in downtown community events close to campus. Here they are participating in a wider community event, and they get to be the leaders.”
Jacob Greider, a senior majoring in industrial design from Waukegan, Ill., has been a part of Swing Dance Club since his first year at UW-Stout. “I love dancing as a way to meet and get to know interesting people and create community while having a ton of fun and learning new stuff,” Greider said. He is looking forward to the Snow ball to share “how amazing dance is with others and showing them some moves to expand their idea of what dance can be.”
Kailey Blatz, an early childhood education senior from Blaine, Minn., has been a part of the Swing Dance Club about 3½ years. She and Greider instruct at weekly club meetings on campus and enjoy working with people of all skill levels.
“The dance community is great to be a part of. Everyone is so friendly and willing to learn, so events like this are always a blast because you meet a variety of people and get to have fun and dance,” Blatz said. “I love to swing dance because it’s a great way to socialize and meet new people, but it’s also a big stress reliever for me. After a busy day, it’s great to be able to get together with other dancers and listen to good music and dance for a while.”
Frank Smoot, executive director of the Dunn County Historical Society, said the Snow Ball is an opportunity for both the community and UW-Stout to mix. “I taught dancing,” Smoot said. “One of the things that was always a challenge is people are scared of dancing. They don’t realize how simple it is. It’s walking to music. A group like the Swing Dance Club will help with that. They can show people some steps, and they can soon be dancing too.”
Heather Stecklein, UW-Stout director of University Archives and the Area Research Center, said she was thrilled to hear Swing Dance Club members were giving lessons this year at the Snow Ball.
“By offering a big band dance each year, the Dunn County Historical Society is offering a great chance for Stout students to, once again, spread the joy of exploring different styles of dancing with each other,” Stecklein said “Since the carnival is an annual event, everyone can be assured of a chance to try out their new dance steps again and again. It’s also worth noting that, with these new moves, attendees will also have a chance to wow the crowd at other events.”
The Snow Ball, which was traditionally part of the university’s Winter Carnival, was held for about 60 years. In 1974, the Winter Carnival had two competing bands. One was a current rock band and the other was a polka band led by Stout music director Lynn Pritchard. In 1978 Chancellor Bob Meyer was crowned Winter Carnival king after running for the position as a residential assistant at HKMC dorm.
Party dress is encouraged at the Snow Ball, Kneeland said. “The idea is to give people a chance to wear that dress they wore once to a wedding or that suit they never wear,” she noted.
As part of the dance there will be a vintage clothing exhibit of ball gowns from several decades, and two handmade quilts will be raffled. Tickets to Snow Ball are $25 a person, which includes a museum membership for the year. Two tickets are $45 and include the option for a household membership.
Prior to the dance, a Frost Fair is planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at the museum. It will include a chili cook-off, craft show and vintage baseball game.
UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.
Rassbach Heritage Museum Director of Education and Programming Melissa Kneeland shows some vintage gowns that will be displayed at Snow Ball