Photography by Danny Fulgencio.

The doors to the historic Sons of Hermann Hall swing open to a vintage dance hall, a faint memory of the past that whirs to life at 8 p.m. every Wednesday.

Swing music swells, and the sound of dancing feet shakes the building. Couples cling to each other, spinning around, narrowly avoiding collision on the 100-year-old floor. Dancers from 15 to 75 pull away, bend to the ground, arms outstretched, jazz hands flailing and breathless smiles beaming as they twirl, dip and flip.

This is a typical night for Jerry and Kathy Warwick. Swing dance is ingrained in their lives. The East Dallas duo met on the dance floor in the late ’90s. Kathy had danced before but was new to the swing dance scene. Jerry, a natural leader on the dance floor, had been kicking it up for about a year. Kathy admits that she made the first move, asking him to boogie. After a trip around the floor, they soon became a dance duo, and eventually, life partners.

In the mid-90s, while some were rocking to Green Day or swooning over the Backstreet Boys, a generation of swing dancers was emerging, revitalizing the scene that many had dismissed or forgotten. It was during that time that members of the Dallas Swing Dance Society met. 

Photography by Danny Fulgencio.

As the society grew, the Warwicks began to teach. For the past 18 years, they have taught Wednesday night classes at the hall. The society wanted to preserve and promote the historic dance, hoping to attract new members every week. Jerry is passionate about the preservation of the cultural tradition and calls it a “historical education.”

The Wednesday night class fills quickly with beginners. New dancers fumble nervously but begin to move with confidence. Steps become lighter, arms less rigid. New members are celebrated. Even though the Warwicks teach the same lesson every week, they say it never gets old.

“It is always cool to see new people keep this alive,” Kathy says. “You learn to dance, but if they walk out that building with joy, that’s going to make tomorrow better. It is difficult to be angry and hold that in your heart when you’re swing dancing. Age doesn’t matter, size doesn’t matter, what you do for a job doesn’t matter. Whether you were popular or not popular, none of that matters. It is all just the dance.”

The best part of the job for the Warwicks is the joy of dancing together. Back in their performing days, when limbs were younger, moves involving lifts were more feasible. But the couple finds that dancing is still an important part of their marriage.

“My favorite moments of dancing are when we go out somewhere and music is playing, and we just get to dance together,” Kathy says. “That is magical.”

For more information about the Dallas Swing Dance Society, visit dsds.org.

Photography by Danny Fulgencio.


WANT MORE?
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.