Bainbridge Busts a Move
Dance Instructor Will Craig continues bringing in dancers for monthly, community swing dancing event
Hanna Duncan dresses up on a Friday night to go out with a group of her friends. But she’s not going downtown or to someone’s party. She’s going to Bainbridge for swing dancing.
“It’s just a really fun thing to come do, and definitely take you away from school,” says Duncan. “There are some super good dancers out there, and it’s so much fun to learn new moves.”
Duncan, a junior Fashion Merchandising major at Kent State, loves bringing her friends out to Bainbridge, a 34-minute drive from campus to learn new moves and let loose. She even shows the new guys how to dance and take the lead.
“It’s fun to help them out and to make them feel relaxed and confident because the key to taking the lead as a guy is just to have confidence.”
Once a month, Kenston Community Education in Chagrin Falls puts on a swing dancing event at the Bainbridge Township Town Hall. With a live band and diverse range of ages represented, anywhere from 120–200 community members come out on the first Friday of each month. Will Craig, 58, began it 18 years ago with KCE, and serves as the host, organizer, sound operator, dance instructor, and occasionally, custodian.
“Everything it takes to make a dance work,” says Craig.
Craig was a dance instructor for Kenston Community Education during the 90’s, when swing dance was widely popular. He would tell his classes about the swing dances happening in Cleveland, so they could continue to practice their new moves. However, most of his dancers commuted to the city, and didn’t want to travel. Noticing the popularity of the dance locally, he suggested KCE start a dance in Bainbridge.
“Right away we had 200 people and it’s been going strong ever since,” says Craig.
Starting at 8 p.m., Craig and his assistant, Jacquelyn Platek, a 45-year-old administrative assistant, teach the dancers for an hour before the dancers are free to dance on their own from 9:00-11:30 p.m. Volunteers sell baked goods and other refreshments throughout the night.
“Usually, it’s always regulars and there’s about 20, 30 percent are new people every month.”
One of those regulars is 67-year-old Joe Gary, who has been coming to the Bainbridge Swing dances since the beginning. Gary says he has taken lots of different lessons since his first with Craig, but says “he’s the best.”
“He breaks it down to where you can understand it and then anyone can learn to dance,” says Gary.
Craig said his role is a way “to touch the lives of people.”
“I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and said, ‘Will, we were on the brink of divorce until we took your lessons. And it was the last one thing we would try and do together.’ I bet you I’ve had at least a dozen couples say that the dancing saved their marriage,” said Craig. “There’s been at least that many people who have met and been married and I’ve been a part of their wedding and now they’re having children. It’s just a way to touch the lives of people in a meaningful and wholesome way.”
As a result of his impact, Hanna Duncan says swing dancing has inspired her to take different dance classes, and she wants to do a swing dancing club of her own at Kent State.
“Because really all it takes is 1 girl and 1 guy to learn all these moves and then they can go and teach everybody. And once you have the moves down, it’s really easy,” says Duncan. “After that you just gotta have rhythm and go to the beat.”