Walnut teens and local seniors come together at Big Band dance
By Kelli Gile
Walnut—The Walnut High School Swing Club and Jazz Band joined the fun during the Swinging Good Times dinner and dance at the Walnut Senior Center on April 22.
High school musicians took to the stage to perform a set of 1930-40’s swing-era music including “Not What” and “Sing Sing Sing.”
Senior Ryan Maidment, who plays trumpet in the group, took the lead organizing the ensemble, selecting music, and scheduling rehearsals for the special performance.
“I love jazz completely and listen to it all the time!” he said.
The teens said they were a little nervous, but excited to be a part of the service project with senior citizens.
“It’s definitely not like anything I’ve seen before,” Maidment said. “It’s been fun!” added electric bass player Matthew Distante.
The multi-generational social dance was the brainchild of English teacher Jennifer Maletz.
“I’m taking a class in community leadership, and we have to create a project that meant something to us. I was a dancer and band singer, so I know that this is a great opportunity to bridge the gap between generations through music and dance,” she said.
A dozen members of the school’s Swing Club showed off their skills performing a Shim Sham Shimmy dance routine.
The girls wore black and white polka dot dresses and the smartly dressed boys donned tuxedo shirts and bow ties for the event. Not the typical Friday night attire for teens.
The local seniors were then invited onto the dance floor for a beginning Lindy Hop lesson to the classic Big Band music.
“If you want to learn some basics of swing – please come and pair up with one of our Swing Club members,” Maidment announced.
The teens quickly partnered with the eager seniors.
The 20-minute tutorial included the quick turn, tuck turn, spin out, and Charleston moves, according to junior Patrick Stephanoff. “You can learn it in a night, but it takes longer to master,” he said.
Walnut resident Leann Curren was one of the first to take the dance floor to learn steps from freshman Brian Duran.
“I love to dance! I’ve been married almost 48 years, but my husband doesn’t dance,” Curren said. So, she took up line dancing about a year ago at the Walnut Senior Center.
“You don’t need a partner!”
“This has been great!” said Richard Pena after taking a spin on the dance floor. His group of retired friends attend ballroom dances that feature the rumba, foxtrot, salsa, cha cha, and waltz.
“I’ve done the West Coast Swing, but never tried the Lindy Hop. It brings back memories!” he added.
The Walnut High Swing Club members are passionate about jazz and it showed as they seamlessly quick-stepped and twirled to the familiar sounds of Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and more.
“I’ve danced a lot of different genres, but I really like swing the most,” said junior Chelsea “Cat” Tuason.
“I enjoy the fact that it gives me a chance to meet new people!” said 18-year-old Brion Robles.
“There’s dance at school, but it’s modern and it’s very hip-hoppy,” added senior Riley Herms, who has been a member of the after-school club for three years. “It’s neat doing something fancier!”
“I think that sometimes we end up being segmented by our ages and not mingling,” Maletz said. “Here in Walnut High School, we have an amazing group of dancers who enjoy music from a very different generation, so there’s a bridge of music and dance that can create a connection within the community.”
“I am so proud of the students and the effort they put in. The event exceeded my expectations for connection and fun!” Maletz said.