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Young and old swoon, swing at Sweetheart Ball

Mia Shockey, 10, twirls with her swing dancing partner, Dennis Hanson. Also joining the group lesson is the mother-daughter duo of Annika Lewarne, 10, and Karyn Lewarne at the Feb. 8 Sweetheart Ball.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Mia Shockey, 10, twirls with her swing dancing partner, Dennis Hanson. Also joining the group lesson is the mother-daughter duo of Annika Lewarne, 10, and Karyn Lewarne at the Feb. 8 Sweetheart Ball.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

There was something about the dim lights, the heart-shaped sheet music and the dancing space Friday night at the Sweetheart Ball.

Tunes from the South Whidbey High School and Langley Middle School jazz bands provided the backdrop for a night of dancing between father and daughter, grandmother and grandson.

“It’s a rarity to see that at an event like this,” said Jude Janis, the event’s chairwoman. “It was kind of like a wedding where everybody gets out on the dance floor.”

More than 200 people attended the dance with live tunes from some of South Whidbey’s most talented student musicians. It was almost double the number of attendees at last year’s event, which was on the same night as a dinner benefit for Hearts and Hammers.

“We had toddlers and we had great-grandparents, and a lot of die-hard swing dance fans,” Janis said. Ben Watanabe / The Record | Conor Workman blasts his saxophone into the microphone during a solo.

“I don’t think we could have fit many more people, to be honest.”

Walter Dill led dozens in basic swing dancing — with a little provocation.

“Music and dance go together,” Dill said.

“We have excess guys — excess men — up here, ladies. What’s going on?”

A night of dancing and desserts drew Karyn Lewarne and her 10-year-old daughter Annika onto the New Commons floor. Young and not-so-young pairing up for a little Western swing was a common sight as Chris Harshman, the high school band director, and Jess Monett, the middle school band director, guided their musicians.

“A big thanks to our directors, Jess Monett and Chris Harshman, who work way more hours than they’re paid to,” Janis said.

Janis credited the students for eagerly publicizing the event in conjunction with the middle school jazz band’s tulip sale. Money from the flower fundraiser defrayed the cost of the jazz band’s trip to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Idaho this month.

Swing dancing and jazz music and the ball brought in about $2,500, which will be split between the high school and middle school band programs. The success, both monetarily and in entertainment, of the Sweetheart Ball has the high school band considering reviving its Swing into Spring fundraiser performance.

“There were several older couples that left and said, ‘We’ll come any time you do this,’” Janis said. “I wish I could have brought out my mother from Wisconsin.”

Fundraisers for the band programs help finance trips, instrument repair and cleaning, new music and other related costs. The Sweetheart Ball was hosted by the South Whidbey High School Performing Arts Boosters.

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