Swing dance makes debut at restored Bent’s Opera House

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 19 August 2022 at 8:03 am

Lessons planned to be offered monthly at upstairs ballroom

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Swing dancers begin with the basic steps on the first night of swing dance lessons at Bent’s Opera House. After a 45-minute lesson, even beginners can join in the dancing for the rest of the evening.

MEDINA – A dance craze popular in big cities throughout the United States may soon be a regular attraction in Medina.

Phil and Julie Berry encountered swing dancing while living in Los Angeles.

Dance instructors Mike Moll and Leah Twomey ham it up prior to Thursday’s swing dance lessons at Bent’s Opera House.

Phil said he has loved swing dancing since the first time he saw someone doing the Lindy hop.

“I thought, that looks like great fun and I want to do it,” he said.

After moving back to Medina to purchase the Book Shoppe, now Author’s Note, the first thing Phil did was go online and look up where it might be offered in Western New York.

He found Swing Buffalo and Ballroom Revolution in Buffalo, then started thinking about where he could find a place big enough to have dances in Medina.

“The Lindy hop belongs here,” Phil said.

Then he met Heather Hungerford, whose husband Roger restored the Bent’s Opera House, and when she asked Phil how they could better use the opera house for the community, he had an answer.

“She absolutely loved the idea and said, ‘Let’s make it happen,’” Phil said. “And here we are.”

Julie has been promoting the dance lessons at Author’s Note, giving customers a poster or pamphlet on the event and it has been posted on Facebook, where more than 100 people said they were interested. Jeff Baker with Swing Buffalo has also been promoting it.

Almost 50 showed up Thursday night for dance lessons, and by the time the night ended, another 30 had arrived to enjoy the dancing.

The evening began with a 45-minute dance lesson.

“If you’ve never danced before, by 7:30 you’ll learn all you need to do a swing dance,” Phil said.

Phil Berry of Medina puts on his dancing shoes in preparation for the first night of swing dancing lessons at Bent’s Opera House on Thursday evening. He hopes to make the lessons a regular event.

Phil recruited disc jockey Tommy Darlington from Buffalo and dance instructors Mike Moll and Leah Twomey.

“I want to make Medina a dance destination,” Phil said.

Phil and Julie’s children also came along to dance. Son Adam, 22, said when his parents first asked him to go to a dance he said no.

“Then I finally said yes, and my brother David and I had fun,” he said. “I had a real good time. There were a lot of people there who were quite young – college age. I encountered two young people who were engaged and had met there two years ago. It’s a fun way to meet people. Swing dancing is a very social event because you have to dance with a partner. Young people who haven’t done it would really like it if they tried it.”

Ande Niedzwiecki from Seattle is visiting friends in Rochester and saw the dance advertised online. She said the dance studios in Rochester are still shut down from Covid and she was looking for something to do and was happy to drive to Medina. She said a Swing Club in Rochester used to have 50 to 60 dancers every week before Covid.

The swing dance class is the first public event at the opera house this year, Hungerford said.

The Berrys are planning to have swing dancing every third Thursday of the month. Tickets can be purchased online on the Bent’s Opera House website or Facebook page or at the door.

The public is also invited to come and listen to the music and watch if they don’t want to dance. A cash bar is also available.

Almost 50 dance enthusiasts showed up at Bent’s Opera House Thursday night for the first of planned swing dance lessons. Here, they warm up by practicing a few basic moves. By the time the lesson ended, another 30 had arrived to dance.