Lumina Daze is popular for its celebration of Wrightsville Beach history, usually expressed through the shag dance that has become the dance of the Carolina. However, this year’s annual event on Sunday, Aug. 27 turned a spotlight on another dance that once ruled the historic beachside music hall.
With it’s first-ever swing dancing competition, the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History’s Lumina Daze drew renewed attention to the steps that captivated dancers on the Lumina Pavilion’s 5,000 square foot dance floor.
Although swing dancing had its heyday in the 1940s, the dancers who wowed the crowds at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort with coordinated steps and breath-taking throws were born long after the swing era ended, as representatives of the Cape Fear Swing Society and the University of North Carolina Wilmington Swinging Seahawks club put a youthful face on the classic steps.
Tina Williamson, the museum’s president, said that while Lumina Daze usually has a big band play swing dance classics, the youthful dancers helped bring back to life the spirit
“The best way to promote history is to showcase it, and that’s what these college kids are doing with swing dancing,” she said. “They’re really lifting it up.”
The contest featured competition in the freestyle, classic, showcase and popular “Jack & Jill” round, where ladies will often select their partners, and the songs aren’t pre-selected.
Mariah Grace, the president of the UNCW Swinging Seahawks, said she was first exposed to swing dancing at the 2016 Lumina Daze event.
“That was the moment that I knew I could go without swing dancing,” she said.
She’s now president of a student club with 15-20 members and is trying to grow the dance by exposing it to more people.
“When we expose people to it, more people come into it,” she said, with one trick being to try swing dance steps to current hits. “You can swing dance to modern music, it’s more versatile than people think.”
During a showcase dance, John Townsend tossed his partner Merlee Hill while dancing the “Lindy Hop,” inspiring a gasp from the crowd.
“You can really feel the connection with the audience, the throws make the heart rate jump and increases the energy in the room,” Hill said.