By Allison Carpenter / NM News Port
Late on a Tuesday night, down a quiet road in Albuquerque, music swells from a white stucco building. The sounds of laughter and footsteps draws you in.
After a pandemic of solo hobbies and social distancing, the rush of a crowded dance room is pretty exhilarating.
Welcome to Duke City Swing.
Duke City Swing popped up to fill a gap. Until last year, these swing dancers would gather at the Heights Community Center for fun like this.
“Everyone was waiting for the Heights Community Center to open back up again and do the dance,” said Racquel Torres, a Duke City Swing organizer.
“They didn’t want us,” said Jon Ting, the Duke City Swing proprietor and tonight’s DJ.
Torres was sad to lose the dance floor at the Heights Community Center.
“That’s where I basically learned and it’s been going for over 30 years — or had been,” said Torres.
Torres and a group led by Duke City Swing’s first president decided to start their own swing venue, despite none of them having hosted or organized before.
When Duke City Swing opened in May of 2022, they required masks and proof of vaccination.
“It definitely caused some personal work for us,” Ting said.
“It helped us build,” said Drew Edelberg, another organizer.
Edelberg sends e-newsletters with a diverse list of dance events that people in Albuquerque and Santa Fe can enjoy, sometimes going all the way to Colorado. He also teaches swing dancing at Duke City.
With Covid numbers rising again, Ting and fellow organizers are talking about what if anything Duke City Swing is going to do this fall and winter.
Torres says they tend to follow the lead of the larger swing community in Santa Fe.
Right now Duke City Swing’s focus is on local outreach and exposure. They sent a swing teacher to the University of New Mexico’s new Friday night social dance. They are also hosting dances at Maple Street Dance Studio, which had stopped hosting swing until just this month.
“Here’s all the events in Albuquerque,” Edelberg said. “We represent Tuesday night, but everybody can enjoy these other days.”
The Duke City Swing venue also hosts the professional dance team the Duke City Dynamites who open tryouts every year for new dancers to join the team.
Torres and Edelberg are both part of the Dynamites and are practicing for The Festival of Trees, a charity event with live dance performances.
Duke City Swing may have taken a risk on choosing the right time to start up social dancing again, after the pandemic, but organizers say Duke City Swing has been going strong for almost a year and a half now.
“Tonight, where it’s all lined up, and anyone can participate, we had people dancing — or at least cheering along,” Edelberg said.
“It’s great to bring that spirit to the community and we’re going to do it again this year.”