Internet epithets. Fake news. Toxic tweets. Couples lost in their cell phones over dinner in a restaurant. The signs of societal disintegration are everywhere. Cynicism is the attitude of the age, as the dark matter of alienation spews inexorably from our “devices.”

Is there an antidote?

Yes. Swing Dance Wednesday at the Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum.

A few minutes under the disco ball is a smile spa for all ages. Twenty somethings twirl with septuagenarians. Husbands dance with wives. If they’re lucky, the Dime Store Hoods, an eight piece (two saxes!) band, will be belting out Choo-Choo Ch’boogie.

Don’t know how to swing dance? No worries. An hour before the main event Jerry and Kathy Warwick give a lesson with fundamentals. Beginning with ‘rock, rock, step step’ through some basic spins, they make it clear that while technique is good, everybody is here to just be happy.

Teachers Jerry and Kathy Waldron emphasize fun over technique
Teachers Jerry and Kathy Waldron emphasize fun over technique

They’ve been teaching for a dozen years. “The popularity of swing dancing rises and falls,” Jerry says. “Couples come when they’re young, leave when they have kids, then come back again.” Now he says, swing is on the rise.

The mood for the evening is set in class. Students gather in a large circle and pair up randomly. They get an instruction, try it out, exchange high fives, and move on to the next person in the circle. It doesn’t matter who you come with, you’re going to dance with everybody.

The same rule holds once the real dancing starts at nine.

Jim Gilchrist hasn't missed a Wednesday in fifteen years.
Jim Gilchrist hasn't missed a Wednesday in fifteen years.

“Everybody is just here to dance,” Marcia Cano, a twenty-something told me. “There is no pressure.”

Alex Bahabicavah hasn’t missed a week for the last nine months. “I love the community. I love dancing. There are really fun people here.”

By 10:30 p.m., the crowd will have swelled to 350, nearly all of whom are perspiring on the dance floor. True, there are a few gazing at their phones. But the grins and the Dime Store Hoods set the mood, and it’s human to human.

The Dime Store Hoods
The Dime Store Hoods

Choo choo, choo choo, ch’boogie!

Woo woo, ooh ooh, ch’boogie!

Choo choo, choo choo, ch’boogie!

Take me right back to the track, Jack!

1946, Vaughn Horton, Denver Darling, Milt Gabler

Byron Harris, a 40-year reporter for WFAA-TV, writes Byron’s Lens.