Months after the close of popular hangout CJ’s Nightclub, the Swing Devils of the Palouse are still dancing every week in Moscow.
For over 18 years, the Swing Devils made their home at CJ’s Nightclub, which closed in August.
Alex Boughamer, treasurer of the organization, said many people thought swing nights had disappeared with the club, but that is not the case. He said for the first few weeks after the close, they temporarily held dances at the 1912 Center and now have a more permanent venue at the Moose Lodge on Main Street.
“There was some confusion on where our next site was going to be so we ended up losing a bunch of people. We’re still here, dancing on Thursdays,” said Swing Devils Board Member Eric Gidens.
The Swing Devils host drop-in lessons for $5 at 8 p.m. with dancing from 9-11:30 p.m. every Thursday year-round, excluding UI’s winter break. Boughamer said he expects their numbers to start going up since everything is settled.
Thursday, Jan. 26 is their official Newbie Night, which is free for those arriving at 8 p.m. for the lesson.
He said their board has also considered accommodating more for Washington State University (WSU) students, though that is not their immediate goal. He said they hosted a dance at the Daily Grind in Pullman at the beginning of January, which had a large attendance.
“We have a lot of people from WSU come over so we were like ‘Well, maybe we should start throwing a few dances over there,’” he said.
Boughamer said although Swing Devils originated at CJ’s in Moscow, those affiliated with the club in various capacities can be found throughout the world. He said many were upset at the nightclub’s closure even if they had merely been passing through. However, he said they are working to make the Moose as welcoming. He said every venue has a different personality, and those with smaller spaces and low ceilings tend to attract more people. He said small details like lighting and wall color can affect the energy in the room.
“At Swing, we noticed crowds would start to get smaller if there weren’t benches at the end of the dance floor. Soon as we got our benches back, crowds would come up,” he said.
The ceiling at the Moose is covered in Christmas lights put up by another swing dance group, which make the room warmer and more inviting than before, Boughamer said. He said the benches along the side and some other items were actually donated by former CJ’s owner Phil Roderick.
“I can’t say how amazing they were for us for 18 years,” he said.
Boughamer said he joined the Swing Devils shorty after their conception in 1997 and has been dancing with them ever since. He said he began teaching less than a year after he started, and now often teaches the pre-dance lesson Thursday nights as well as a University of Idaho Dance 105 class: Strictly Swing. He said at the beginning, the club was only accessible to those over 21.
“It originally started downstairs (in CJ’s),” he said.
He said eventually it moved upstairs so all ages could participate, and attendance increased.
Gidens said he began attending swing nights about two years ago as a beginner in search of a wider social circle and now teaches lessons to others.
“It’s addicting, you keep coming back,” he said.
Nina Rydalch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NinaRobin7