On Tuesdays at the Wort Hotel’s historic Silver Dollar Bar, the gang’s all here: a group of swing dancers, ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-80s, are making sure the last of the old west never misses a beat. They welcome spectators, newcomers, bluegrass fans, and even those of us who have two left feet, because on Tuesdays, if you’re on the dance floor, you’re part of the tradition.
As local bluegrass band One Ton Pig takes the stage, dancers begin to gather in the corner, clanging glasses and shaking hands. But, when the band starts up, the socializing is swapped for swing, triple step, two step, and maybe even a little cha-cha. To dancer Chris Koch, Tuesday nights are the closest thing to heaven. He laughs, “I hope in heaven, there’s dancing and horses.”
Koch, a Tuesday regular for 12 years running, is a traditionalist known to do-si-do and bow to his partner after each dance. One of his partners, Michelle Miller, also has traditional dance roots. She first learned Western dance while attending junior high physical education class in her hometown of Jackson.
“Tuesdays are a great community,” Miller says. “It’s all different walks of life, people who are brand new in town and people who have been here for generations.”
For dancer Casey Singer, the Tuesday community has a huge role in keeping her in the area. She began swing dancing when she moved to Jackson in 2005 and has hardly missed a Tuesday since. “If I miss a couple in a row, I jones for it,” Singer says. “I miss the people. They’re my Tuesday night family.”
Singer has a ballet background, but learned everything she knows about swing dancing on the Silver Dollar Bar’s dance floor. People regularly mistake her for a professional.
“To become a better dancer, you need to dance with different people so you can learn to adapt,” Singer says. “I teach people all the time. I learn something from everyone I dance with, even if they aren’t a great dancer.”
B.J. Reed has taught swing dancing for Dancers’ Workshop since 1982. Even Pippa Middleton took a page from Reed’s book—she learned to swing with Reed, Singer, Koch, and others while filming a segment for “Access Hollywood.”
Singer and the other dancers all have one thing in common—they are committed to keeping the dance tradition alive.
“Western dancing is one of the few things that is still traditional, small-town country here in Jackson,” Singer says. “I get chills thinking about it. It’s not a massive dance hall, it’s not commercialized, and it’s this wonderful, welcoming place. I hope it never goes away.”