Involved teacher shares lifelong passion

Skinner participates in NHS, Bethel swing dancing

Lauren Mitchell

More stories from Lauren Mitchell

Skinner glances at his partner as they exhibit a swing dancing move. The dance was a part of  a video that was used as a submission for the Bubbert Awards, a Bethel College event.


Skinner glances at his partner as they exhibit a swing dancing move. The dance was a part of a video that was used as a submission for the Bubbert Awards, a Bethel College event.

English teacher Brian Skinner is a familiar face around the high school, as the head scholars’ bowl coach, the fall concessions manager, a member of several school and district committees, and a host of other volunteer activities. However, many may not know about his 14-year passion for a unique hobby: swing dancing.

Skinner has been swing dancing since his sophomore year in high school, and said what draws him to the activity is its upbeat nature.

“I really enjoy the style of the music… I know a lot of swing dancing is the slow, jazz music but I feel like it has to be energizing and if I’m moving slowly then it’s not. I like to move. Anything that involves movement I enjoy,” Skinner said.

Previously, Skinner participated in swing dancing through the Wichita Swing Dance Club, as well as a group of Bethel dancers who met weekly. Currently, although Skinner does not have the chance to dance as frequently; he is the cosponsor of the school Swing Dance Club with English teacher Cathlina Bergman.

“I swing dance with the (high school) Swing Dance Club. I swing dance once or twice a semester with Bethel when some of them get together…and whenever my swing dance partners come to town. Currently, they’re in different states. My swing dance partner of eight years is actually coming to town tomorrow,” Skinner said.

Although Skinner said that swing dancing is best learned from lessons with a professional, he acquired his swing dancing skills in a nontraditional way.

“Really, in this day and age, you don’t have to learn to swing dance that way anymore…,” Skinner said. “We’ll watch (YouTube) videos, we’ll find the moves that we think look cool, and we will spend lots of time just going slow-mo through that section, pausing, ‘okay, let’s get into the configuration that it’s supposed to be,’ then hit play, and then just kind of learning them that way. And then, repetition.”

Skinner enjoys passing on what he has learned from his many years of experience to his high school students and believes that the key to successful swing dancing is fluidity.

Skinner and partner practice swing dancing after running into each other on the Bethel College campus. The picture captured the ending of a swing dancing move called “Around the World.”

“It’s not impressive if you stop after each one to figure out what you’re doing next. To where I tell my students that you can learn five really simple moves and if you can just do them back to back to back, and always mix them up, it looks more impressive than it actually is,” Skinner said.

Skinner said another critical factor in swing dancing is non verbal communication.

“They turned on the strobe light right at the worst time. We weren’t expecting them to do a strobe light, they just thought ‘hey, we’ll add this in there.’ And they did right as I picked her up to flip her. It’s the only flip that’s a stand alone flip where I’m not there to catch her and so she’s on her own. As I’m throwing her through the air like, ‘strobe, strobe, strobe’ and I’m like darn it. (She fell) briefly. The only fall that I’ve had,” Skinner said.

While professional competitions are not part of Skinner’s swing dancing resume, he had success in college participating in several Bethel contests and taking first place in a video submission.

“We did three different talent shows for Bethel, where there were about ten or 12 groups that were selected to do talent shows and we were one that was selected each time. We did one video submission and we did that for the Bubbert Awards, which is an event that Bethel holds,” Skinner said.