By Scott Campbell
It was about five years ago that a friend invited Jenni Calhoun to come dance, sparking a passion that inspired her to open Rhythm N Motion, her 1,500-square-foot dance enterprise in the Lancaster County borough of Manheim. August 26 marks the business’ second anniversary.
Calhoun’s initial response to her enthusiasm for dancing was a conventional one. “The first thing that I did was seek out and take instruction,” says the 28-year-old Ephrata woman. “Once I felt competent, I started to travel for dance opportunities. I went to Virginia Beach, Tenn., Texas, N.Y. and to a Lindy Hop dance camp in Asheville, N.C. Another of my goals is to attend the Herrang Dance Camp in Sweden.”
Her personal dance activities have centered on the popular Lindy Hop, a contemporary and more athletic progeny of the swing and jitterbug styles of the 1940s and 1950s. Calhoun’s taste in music favors those older sounds, perhaps an expression of her interest in blues. She enjoys the music of Artie Shaw and Fats Waller, but is “still learning about the music of that time, the swing era.”
Along with professional partner Derek Mast and several other teachers at Rhythm N Motion, Calhoun offers instruction in a variety of dance styles, including everything from waltz to fox trot to Lindy Hop. Private lessons and group instruction are available, perfect for teaching couples to dance for their upcoming wedding-day reception.
For Calhoun, the Lancaster region provides regular opportunities to instruct and participate in popular dance. It is evidence of a resurgent interest in swing that transcends generations. “There is an organization in our area called Lancaster Swing,” she says. “They sponsor a dance every Saturday night at Living Hope Community Church on Columbia Avenue in Lancaster. Most of the time, music is provided by a DJ. But, every two or three months, an orchestra is engaged. The dance begins at 8 p.m., but I’m there at 7 p.m. to offer instruction. I do that frequently, going out to different events to do demonstration dances and teaching large group lessons.”
Last month, Calhoun and partner Mast were in Geigertown to participate in the Hay Creek Valley Historical Association World War II weekend. The July 20 and 21 event featured a big band dance, before which Calhoun and Mast provided lessons.
Prior to the inception of Rhythm N Motion, Calhoun’s sole professional focus was teaching. The Ephrata native earned a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer science from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “It used to be called home economics,” she says. “And there aren’t many schools that offer the curriculum anymore. I think IUP and Mercyhurst are the only two in Pennsylvania.”
Since graduating from college, Calhoun’s day job has been the family and consumer science instructor to 8th and 9th grade students in the Reading School District. She begins her sixth year this month.