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Meet Kenny Nelson of Swingin’ Denver in Baker

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kenny Nelson.

Kenny, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I founded Swingin’ Denver five years ago due to several needs I saw lacking in our swing dance community – opportunities for advanced dancers, a greater focus on quality swing music and getting swing dancing outside the ballrooms and studios into the public eye. After traveling internationally for three years prior and helping to start two swing dance schools in Melbourne and Madrid, I wanted to settle down and create my own thing.

Being that my first learning experience with swing was in a friend’s basement, I’d say I had a rough start back in 1997. Once my high school friends and I discovered an all-ages venue in Overland Park, KS, I was quickly hooked. Every Saturday night, I’d go take the beginner lesson and then social dance for hours. One night, I got forced into a jam circle (one couple showing off in the middle of people clapping and stomping) and did the only cool move I had, jazz splits. This led to being invited onto the studio dance team and performing at Arrowhead Stadium. Those were heady times.

Eventually, I was exposed to the swing scene beyond Kansas City. Dance events in Des Moines workshops in Tulsa, competitions in Boston. In 2004, I attended the Denver Lindy Exchange and was blown away by a lindy hop team no longer in existence, 23 Skidoo. I moved the next year, motivated to train so I would receive an invite onto 23 Skidoo.

The hard work paid off and I made the team where we won two huge comps two years in a row 2007/2008, dishing out creative choreography and high-flying aerials. Eventually, I started teaching swing semi-regularly at the Mercury Cafe. Thanks to dance connections and YouTube recaps, I was asked to move to Porto, Portugal to teach with the woman running Lindy Hop Portugal in 2011. Living there paid off as I made more contacts and people discovered that I was willing to live in international cities short-term to help create, develop or add to their swing scene. Four continents and many countries later, I decided I needed to bring my experience back to Denver.

Has it been a smooth road?
Growing a business hasn’t always been a smooth road. The main struggle has been getting people to discover us. I wish there was just one advertising aspect that works like a charm, but it really boils down to a lot of hard work in many different advertising streams.

Another struggle has been overcoming the mentality that our swing community is small. Since our scene was viewed as being completely maximized, people had a tough time figuring out how we’d fit. Fortunately, one of my main goals was attracting new students so we partnered with different businesses, created a performance team, and worked with new bands. Five years later, our scene has greatly increased in size and we’ve brought swing dancing to thousands of people.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Swingin’ Denver – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
First and foremost, Swingin’ Denver is a swing dance school. We feature set curriculum for four separate series interspersed with specialty topics like balboa and vernacular jazz. While we do have drop-in lessons at special events, we enjoy having a dedicated group of students since it makes for a better learning environment.

Another thing that sets us apart is our partnerships across Metro Denver. Since we’re not locked into one space, this means we get to partner and collaborate with great Denver businesses like Dry Dock Brewing, Stanley Marketplace, Lone Tree Brewing, Little Man Ice Cream, Fort Greene, Arvada Tavern, and others to host special events and workshops. We get to reach new audiences and we bring business to the establishments.

We also have a performance and entertainment branch. We teach pop-up lessons, perform routines, and get the dance floor going at weddings, corporate events, music festivals and more. We’re really there to break the ice and make people feel comfortable dancing to the DJ or live band.

I’m most proud of our Speakeasy Soiree, an annual event that was held at The Hangar @ Stanley earlier this year. It’s a full-on party with craft cocktails, great live music, stage and lighting, VIP area, vintage vendors, dance performances and more. This was our fourth year and we brought in 500+ people. We are greatly looking forward to 2020, our fifth year for this event.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
One of the reasons I wanted to start Swingin’ Denver is because I was inspired by the awesome collaborative environment I continually saw in our city. Examples include: the Justice League of Street Food, Ohana Island Kitchen starting in the take-out window at Truffle Table, and bar takeovers. I wanted to be part of this and now I am!

What do I like least? I’m happy that Denver is growing but I’m worried that the development happening in RiNo, technically Five Points will spread into other neighborhoods and price people out. I’d like to see these businesses bringing their resources to service and lift up these communities more.

Pricing:

  • $75 for 6-Week Class Sessions, code “swingout” to save $15 for Swing 1
  • $225 for 3 Private Lesson Package

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Morgan Petroski, GMark Lewis, Timothy Nwachukwu, Michelle Cherie Blake

Getting in touch: VoyageDenver is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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