Where The Cool Cats Hang: Youth Swing Dancing

Dancers enjoy the open floor at Daniel and the Gang's April 5 dance.
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CATALDO – The recently established Off the Grid hosted by Daniel and the Gang held its second monthly dance on April 5 in Cataldo, Idaho. The event provided a remote atmosphere for young adults to learn and practice a variety of dance moves.

Daniel Connelly, founder and MC, taught attendants a number of dance moves in swing, square, line, contra, and waltz styles. These lessons started with beginner moves before moving towards “more advanced moves at the end.”

“I always start with beginner [lessons],” Connelly said. “The kids love the group dances, when we do the Scottish Polka and the Virginia Reel.”

Connelly teaches a room full of dancers to line dance to the theme of Footloose.

A reported 120 people checked into the Country Barn Bed & Breakfast where they participated in group dances and lessons in addition to the open dance floor. Connelly organizes this event in addition to monthly dances hosted at Skate Plaza in Coeur d’Alene.

“I started Daniel and the Gang Off the Grid because we were maxing out the Skate Plaza floor,” Connelly said. “They pretty much can’t fit any more people in that building; 800 is really the most we can fit.”

For the past 12 years, Connelly has hosted his monthly dance at venues across Kootenai and Bonner counties, including a bagel shop, churches, and schools. In the recent past, the event was hosted at a barn in Sagle. This environment provided an intimate atmosphere “for smaller groups to come up and dance.”

The event’s rapid growth required a larger venue. Although the dance’s current venue accommodates for 800, the group finds themselves pushing that number on a consistent basis.

“There definitely is a need for another dance because logistically we just need to spread it out a little more,” Connelly said. “So those who are looking for a little bit of a smaller dance, it gives them that option.”

Off the Grid is targeted towards young adults, however the event is “open to all ages” with parents welcome as well.

“A lot of people ask me ‘why are so many young people coming to a swing dance?’ The answer is ‘because other young people are.’” Connelly said. “Since there’s so many other young people that are dancing and clapping and stomping along to all the group dances, everyone just feels so at home. Nobody’s feeling all shy, like they need to be a wallflower.”

Connelly takes advantage of his events to introduce young people to traditional dancing, “something they may not have ever been exposed to.”

“You can actually do dance moves. You can have a nice, respectful dance with a girl or guy… I’m a real advocate for keeping dancing clean.”

Connelly enlists the help of family and friends he’s made over the years to manage the event. Connelly’s sister, Christina Thomas, helped run the check-in counter. Her role allows her to “see that everyone’s dancing,” which she finds encouraging.

“People are only gonna drive this far out if they want to dance,” Thomas said. “It’s nice to know that there’s people who still care to do things like that.”

The Country Barn Bed & Breakfast in Cataldo, Idaho.

Thomas Anderson has been attending the Gang’s dances since they were held at St. John’s Church 7 years ago. Anderson remarked that the Off the Grid dance has a “similar atmosphere” to the larger dances despite the disparity in size.

“I’m hoping it will stay a smaller, tight knit group,” Anderson said. “I’m hoping this will have more social dances where you get to know people and have a friendly environment. So far it’s been that.”

Regardless of the visitor’s experience level with dancing, Connelly believes these dances are a chance to “socialize with other people and really just get out to be active.” 

“We live in a world of video games and sitting on your phone,” Connelly said. “That idea of community and culture building over the years has become less and less, and if it keeps going on that track then it’s going to be lost.”

Visitors are encouraged to dress up with the theme of “vintage swing revival.” The monthly events are currently scheduled at the same location through the end of 2024.

“You can put down your phone, you can put down the video games, you can turn off Netflix and you can come and share an active, fun time with lots of other people your age,” Connelly said. “I’m excited to be able to grow with this group.”