There’s a line in the Billy Joel song “Allentown” that conjures up images of the culture of recreation in the 1940s. In the first stanza, Joel sings about how fathers in the armed forces “Met our mothers at the USO/Asked them to dance, danced with them slow.” The USO refers to the United Service Organizations, which provides entertainment and recreation for members of the U.S. military.
Senior Ben Bouton isn’t familiar with Joel’s lyrics. But that late-night dance at the USO is just the image Bouton wants to conjure for the third annual Night of Swing, taking place tonight at the Westminster Choir College (WCC) Playhouse.
“It’s a very different night,” he said. “You’re not coming to a rave or a hardcore dance party. It’s a way for us to really show the 1940s period. It’s a really nice evening and you get to see what was important to the culture at the time.”
Sponsored by the WCC Class of 2008, A Night of Swing comes together through the efforts of WCC’s senior class executive board. Although Bouton serves as president, planning the event has been a group effort, he said.
“It’s all about delegating,” he said. “The four of us do everything together. We figure out what needs to be done and then each person takes responsibility for one thing. I’m just making sure that things are being taken care of.”
In addition to the typical finger food and giveaways often featured at University events, A Night of Swing will also feature live music from the New York City-based Swingin’ Jive Patrol and an appearance by a team of professional swing dancers.
“They’re going to be doing some demonstrations and different styles of swing dances,” Bouton said. “They’re going to be walking around showing people what they can do. They also interact with students, so you get some really personalized swing dance instructions.”
But there’s more to A Night of Swing than “looking ridiculous while trying to learn how to swing dance,” as Bouton put it. The event also serves as the venue for a date auction. Students bid on their classmates, and the highest bidder wins money toward a night on the town, Bouton said.
“We get people from each class that people can purchase,” he said. “Whoever wins them gets a $25 gift certificate for a restaurant.”
The event is open to the both campuses; guests from outside the University can also attend as long as they are accompanied by a Rider student. Bouton would “love to get as many people from the Lawrenceville campus as possible,” he said.
All of the night’s proceeds will go toward the senior banquet and WCC class gift, Bouton said. He explained that planning the banquet, which takes place a few days before Commencement, is one of the responsibilities of the senior class executive board.
Surprisingly, the planning hasn’t been a challenge for the executive board, according to Bouton.
“We’ve got it down to a science at this point,” he said. “We’ve all passed around the baton so it’s really been a cooperative effort. We actually had a meeting the other day where we sat around and said, ‘Do we have anything to do right now?’”
The real test, he said, will be setting up for tonight.
“That’s when all of the madness begins with setting up the tables and the decorations and barking at each other,” he said. “[Tonight’s] the crazy night but once it gets going it’ll be great to see everyone enjoying themselves.”
WCC’s A Night of Swing will take place at the Playhouse tonight from 8 p.m. to midnight.