Story by Kenzie Wilson, The Saint Reporter
Photo courtesy of Michigan.org
Upbeat and jazzy music, twirling skirts, and fancy footwork are among the many things that one would encounter on any given Tuesday or Wednesday evening at a Grand Rapids Original Swing Society (G.R.O.S.S.) gathering. It brings people from all over Grand Rapids and surrounding areas and occasionally those from out of state. It brings people together and provides a great atmosphere to grow and meet new people.
Aquinas College first-year Alissa Costello said that the group was “very energizing,” and that there are people who will come and talk to you even if they don’t know you.
G.R.O.S.S. was originated by Steve Zaagman with a passion to encourage the community to take part in an intimate and friendly environment, and has been a success for the past 12 years thanks to the wonderful members of the community and the volunteers who come to support it. It started with Zaagman and a girl of interest at the time and some people who loved to dance as much as they did. They were dancing in a warehouse in the beginning stages and soon moved to Rosa Parks Circle, where they played music out of their cars.
Today, the group spends its summers dancing around Grand Rapids at locations like the Blue Bridge, Rosa Parks Circle, and Ah-Nab-Awen Park and dancing their way through the cold weather at locations like The Masonic Center, The Grand Rapids Public Museum, and Woodland Skate Rink.
Among the many people of the Grand Rapids community that regularly attend the event, Zack Salinas is one of those dedicated members who has been swinging for eight years. This past summer he proposed to his dance partner and girlfriend on the Blue Bridge.
When speaking about swing, Salinas said, “It’s really intimate,” and went on to humorously say that he encourages friends to go for the off chance that they could meet a person of interest like he did.
The group hosts special guests and has even broken the world record for most people swing dancing. Recently that title was taken from them and Zaagman stated, “We’re going to get it back.” The group needs at least 1,200 people to come dance in unison for five minutes to win back the title, and plans on hosting the event in December.
The event plays a large role in Zaagman’s life. He says it “represents over a decade of my life… lots of blood, sweat, and tears.”
He has watched people grow from being clinically shy to being comfortable in the large groups in a matter of months. He has watched six proposals and “Swing Babies” come about because of this group. When asked why he keeps doing this, Zaagman responded with a short but sincere answer: The people.