Local dance academy revives old tradition atop historic water tank

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On a late summer’s eve, sunlight dwindling from Red Hills Parkway’s red rocks, a group of people greet the ending day atop St. George’s historic water tank with a weekly activity: swing dancing.

Red Rock Swing Dance, a local dancing school, hosts a “Dance on the Old Water Tank,” every Tuesday, free to the public. The swing dance seminars not only offer opportunities for people of all ages to enjoy and learn about swing dancing, but also revive an old tradition. 

Located on top of St. George’s water tank located at 500 E. Red Hills Parkway, a plaque describes its history. According to the plaque, the water tank was built in 1948 not only as a major water source for the citizens, but also as a place to host social events. 

“The tank was constructed with a railing around the top, and its wide, flat concrete roof became a popular outdoor dance floor,” the plaque states. “For years after its completion, the water tank was a favorite spot for citizens.”

Sukcha Choi, a sophomore psychology major from South Korea and a Red Rock Swing Dance co-instructor, said the common interest to host swing dances began when instructors of different styles of dance wanted to come together to teach as a group. However, they ran into a problem when they couldn’t find a suitable venue.

Tiffany Barnes, the founder of Red Rock Swing Dance, said she held practices in her boyfriend’s apartment in the past. It was eventually his idea to host them on the water tank, when the epiphany struck him while he was running past it one day, she said.

Since then, Red Rock Swing Dance has revived the water tower as hot dance spot.

Barnes said she wanted something that was different from her past dance experiences. She found that in swing dancing.

“I was looking for a new art form and a new dance form,” Barnes said. “I’ve done classical ballet my whole life. I was looking for something a little bit more raw. More of what I thought was joyful, more vernacular, more for the people than for the people to watch.”

Red Rock Swing Dance teaches different styles of swing, including East Coast, West Coast, Lindy Hop, and Balboa, Barnes said.

“Unlike other dances, solo dances or couple dances, swing dances are known to most people from ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, all the way until now,” said Choi, “It’s still popular. All people can dance from their level, their physical ability, whether they’re strong or weak.”

Barnes said people are often enthralled and excited by Red Rock Swing Dance’s many different variations.

“We all love it,” Barnes said. “We all geek out about it.”

Katherine Kirkland, an assistant instructor and volunteer marketer for the Red Rock Swing Dance club, said  a variety of people can take a lot away from participating in the free dance sessions on top of the water tank, especially the beautiful scenery.

“My favorite aspect about dancing on top of the water tank is that it is outdoors,” Kirkland said. “Overall, the weather has treated us well while dancing there, often giving us a light breeze, cloud cover and hypnotically beautiful sunsets. There’s something magical about dancing outdoors—feeling the mild wind on our skin, seeing the rainbow-like sunsets, and enjoying the ambiance of the city lights of St. George after dark.”

Kirkland said about 20 people from all around the area of all ages have joined in on the water tank dances.

“Along with college-aged and middle-aged attendees, we’ve had mothers dancing with babies in arms, fathers dancing circle-dances with their young children, and a grandpa dancing with his adult grand-daughter,” Kirkland said. “(We’ve also had) some roller bladers and even a senior-aged hiking group join us.”

Kirkland said the classes early in the evening are oriented toward beginners and create a fun atmosphere to be around.

“Besides our dances being a fun way to exercise, hopefully, a sense of camaraderie is what people gain—especially if they’ve been joining us semi-regularly,” Kirkland said.

The dances on the water tank take place Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. and are opened to anyone interested in swing dance.

For more information about the water tank dances or other activities from Red Rock Swing Dance, check out the Red Rock Swing Dance’s website at redrockswingdance.com