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Swing Shift
Photo by Chris Hartlove

When Joanne Houlahan, Engr '86 (MA), '96 (PhD), was a Hopkins graduate student in computer science, a friend pulled her into a swing-dance move called a death drop. It's not as suicidal as it sounds — it's also commonly called a windowshade, "sort of a cross between a dip and a flip," Houlahan says. A dip and a flip later, she was hooked.

East Coast swing, hustle, West Coast swing, Lindy, cha-cha, mambo, salsa, merengue, rhumba, foxtrot, waltz, Irish step dancing (think Riverdance), and more — Houlahan has learned them all, and over the years has taught most of them at various Baltimore venues. "There are a few I haven't taught, but there aren't many that I can't do at this point. Swing is my first love. I tend to like the dances with the happy, peppy music, all the boppy jitterbug stuff, and the boogie-woogie you can dance swing to."

Now the computer science department's director of undergraduate studies and senior lecturer, Houlahan says, "A lot of computer science is recognizing patterns and reusing them in different applications. Same for dance. All dance moves are patterns. You have to be able to see and reuse and reapply them."

Houlahan was not one of those little girls always taking tap and ballet lessons, but she figures she can make up for lost time. "I know dancers in their 80s and dancers in their 20s. That's the beauty of it," she says. "One of my favorite hustle dancers won't tell me how old he is, but I think he's over 80."
— Dale Keiger

Return to June 2004 Table of Contents

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