KC Cares: 627 Stomp

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Greg Smith watches as Mei-Huā Fong dances with Ben Todd during a December 627 Stomp event. // Photo by Beth Lipoff

If you’ve got a soft spot for swing dancing and jazz, 627 Stomp might be just the place for you. The non-profit is dedicated to education and fostering a swing dance community.

Though it started in 2013, it got its non-profit status in 2018. Over the years, 627 Stomp’s activities have ranged from dance classes to educational talks to hosting national events.

Founder Amanda Bernice says, “It’s not just teaching dance moves, which is definitely integral to what we do, but making sure we’re actually honoring those who came before us and actually created the dances, pretty much POC, people of the past.” 

Because so much of its activity and community is centered on in-person interaction, the pandemic has been challenging for them to weather. 

Still, Bernice says that a core group of members stayed together, interacting through Discord and online music nights. They’re just starting to rebuild their in-person events. One consistent thing they do is a free dance lesson and get-together at Nimble Brewing once a month.

As soon as they get another appropriate venue, Bernice would like to see their swing dancing evenings featuring live music reinstated.

“The group enables people to be part of a community of so many creeds of humans that come together for the love of jazz music, history, dancing, and having a good time without going to an obnoxiously loud club where there’s nothing but alcohol,” says Bernice.

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Ben Todd and Rob Szarka swing dance together during a 627 Stomp event in December. // Photo by Beth Lipoff

One person who definitely feels that love from the 627 Stomp community is Mei-HuaāFong. She started attending group events when she moved to Kansas City a year ago from Minnesota.

“It’s just a really nice pocket of jazz and swing. I’m absolutely in love with it, and it really feels like home,” Fong says.

The group has quite a few members from the LGBT community, and Fong says that makes her feel safe and accepted.

“I feel really validated as a transgender woman trying to make her community,” Fong says.

There are different ways you can participate with 627 Stomp.

“If you’re someone who doesn’t like talking with people, you don’t have to—you just have to dance with them,” Fong says.

If you like the atmosphere but aren’t feeling up to dancing, that’s fine too. They always need volunteers to DJ, or you can just sit back to watch and listen.

“You don’t need any swing dance background. Everybody is welcome. You also don’t have to dance.  If you want to come, hang out, and enjoy the music being played—whatever your cup of tea is, you can still fit in and enjoy yourself and have a good time and make new friends,” Bernice says.

Other ways to volunteer include working with the grant committee or helping with the door at their larger, paid events.

Before the pandemic, they partnered with Union Station to teach swing dance lessons for the station’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. 

Bernice says one challenge has been trying to make their group more diverse as they embrace the African American roots of swing dancing through their educational talks. 

“We’re aware it’s an issue nationwide. If you go to swing dance events anywhere, they’re predominantly white,” she says.

Their name, 627, actually comes from the name of a Black musicians’ union here in Kansas City that was established in 1917, as well as a Pete Johnson song called “627 Stomp.” 

For more information on 627 Stomp and its events, visit 627stomp.org or facebook.com/627stomp

Categories: Culture