Staff information, updates, and interviews

Staff Spotlight #2: Janet Benaski

This month we interviewed Austin Swing Syndicate super-volunteer Janet Benaski. If you’ve taken our beginner swing lesson or come to one of our shoe sueding workshops, you’ll recognize Janet. We’re so grateful for her energy and dedication!

What do you do on the Austin Swing Syndicate staff?

JB: I’m a dance ambassador along with my boyfriend Carlos. You can spot us on the dance floor wearing bright Hawaiian Leis. Jennifer Reed started the program to help new dancers enjoy their time at the Fed and come back for more! We encourage new people to dance with us (and ask others to dance) while reinforcing good dance etiquette and providing a safe space environment.

I also teach the Suede Your Soles workshops with Heather Nelson. Did you know that just about any shoe can be turned into a dance shoe just by gluing suede on the soles? In the workshops you provide the shoes, we provide materials and know how for just $5. Check the calendar for upcoming events or contact me through Facebook.

Finally, I love helping Caitlin McTaggart in the kitchen when she’s baking up a storm for our annual events.

When and why did you start dancing?

JB: I started dancing back in 1996 when the swing dance scene was just starting to heat up. A friend of mine was the lead singer in the band 8 1/2 souvenirs.  I learned to dance at her shows and with Matt Jones at The Split Rail (fouronthefloor.com). Soon after I started teaching in clubs around Austin.

Why are you still dancing?

JB: Swing dancing is in my blood and I’m fortunate to have an awesome dance partner/boyfriend.

What’s your favorite quote or saying?

JB: Just one good dance can make your whole night!

What is your most useless talent?

JB: Rearranging furniture.

What do you do outside of the swing dance world?

JB: I have a sewing studio and love making my swing dresses.

What are your favorite movies, books, or shows?

JB: Movie – Amélie, book – The Brain That Changes Itself, TV – Stand up comedy shows.

What is your favorite type of swing dance?

JB: Jitterbug and Lindy hop.

If you could have a superpower what would it be?

JB: Flying of course!

What are your most loved pair of dance shoes and why?

JB: A pair of men’s Stacy Adams black and white wingtips that I wore back in the 90s. Unfortunately they fell apart overtime and they no longer make my size.

What’s your favorite room in the Fed?

JB: Gosh it’s hard to pick between the ballroom, the main living room and the ladies lounge.

Staff Spotlight #1: Lian Tarhay

We’re starting a series of monthly interviews of the hard-working staff of the Austin Swing Syndicate. Our first staff interview was with DJ and teacher (swing, lindy, balboa) Lian Tarhay.

What do you do on the Austin Swing Syndicate staff?

LT: Currently I DJ the main ballroom & uptempo room and teach swing lessons before the dance.

When and why did you start dancing?

LT: I started swing dancing my freshman year of college maybe a week or two into the first semester friends dragged me along to a ‘swing night’ at a local bar. We got X’s on our hands since we couldn’t drink adult beverages yet. I was awful, but it was so much fun! (part of the reason I was awful was because I was use to ballet/tap/jazz where I decided what move to do….following was really difficult when I just wanted to decide on the move before the leader did).

Why are you still dancing?

LT: Danced casually for years, then got really hooked after I went to a Lindy Exchange.

What’s your favorite swing song?

LT: We’ll go with my favorite song is still Bei Mir Bist du Schoen from the Swing Kids soundtrack even though I’ve heard it so many times since that first night out dancing.

What is your most useless talent?

LT: The ability to make elaborate plans in my head, then forget about them.

What do you do outside of the swing dance world?

LT: I hang out with my dog, enjoy learning about astronomy, and work as a Process Engineer.

What are your favorite movies, books, or shows?

LT: Awesome book – Blue Moon Rising by Simon R Green. Amazing recent movie – Arrival.

What’s your favorite room in the Fed?

LT: The patio area between the ballroom and kitchen is lovely in the evening.

What’s your favorite part about DJing and teaching at the Austin Swing Syndicate?

LT: Watching everybody have an amazing time dancing – whether I got to teach them a few moves, or keep them dancing with fun tunes.