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Signature Story: Engineering a swing dancing comeback

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Jeffrey Rosado’s co-workers “aren’t really sure what he does,” jokes Colin Bartos, Jeffrey’s boss who’s an Engineering Director at United Technologies. “I see him walk in the door everyday. He goes and disappears into a room. He comes out about 5:00."

All joking aside, for now anyway, Jeffrey designs ejection seats for a living.

“Those one’s that fly around in the sky and you see in Top Gun where he shoots off. At the end of it he falls down to the ground and walks away,” shares a smiley Jeffrey during an interview from inside is cubicle-ridden office on a warm Thursday afternoon. "So that’s what I do.”

Which is why his night activities come as a bit of a surprise.

“I heard he’s a really good swing dancer though too,” Bartos admits.

Fast forward to a cool, crisp evening in Colorado Springs, a city about an hour South of the Denver.

Between a shop selling glass-pipes and a t-shirt store hangs a blue neon sign for “The Loft”. That sign, a single door and the sound of a jazzy clarinet coming from the second floor window are the only clues I can gather from the sidewalk of what I’m about to see.

“Outside of work, my co-workers all know I swing dance,” laughs Jeffrey. “That’s my hobby and that’s what I love to do.”

Jeffrey is teaching a swing dance class tonight to a group of beginners.

“A-rock, step, step. Step and point. Yeah!” Some of the newbies are clearly picking this up better than others. I myself decide to just stick to the sidelines and capture the moment using my camera.

I asked Jeffrey too compare his engineering job to swing dancing. “This job is actually very similar to swing dancing, in the creativity aspects of it. When I make a part, people are gonna know, it’s my part. For better or for worse. If the ejection seat works, it’s my part. Ha!”

“You know, I think I would see him as an engineer before I’d see him as a dancer,” roasts one of Jeffrey’s friends, Sidney Steffens. Sidney has joined me in the 'wall-flower' position against a red brick wall overlooking the dance floor.

“But he’s a great dancer.”

On to the second part of the evening. Four our fearless engineering/dancing hero, the time to become unrestrained has arrived. Jeffrey takes the floor with his dance partner, Johanna Bowser, and shows off what they’ve got.

At first, watching them execute a few simple moves momentarily has me thinking, “I could totally do this swing dancing stuff.” But just as that crosses my mind, Johanna leans into Jeffrey as they seemingly levitate and float off to the right of the dance floor.

Like a sideways ‘moonwalk’.

The room erupts with cheers and applause. And this is only half-way through their routine.

“It was a fad that fell down but I think people are realizing that swing dancing is culturally important,” Johanna shares with me at one point that evening.

“I had no idea it was coming back. I’m old enough to remember when it came back the first time in ’97. The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies.” With that one statement, Jeffrey’s boss reminded me how old I really am as well.

Jeffrey, “I don’t know a ton of the history. I heard it almost died out several times but today, it’s alive and kicking. In fact, they made a movie, not too long ago called ‘Alive and Kicking’”.

He admits that at the end of the day, he’s exhausted after dancing until 11 at night. But coming back to his engineering job the next day is “pretty awesome.”

Engineering the comeback of swing dancing? Yes Jeffrey, that’s pretty awesome indeed.

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