CORVALLIS - Oregon State University student Keith Hazleton isn't old enough to gamble, but Hazleton and his partner, Heidelinda Loewy found themselves $1,000 richer when they left the Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City recently.
"We won the Lindy Hop dance contest," said Hazleton, a 19-year-old OSU sophomore from Corvallis.
For the uninitiated, the Lindy Hop is a couple's dance with origins dating back to the 1920s. Recently, however, the dance has again caught fire at OSU and other college campuses. It will be one of the featured dances at an OSU Ballroom Dance Club dance at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 in the OSU Memorial Union Ballroom.
"The Lindy Hop is the new craze," said Hazleton, a 1997 Corvallis High School graduate. "You're seeing it on television commercials now."
The dance is named after Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic "hop" and features wild acrobatic movements to swing music.
Both dancers have only been dancing for about a year, but Hazleton and Loewy deny having any special talent for the art.
"It's not that we have a gift for dancing, but we dance a lot," said Loewy, a senior in biology from Thousand Oaks, Calif.. "We work for it - we work at it and we work at it a lot."
Hazleton, a biochemistry and biophysics major, started out with an OSU ballroom dance class.
"I've been dancing on campus for about a year and have been doing the Lindy Hop for a little less than a year," he said.
When the pair heard about the Chinook Winds contest - and the $1,000 prize - they had to give it a try.
"I didn't think we would win," Hazleton said. And their arrival at the contest didn't buoy any hopes.
"We were a bit late and as we walked in the door they were calling our names," he said. "We had to rush up to the stage and before we could fill out the forms or pin our numbers to our clothes the music started."
With no choice but to jump right into the music, Loewy and Hazleton started to dance.
"When I looked around at the other couples, a lot of the people didn't look happy; they weren't smiling," In contrast Loewy, dressed in a big purple skirt with white polka dots and Hazleton, clad in purple, high-waist baggy trousers and a large fedora, said they smiled, grinned and worked not only on their steps, but also their showmanship.
By the end of the third and final round, with 19 other couples eliminated, the OSU dancers were the clear winner.
"They called our names and I jumped three feet into the air, grabbed Heidi and we ran up to the stage to collect our trophy and our cash," Hazleton said.
After their surprise win, neither student is ready to quit school and follow the professional dance circuit. But both say they will continue to dance.
"We will continue to practice and continue to go dancing," Loewy said.