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Dancing through history

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In the shadow of a of World War II P-38 fighter plane, people of all ages danced the night away Saturday to music played by the Esko High School jazz band. Young children partnered with their parents or each other as adults twirled and spun carefully around them. Proud parents lined the railings taking photos and videos of their young musicians while enjoying the tunes.

The band played at R.I. Bong Veteran's Historical Center in Superior this year. The historical center provided an unusual atmosphere with old military planes, jeeps and other items on display.

Roughly 220 people showed up to support the specialty high school band as well as dance. The mostly teenage musicians played theme songs from Austin Powers, Star Wars and Johnny Carson as well as fast-paced jazz that had dancers laughing and spinning like tops on the crowded floor.

"Not many people are willing to go outside their comfort zone," said Madyson Gasper, 19. "It's fun and I loved teaching."

Gasper was one of the University of Minnesota-Duluth Swing Dance Club members who were available to give lessons and dance with anyone needing a partner.

"Everyone likes to dance," said Sean Grote, 19, another UMD dance member.

Ryan Hanson, a popular former Esko band instructor, made a cameo performance for the evening when he played trombone for a sick student.

Doug Stevens, a spry 65-year-old and a member of Twin Ports Dance, showed off his moves on the dance floor with several women throughout the night.

"The band is great, they have really great sound," Stevens said enthusiastically as he stopped for a rest between dances. Stevens usually attends dances around the Duluth area at least twice a week.

The band students looked like young professionals. Esko Jazz I and II had to rotate shifts due to the small space, which also allowed them to take a break or a snack upstairs.

Dylan Carlson, a senior trombone player, said he enjoys performing in public.

"I like playing out, it's nice," Carlson said. "It's lower stress."

The event was a fundraiser set up through Esko Music Boosters, a non-profit group that helps the high school band and choir students raise money to travel to events, according to president Lisa Stracek, who stressed that many families helped with the event.

She added that the band is open to playing other events in the area.