There are a multitude of industrial sounds that resonate through the metallic belly of a U.S. Navy warship at sea, but every Sunday aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), the steady, mechanical pulse is infused with vibrant melodies and rippling laughter.
Clad in fitness gear and gym socks, sailors of all ages, ranks and ratings spin, twirl and glide across the makeshift dance floor of Stennis' Training Resource Complex, as they participate in swing dance lessons led by Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Patrick Dent, from Cape Coral, Florida.
"Five years ago I met my wife, and she invited me to my first dance," said Dent. "I had no idea how to dance, and I was absolutely awful on the dance floor. I started taking dance lessons and that's how we fell in love."
Dent partnered with Stennis' Coalition of Sailors Against Destruction Decisions (CSADD) president, Yeoman 2nd Class Demetrius Souza, who has spent the last four years as a Latin dance performer, to promote classes and introduce sailors to healthy, productive activities while on liberty.
"This will provide sailors with a different means to keep themselves occupied," said Souza, from Tampa, Florida. "They get to learn a new technique, or something new for their tool bag, so that when they get back (to Bremerton) they don't necessarily have to go back and hit the bars. They can go out and find a different means of entertainment, specifically dancing."
Souza said that dance has had a positive impact on his life and has provided him with an outlet for staying positive and relieving stress.
Dent and Souza both expressed their delight that Stennis sailors responded so positively to this opportunity. The classes, which run for eight weeks and accommodate 24 sailors per session, reached capacity within four hours. A lengthy waiting list has already formed with sailors eager to participate in the next round of classes.
The classes provided more for participants than simply a Sunday morning distraction.
"I learned how to follow because I'm not very good at following," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Kia Calhoun from Pompano Beach, Florida. "In an environment where it is work, work, work, this was more of a release."
"I've always wanted to do swing," said Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Michaela Sherry from Patton, Pennsylvania. "My entire life I was told I couldn't do it. I even quit gymnastics so I would have more time in my schedule to try and do it, but my parents always said no. So, I've just been waiting for the opportunity to arise and I love it."
Machinist Mate 3rd Class Maximilian Cadena, from Chicago, Illinois, also attended the classes and said the sessions offered a distraction from the stress of his work center.
"It is something to really get you out of your comfort zone and you realize you are actually having more fun than you thought you would," said Cadena. "For that one hour, it takes you away from the stress and anxiety, or the next watch. It is just that little time to clear your head. That way when the time comes, you can go right back to work and do the things that we do."
With each new song and partner rotation, the dance floor became more jubilant and energetic as sailors took a break from the arduous tempo of shipboard life.
Dent said he plans to continue teaching classes for Stennis crewmembers for the duration of deployment and hopes that each participant takes away something personal and meaningful from classes.
Each sailor brings a different motivation to the dance floor, whether it is to relax and have fun or to learn a new skill. For Dent, however, it is a way to feel close and connected to his spouse back at home and continue the dance of his heart until he can meet his love on the dance floor once again.