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THE WASHINGTON DC SWING SCENE
Swing dancing is hitting the Washington area with the force and speed of a thunderstorm on a hot summer afternoon. Although partner dancing is a long-time tradition in the city, mass crowds of people ages 18-25 have filled classes and dance venues to overflowing. The National Park Service has had to send out uniformed rangers to enforce capacity limits at the venerable Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo. Instructors report record size classes and waiting lists. Big Bands, such as the Tom Cunningham Orchestra are working regularly, playing Hot Swing the way it was written in the 1930s. Vintage stores indicate that demand for clothes from the 30s, 40s and 50s is very strong. Zoot Suits, Juke Skirts and spectator shoes are widely seen on the dance floor. In DC, it began with Lindy Hop, the "original swing dance" that was featured in the GAP's celebrated (or notorious) "Khakis Swing" commercial. Then came Hollywood Swing, especially after the city met the glamorous Jean Veloz. Then came Maxie Dorf and Balboa, followed shortly by Blues Dancing and as of 2009, Classic Charleston and Collegiate Shag. We have so much swing dancing in DC that you can afford to specialize!
If you have been bitten by the Jitterbug, here is a list of places to (1) learn how to dance and (2) put your skills to practice. We start with places that offer regular dancing and instruction; once you get your act together, you can also branch out to smaller places where you can be the star on a small dance floor. Finally, we'll get you hep to some of the information resources on dancing in the area.
Remember -- you can use MapQuest for Directions!
REGULAR SWING DANCE VENUES
This is an alphabetical list of establishments that offer Swing dancing on a regular basis. In general, events at these venues feature larger crowds and a broad mix of levels of dance experience. It is not really necessary to bring a partner to dances at these places.
BANGKOK BLUES is a quirky little Thai restaurant in Falls Church that hosts blues bands on Wednesdays and Fridays. They have a surprisingly nice dance floor. Check out their website for show times.
The CARLYLE CLUB (411 JOHN CARLYLE STREET ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA 22314) is an upscale replica of a swank NYC super club. It's fairly expensive but some nights they have good bands with low cover charge. Good for a splurge once and a while. For a full listing of events, check the Carlyle Club Website or call 703-549-8957 Fax: 703-548-3252
CLARENDON BALLROOM: On Tuesdays, Clarendon is the home of a live band dance party right after Tom and Debra's regular classes. For more details, check out Tom and Debra's Website Occasionally "Special" shows are booked on other days, most recently the Artie Shaw Orchestra; prices for special events ranges between $15 and $20 Directions: Clarendon Ballroom's website contains good directions. Basically, the Ballroom, at 3815 Wilson Boulevard is just opposite the memorial square in Clarendon, just seconds from the Clarendon Metro Station and right across the street from the Silver Diner
CHEVY CHASE BALLROOM, 5207 Wisconsin Avenue, NW Washington, DC. (202)-363-8344 This is the home base of Tom Koerner and Debra Sternberg, the international Lindy Hop champions who dazzle the crowds with their death-defying acrobatics and blindingly fast footwork. Tom and Debra teach at CCB on Monday and Friday nights and sponsor dances (principally on Fridays) The Monday night practice sessions draw a "who's who" of Lindy Hoppers who party from 9:00 until 11:00. Dances are "all ages", no smoking, no alcohol. Regular Monday night opendancing is $5 for folks who are not in Tom and Debra's classes. Other special events have ranged from $15 to $20. Click here for Tom and Debra's Website with the schedule of Monday and Friday dances. Directions: CCB is on Wisconsin Avenue about two blocks south of the Friendship Heights metro stop; it is on the second floor, above a liquor store.
The DULLES HILTON way out near Dulles Airport on Route 28, Sue and Gary Caley hold dances and classes. Monday nights, they have a lindy class and an after-class Lindy party. On Friday nights, they have live bands and get a very lively crowd. Check out Gottaswing.com for details.
FRIDAY NIGHT SWING DANCE CLUB (FNSDC) Operated by president Chuck Alexander, this club offers a wide variety of dance and instruction. The centerpiece is the Friday Night Dances which feature some of the very best bands in the city. Chuck says that his membership is about 4,500, so this is a large organization. East Coast Swing predominates as the dance style, although Lindy Hoppers will find plenty of music that fits their style as well. Of late, they have been having events at the Towson American Legion, but this can be subject to change. It's best to call (410)-583-7337 for details -- or to check the club website for bands, locations, and directions: Click here for the FNSDC Website
LITTLE TEXAS 8014 Pulaski Highway, Baltimore. Every MONDAY, Sommer and Dorry of Charm City Swing host a swing dance party at Little Texas, . The large dance floor is very fast, springy wood. They have beginner lessons from 8-9 and open dancing from 9-11:30pm. $5 for dancing (free for students), $10 for dancing and lessons ($5 for students).
MCGINTY'S, 911 Ellsworth Drive, Silver Spring, MD every SUNDAY, Dabe and Janelle host a DJ swing party from 9-11pm. Check out Gottaswing.com for details. About twice a month, they have live bands.
NICK'S NIGHTCLUB, 642 South Pickett St., Alexandria, VA Generally, every Wednesday Dabe and Janelle host a DJ swing party from 9-11pm. Check out Gottaswing.com for details.
The QUARRY HOUSE TAVERN (basement of 8401 Georgia Ave Silver Spring, Maryland 20910) has been having some very fun rockabilly dances on Saturdays during late 2008 and early 2009. Check out their music calendar J.P. McDermott is a sure bet! 301-587-8350
SPANISH BALLROOM AT GLEN ECHO, 7300 Mac Arthur Blvd (301)-340-9732 Washington's historic 1930s era ballroom is a survivor from the old Glen Echo amusement park. Now managed by the National Park Service, the Spanish Ballroom has the finest suspended wood dance floor in the city and at 7,500 square feet, perhaps the largest. The grand old place is getting a much-deserved face-lift. Sometimes, dances are held in the Bumper Car Pavilion immediately adjacent to the Ballroom. There are a large number of swing events at the Spanish Ballroom, all are "all ages", no smoking, no alcohol.
Three Saturdays out of the month feature Swing Dancing (the other Saturday is Zydeco). The Washington Swing Dance Committee (WSDC) puts on regular events, and individual bands, such as the Tom Cunningham Orchestra, and Gottaswing.com, and Flying Feet also stage events. The Spanish Ballroom has hosted some of the hottest national swing bands such as Casey MacGill, Mitch Woods, and Ray Gelato. Generally, the dances involve a free Swing lesson from 8:00 - 9:00, with general dancing from 9:00 - Midnight. The statutory capacity of the Ballroom is 650 people. Dances range in cost from $12 to $18 per person.
Directions: The Spanish Ballroom is in Glen Echo Park, located at the corner of MacArthur Boulevard and Goldsboro Road. Take the Clara Barton Parkway off the Beltway and get off at the Glen Echo exit. Turn North, and the park entrance is about half a mile on your left. Plenty of free parking.
OCCASIONAL DANCE PLACES
The following places book swing bands and actually have a small space that may be big enough for one or two couples to dance. should you decide to go, it would be prudent to take a partner with you. You can have a whole lot of fun if you are not shy!
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