Swing dancing is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things I’ve discovered in my life. Maybe you were out and saw some swing dancers at a restaurant, bar, or other event. Or, maybe someone took you to a Swing venue and you want to learn more. Whatever the reason, you’d like to learn how to Swing dance! But, it can be intimidating and hard to know where to start. I hope I can help here.
Amount of Time Required
The first thing you should know is that learning to do any kind of dance will take time and dedication. If you just take one dance class per week and never go social dancing, you’ll forget everything you learned pretty quickly. At minimum, I think you should go social dancing at least two times per week to retain what you learn.
Which Dances to Learn
There are many dances associated with Swing dancing including Charleston, East Coast Swing, Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, Balboa, and Shag.
I recommend starting with East Coast Swing. That is the easiest one to learn (in my opinion), and it is the most popular and versatile.
Once you’ve got a grip on East Coast Swing, you’ll definitely want to learn Charleston, Lindy Hop, and Balboa. Shag is not quite as common but gaining in popularity and it’s a cool dance. A lot of Swing dancers also do Blues dancing, so I include Blues dancing on my Swing calendar.
For more details on some of these dances, click here.
West Coast Swing
West Coast Swing is an eight-count dance derived from Lindy Hop. But West Coast Swing is in a different scene in L.A. and is not covered by this website. It’s more “ballroomy” than East Coast Swing/Lindy and is danced to more modern pop music, not old Jazz.
Where to Take Classes
Many swing venues have beginner East Coast Swing lessons before the main dance, for example, Atomic Ballroom, Lindy Groove, Memories, Rusty’s Rhythm Club, and PBDA. Those are a good, low-pressure way to start. Click here for a complete list.
However, it will be difficult to “get good” by taking the same intro class over and over. If you want to improve, take a class series.
I don’t suggest taking Swing classes from corporate places like Arthur Murray. I never see Arthur Murray instructors out social dancing, whereas the people I recommended are active social dancers and are out dancing all of the time. They have a passion for Swing!
If you really want to improve quickly, then you can “jump in the deep end” and attend a Swing camp. The biggest one in Los Angeles is Camp Hollywood at the end of August. The biggest one in Orange County is Inspiration Weekend in March. There is also the LA Shag Festival in April.
These usually have three or four nights of Swing dancing over the weekend with classes during the day. These events are exhausting but fun, and if you attend all of the classes, your dancing level will definitely go up a notch or more! There are so many awesome dances at these events, you’ll improve by osmosis (or more accurately, watching good dancers will improve your own dancing).
Another way to improve quickly is to take private lessons. They are costly, but the personal attention will improve your dancing quickly.
There are some big weekly Swing dances with classes before the dance. I would especially recommend LindyGroove, PBDA, Rusty’s Rhythm Club, and Atomic Ballroom. See my complete list of classes and instructors. If you want to turbocharge your Swing dancing, read the Top Ten Secretes to Becoming a Good Swing Dancer.
To avoid starting a lot of bad habits, read the Most Common Beginner Swing Dancing Mistakes.
Where to Dance
As I mentioned before, you need to go social dancing at least a couple times a week in order to practice what you’ve learned, or else you’ll forget it.
This article has my suggestions for places that usually have plenty of people to dance with and are generally non-intimidating for beginners.
Guys (leaders), avoid doing things that will get you banished from the dance floor. Read the Top Ten Worst Things Guys Do On the Social Dance Floor.
Ladies (followers), here are some sure-fire tips to get guys to ask you to dance!
What Shoes to Wear
Check out this article on shoes to wear Swing dancing.
I hope this has helped you take your first steps (or triple-steps!) into Swing dancing. Leave a comment below if you have any questions! – Brian