BEGINNERS, READ THIS FIRST!

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, MemoriesRusty’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.

Etiquette

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


Reader Comments

Thank u so much!!!! This has been very informative.
I live in the San Fernando valley and would love to take this east coast swing to my goal of Lindy hop. I’m almost sixty and have danced lots of swing in my years with no formal training. My ambition is to do some basic aerobatics nothing crazy. I’m in great cardio and fitness for my age and would love to give it a shot. Do u have any suggestions for a beginner like me to find group classes and meet up groups in my local area?

identicon Brian says:

Hi Maureen,

Finding good local swing dance classes can be difficult. They all seem to be concentrated in Pasadena, downtown LA, and parts of OC, plus a few more scattered around.

The closest lessons I can think of are Steve Sayer’s in North Hollywood:
http://www.lajitterbug.com/

The closest dance venue is Joe’s bar in Burbank, but not sure if they still have lessons:
https://www.swingdance.la/joes-bar/

If you really want to learn a lot, I would recommend a weekend dance camp. Camp Hollywood just finished up, but there are others coming up in 2019:
https://www.swingdance.la/lessons/

Other than these, I would recommend making the trek out to Pasadena for Lindygroove, and taking their pre-dance lessons:
https://www.swingdance.la/lindy-groove/

PBDA is another place for lessons in Pasadena if you don’t mind the drive:
https://www.swingdance.la/pbda/

Best,
Brian

Anonymous says:

Thank u so much for your generous info.

I keep on calling Joes Great American Grill and though their website is updated they don’t answer their phone. It will b an hour round trip for me on Tuesday. Hoping they are swinging.

Brian not annonymous. Thank u

identicon Brian says:

Monday is the best night for swing dancing at Joe’s. The other nights are dependent on the band. – Brian

Pat McCormic says:

Hi, I work on the social media team at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Over the next four weeks, we are hosting free swing dance events and I wanted to share them with everyone. All classes are free and open to all ages and experience levels. There is no cover and swing attire is encouraged.

Swing at Six – Friday, March 23 6:00pm-7:00pm
Bring a friend and hit the brand-new outdoor dance floor on the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza for a selection of free swing classes! All experience levels are welcome to join our expert instructor Mandy Mykitta as we explore Single Time East Coast Swing. Swing attire is encouraged.
Visit our event page for more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/611847489158302/

Swing at Six – Friday, March 30, 6-7pm
Bring a friend and hit the brand-new outdoor dance floor on the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza for a selection of free swing classes! All experience levels are welcome to join our expert instructor Jennelle Pzytulski as we get Lindy Hoppin’ with Jennelle Przytulski. Swing attire is encouraged.
Visit our event page for more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/611847489158302/

Swing at Six – Friday, April 6, 6-7pm
Local instructor Martin Parker will lead our free class on our brand-new outdoor dance floor with a focus on West Coast Swing. Swing attire is encouraged..
Visit our event page for more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/611847489158302/

Sip and Swing – Sunday, April 15, 5-7pm
It’s the Roaring 20’s and everyone is invited to show off their swankiest steps at our free swing party on the Argyros Plaza! Dave Stuckey & The Hot House Gang will stomp and swing with a few numbers from their debut album, “Let’s Get Hot and Go!” All experience levels are welcome so come out and have a sip at the Center 360 Café and a swing on our brand-new dance floor!
Visit our event page for more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/2140151819334224/

Marsh M Santoro says:

I live in Portland Oregon and have volunteered for the Portland Dance Festival for a few years now and would like to dance in and compete in it but have found that I need to be a West Coast dance Association member how do I do that?

identicon Brian says:

Hi Marsh,

Sorry, this site is about Lindy Hop and East Coast Swing. I don’t know anything about WCS.

Best,
Brian

Jamie Wood says:

Hey Gang!

We’d like to let you know there’s a new swing dance venue in Long Beach! Starting April 3rd, Jamie Wood & the Good Rockin Daddys will be playing EVERY SUNDAY from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m.

This venue has a big dance floor and there is NO COVER CHARGE!!!

We play plenty of swing dance music and we hope you’ll come and check it out!!

http://www.jamiewoodmusic.com

Catch you on flip side!

Jamie

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