About a week ago, I put out a poll to see if folks in Southern California think the local Swing dance scene has recovered in popularity to pre-COVID levels. Here are the results as of today:
Although this is a small sample size, from this it seems that most dancers don’t think that Swing dancing has recovered to pre-COVID popularity in Southern California.
I personally was a bit surprised by these results because from what I had seen, the crowds at Swing dance events seemed to be nearly back up to pre-COVID levels, as far as I could tell.
So, where else can we look for data on this?
Swing Dancing Google Searches
I use a tool called “Google Trends” to chart the popularity of what people are searching for on Google. Here’s a graph of the number of people searching for “swing dancing” in Google over the past five years:
This shows that Google searches for Swing dancing have made a very significant recovery from COVID, but perhaps not quite up to pre-COVID levels.
Salsa Dancing Google Searches
I thought it would be interesting to compare this to how Salsa dancing has recovered after COVID. Here’s the graph showing searches for “salsa dancing” in red:
Salsa shows a similar huge drop due to COVID and a slow recovery. But I actually believe that it has a longer way to go than Swing dancing does to get back to pre-COVID levels. In other words, Swing dancing has bounced back better, percentage-wise (though the absolute number of Salsa searches is still larger).
What Major Venues Are Saying: Camp Hollywood and PBDA
All of that is fine, but Google Trends shows nationwide Google searches. What about here in L.A.? So, I asked the folks behind two of the biggest Swing dance events in California what their numbers showed.
Hilary Alexander, the founder of Camp Hollywood told me, “this year’s attendance was very close to 2019.”
Here’s what Tami Stevens from the Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association (PBDA) said about post-COVID attendance:
The numbers are certainly increasing, maybe not quite up to 2019 levels, but getting very close. And people are definitely feeling better about socializing without masks too. It’s nice to see students full faces again, smiling at us and each other! The feeling of friendly camaraderie has fully returned! Yay!Tami Stevens, PBDA
Yes, it’s true that some folks on either side of the vax/mask debate have not returned. Some haven’t because they’re still concerned about getting COVID (which actually isn’t over), while at the other end, some unvaxxed people were miffed about the vaccination rules and don’t want to return.
But, I think Hilary and Tami’s statements best sum up the status of Swing dancing in Southern California now, basically, that it’s nearly back up to pre-COVID levels of popularity.
It has indeed been great to see so many people back out dancing at events like Camp Hollywood after the three-year hiatus. There were so many grateful posts on Facebook by dancers who attended.
And although we lost some beloved venues like Joe’s Bar (at least for the foreseeable future), we gained a bunch of new events at places like The Mayflower Club, The Burbank Moose Lodge, Boomtown Brewery, Ivy Station, and others.
Of course, all of this could change tomorrow if COVID rears its head again. But in the meantime, I’d say, get out there and enjoy dancing while we can! We have amazing bands, great venues, and dedicated people putting on events that we love here in Southern California! See you on the dance floor! – Brian