THE BEST thing about swing is you can learn the basics in 30 minutes. Even less-than-coordinated dancers like me can participate and learn something.
On the flip side, it takes a lot longer than 30 minutes to be really good at swing; there go my sweet dreams of swing stardom.
Century Ballroom on Capitol Hill is one of the hot spots in Seattle for dance, and especially for swing. I was eager to learn Lindy Hop, which Century says is the real-deal original swing. It also takes more time to learn; instructors need more than 30 minutes to teach it.
Fine, East Coast swing it is. It’s so accessible Century conducts 30-minute intro classes right before its popular swing dances, which are held several times a week.
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A surprisingly large group of students showed up. Some were dressed in ties and hats or retro dresses; I suspected they had been to swing before. We gathered around the instructor, Mark.
Mark was cheerful and moved fast. First, he showed us the basic rock, step, step. Rock back on the right foot (for women), then forward on the left, step the right foot out and step back on the left. Simple.
He had us find partners and form a giant circle. We practiced the move, rotating through partners quickly.
One of my partners among the group I suspected had previous experience, got a little fancy, spinning me out, then back in. I can’t say it was a success; I was confused about what my feet were supposed to do, and they got tangled.
It was like Mark read my mind: His next lesson showed us how
to move our feet to turn out underneath a partner’s arm. Once I learned, it was fun. I practiced with various partners, going under their arms, then back in to the starting position.
Mark also showed us how to turn into our partner in another slick move, which was a little more challenging but still fun.
Last up was the freeze, where each person jumped onto their front foot and froze in place. I was a little skeptical of that one.
After 30 minutes practicing with our safe intro class, Mark unleashed us into the swing social dance.
That’s when I realized I had just three moves. Well, three moves is better than none.
Real dancers moved onto the floor. I danced with a couple of the intro students, then met some people who knew how to dance for real. I got a taste of Lindy Hop with one partner, who put one hand on my shoulder, held my other hand and spun us both around at a dizzying speed. I learned the Chicago slide from another, and watched him move easily and comfortably to the big-band music.
It was a Sunday night, but the ballroom was full. I was warm from dancing and having a grand time. I loved watching the experienced dancers twirl each other around.
I contemplated whether I should take a class that lasts more than 30 minutes. I did love my taste of Lindy Hop, although I probably need a couple more rounds of the intro class before I dare venture into anything more advanced.
Swing is an awesome way to get into social dancing. It’s the most accessible dance I can think of. If you’re looking to get out and have some fun, head to Century Ballroom, take an introductory class and swing away.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.