Thank you to local Swing Dance Instructors, Rob & Dawn Shrewsbury of Flyin’ Footwork, for compiling this helpful guide…
Do I need a dance partner to go to a swing dance? No. Absolutely not. Swing is a very social dance. There are always people to dance with. At least half or more people come to swing dances without a partner. Those who do come with a dance partner usually dance with other people as well. Don’t be shy, ask people to dance!
Do I need a dance partner to take lessons? Unless otherwise noted, no. Again, swing is a very social dance. Most dance classes, workshops, and private lessons do not require you to have a partner. Most classes rotate partners so not only do you have people to dance with, you get to meet new people who you can dance with later on. On rare occasions some classes will require partners, but these are usually more advanced classes and clearly list “partner required” on the advertising. Again, it is very rare for a class to require a partner.
How do I start learning? The best way to start out is to go to the beginner lesson we offer before each of the swing dances. This is a good “orientation” to swing dancing. From there it’s really up to you. Many people progress on to one of the many series classes offered throughout the year. . Series classes tend to take a more step-by-step approach to learning dancing and are a great next step in the learning process. If you are looking for more individual attention, you may want to try private lessons with any of a number of available local instructors.
Should I learn from a video? For a beginner just learning to dance, it is hard to learn (and pick up good habits) from watching an instruction video. There are many subtle points that do not come across in a video. Likewise you get little feedback on your progress. Videos are better as class reviews and to learn new moves and style from once you have an understanding of the basics. However we do offer a serious of great review videos from Flyin’ Footwork as a review of their classes and to add new moves, but we always encourage people to attend classes/lessons to get help and direct feedback on your dancing.
How long does it take to “become good” (or become comfortable on the dance floor)? There is really no one answer. It depends on the person and a number of other factors. It really helps to take classes and dance as much as possible. Classes and lessons are a big help, but overall, there is no substitution for time and experience on the dance floor. Don’t be shy. Dance, enjoy the music, and above all have fun. Laugh at your mistakes. We’ve all been there. The more fun you have, the more time flys by in the learning process. Depending on the person, it could take a anywhere from a few days to a few months to get comfortable with dancing. The most advice we can give is to stick with it. It’s not a question of if it will happen, just when.
Should I ask people to dance or wait for someone to ask me? By all means, ask people to dance! Don’t be shy. In this day in age, it doesn’t matter if you are male or female. It’s always okay and encouraged to ask people to dance. Depending on the venue, the fastest way to make it known that you want to dance is to start asking people.
What if someone turns me down for a dance? No big deal. Ask someone else. While it is rare to get turned down, it does happen. Don’t take it personally. In the swing dance scene, the top reason people turn a dance down is because they are tired or resting. Most of the time they will say this, but sometimes people forget. On a rare occasion, you may run into someone who is rude in one way or another when turning down a dance. You find this in all walks of life. Again, don’t take it personal. There are plenty of nice people who dance, just move on. If you find that you must turn down a dance, please be polite. Etiquette says that if you have to give a “maybe later” response it’s polite to ensure you ask that person to dance later on.
What is the age range at local dances? This is a very common question, but also a difficult one to answer. It really depends on what dance you are going to on what given night. Some events may tend to collect a slightly younger age group, while others may lean toward a more mature crowd. In general, the Orlando Swing Dances at Whirl & Twirl tend to attract a very diverse age range. It is not uncommon to find people of all ages. So come on out and see for yourself!
What kind of dress is required (or common) at dances, workshops, lessons, etc.? Swing dancing is pretty casual. Usually, it is uncommon for people to go really dressy. Swing dancing is energetic and we are living in Florida; even with air conditioning there is a good chance you will get a little sweaty. While gymwear is discouraged, it is a good idea to dress in casual clothes that you don’t mind getting a little sweaty. Also it’s a good idea to wear clothes that give you a full range of movement. As a rule of thumb, live band nights tend to be more dressy than DJ nights. Some people prefer to dress vintage on occasion. While this is never required, it is fun and adds to the atmosphere. On rare occasions, a dance may be labeled as a dressy occasion. This is something to keep an eye out for. Workshops, classes, and lessons are even more casual than dances. Comfortable clothes are the goal. Depending on the length and material being taught, gymwear may be acceptable.
What kind of shoes are best to get/wear? When you first come out dancing, there is no need to invest in any kind of special shoes. Simply grab some comfortable shoes out of your closet. You may want to pick a pair that will slide a bit on the floor so you don’t stick when trying to turn. Overall, the real key word is “comfortable”. As time goes by, you may want to invest into some dance shoes.
What CD/music is good to practice to? When you first start learning how to dance, it is good to practice to slower music with a clear beat. Once you become comfortable, start to challenge yourself by dancing to faster music and more subtle beats. It is very difficult to find one CD full of great practice songs. You’ll probably need to get a few to start out with.
What style of swing is danced at local dances? For the most part, the term “swing dance” or “swing night” refers to the style of music being played and not to the style of dance being danced. Basically this means that there are no rules governing what style to dance. On a typical night, you will see all kinds of dance styles that are conducive to swing music. It is very common to see Lindy Hop, East Coast, Balboa, Collegiate Shag, and occasionally Fox Trot, West Coast, and Carolina Shag. Most styles are very compatible, so feel free to ask everyone to dance.
I saw a few people wearing swing/vintage style clothes. Where do you get those? That too is a difficult question to answer. The real answer is here, there, and everywhere. Most people pick them up where they can find them. Some may be real vintage found at thrift stores. Others may be vintage styles found at ordinary clothing stores and the person had an eye to pick it out. Some may be custom/home made. Some may be from specialty shops online. The best thing to do is ask people. To give you a start, try DanceStore.com