“Swing dancing is the happiest dancing around,” says Margie Adams, owner of 2 to Groove in Clairemont Mesa (619-291-3775; 2togroove.com). I like happy, so I asked for more info.
“If you’re a newcomer, I suggest the weekly Friday-night dance jam, which is open to the public. You can get a taster lesson before the dance and then hang around and try out what you’ve learned. The lessons run from 8:45 to 9:30 p.m., and then the dancing goes until 12:30. It’s $15 for both lesson and dance, and just $8 for the dance alone. We provide water and snacks, and parking is easy. We’ll get anywhere from 50 to 100 people, all ages and skill levels, and whether you come with friends or alone, you’ll get to dance with different people. The jam varies a bit from week to week; some weeks, we’ll have a second room open for slow-blues dance.”
In the taster lesson, “We’ll teach you the basic rhythm for your feet in an open and closed position, and we’ll show you some moves that you can put together and use on the dance floor. In the basic realm, the signature move is the swing out: it’s a coming in to each other and making a full 360-degree turn and then sending the girl out again, done over eight counts. We’ll give you some turns and passes, and possibly some Charleston kick patterns. True social dancing is not predetermined; there’s a vocabulary of movement that can be cut and pasted in many different ways. The man learns to provide signals to the lady and the lady learns to receive those signals through something called ‘connection.’ It’s a physical means of communication so she can understand when to move, where to move, and what the timing of it is.”
If the taster lesson leaves you hungry for more, Adams offers regular progressive classes. “You sign up for a month of weekly lessons ($45/$34 for full-time students). Each week, you’ll work on something and then review it the next week and also add new things.” The best deal right now is the beginners’ 60-day swing crash course ($69). Eight weeks of lessons, plus a free pass for our Friday-night jam during the course so you can practice. The beginner classes are on Tuesdays; more advanced dancers meet on Wednesdays. (Adams also teaches private lessons, including packages for wedding couples that include everything from full choreographed routines to sequences that the couple can assemble themselves.)
If you’re busy Friday night, you can maybe stop by Joel Plys’s Sunday-night Hep Spot at Tango Del Rey in Mission Bay. Plys is owner of Swing Dancing San Diego (619-347-9366; swingdancingsandiego.com), and he offers a lesson from 5 to 6 p.m., then dancing from 6 to 9.
“If you pay the $8 for the social dance [$6 if you’re a student, $10 if there’s live music], then the lesson is free,” he says. “Everybody loves the dancing, from teenagers to 70-year-olds. But the Great Gatsby movie definitely increased its popularity with the young people.”
Beginners, says Plys, get shown the Jitterbug or the Lindy Hop. “For the Jitterbug, you use six-count steps, and for the Lindy Hop, eight-count. The steps have to do with the rhythm; each step has its own particular rhythm, but you can create all kinds of variations.” When it comes to learning, “some people like numbers, others rhythm. I’ll match my teaching to your learning skill and your favorite dance. I have a ‘dance more, talk less’ theme. And you can take it as far as you want, from social to competitive. We have classes for all of that.”
Plys lists classes all over, from the La Jolla YMCA to the Veterans Museum & Memorial Center in Balboa Park to Queen Bee’s in North Park. “Our beginners’ classes are on Mondays; after that, you might go to a Tuesday class with our performance group. They work on classic routines from the ’20s and ’30s. I also have an aerial class, where you learn about lifts and drops. It will take your dancing to a whole new level.” Classes range from $12 to $15 for drop-ins to $10 for a weekly class. The best deal for swing-dance lessons is to buy a $120 punch-card good for 12 classes in a three-month period.