Swing Dance Hot Spots

Cut a rug at these great dance halls and swing-dancing venues.
By: Jennifer Plum Auvil

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Whether your allegiance lies with West Coast, East Coast, Lindy Hop or Jitterbug, or even if you have no specific swing skills and little more than 2 left feet, it’s easy to catch the swing craze with dance lessons and events at these cool swinging spots. Swing dancers convene in grand ballrooms, renovated dance halls and even in the great outdoors to learn new moves and share a few spins with friends and strangers.
Swinging LA fashionistas with a thing for vintage evening wear convene at the Oviatt Building for the weekly Cicada Club gathering that features live music and lively dancing. The dance moves are rivaled by the memorable architecture of the 1928 Art Deco Oviatt Building, protected by the National Register of Historic Places.
Since 1996, swingers have been taking over Golden Gate Park for some serious dancing in San Francisco’s great outdoors every Sunday, barring downpours. The Lindy in the Park dancers convene on John F. Kennedy Drive between the de Young Museum and the north entrance to the Music Concourse, and dance from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Beginners can take in the scene and jump into a free dance lesson from 12 to 12:30 p.m.
The restored 1933 Art Deco Spanish Ballroom is a Washington, DC, gem with space for 840 dancers to jump, jive and wail at regular social dances. A host of local organizations sponsor swing nights on Saturday evenings, generally with a free beginner lesson kicking off the night.
There are plenty of spots around Chicago for Lindy Hop and West Coast dancing. Hundreds of dancers convene each year at the Swinger's Ball at the Willowbrook Ballroom, a swinging tradition since 1998 with live jazz and the Bringing the Heat Dance Contest. Throughout the year, the Willowbrook hosts swing events as well as ballroom dancing and lessons.
Sengelmann Hall exemplifies the traditional 19th-century dance hall with wide-plank pine floors, pressed-tin ceilings, a stately mahogany bar and maybe even a few ghosts from its days as the Two Brothers Saloon. But instead of Texas two-stepping, Swing Fling is the thing that draws visitors with musical lunch and dinner events and plenty of rhythm.
On Wednesday evenings, it’s time to strike up the big band to set the stage as the swing dance party Cat’s Corner takes over San Francisco’s Mission district club, Savanna Jazz. The evening kicks off with a combination of registered and drop-in classes followed by the opportunity to practice your moves at the main event.
Boston Swing Central is Beantown’s volunteer-run organization that brings together swing aficionados for weekly dancing events at the Crosby Whistle Stop dance space, a renovated train whistle mill that was transformed into a slick dance studio. Dancers can expect something different each week as the BSC brings in bands of all sizes from around the world and DJs spinning swinging tunes.
Swingers converge on Queen Bee’s Cultural Center for Lindy lessons and open dancing to strut their stuff on Wednesday nights. A crew of 8 instructors helps beginners and more advanced dancers incorporate some wild spins and fancy footwork into their routines.
Any dancer can embrace a chance to shine at New York’s famed Lincoln Center, thanks to the annual tradition of Midsummer Night Swing, 15 nights of dancing. Popular bands provide the music while teachers instruct dancers in a variety of genres, including swing, salsa and more.
The Roof, formally known as the Indiana Roof Ballroom, has played host to its share of popular performers and public figures since opening in 1927, including Cab Calloway, Bing Crosby and President John F. Kennedy. The ballroom spends most of its time hosting weddings and special events in the city, but throughout the year the dance floor is open to the public for some nostalgic grooving on Sunday evenings as part of the swinging Big Band series.
Plan a retro night out in London with a bit of help from the London Swing Dance Society. On most Monday nights, swingers converge on the city’s historic music venue 100 Club for Stompin’ at the 100. During the Saturday Night Swing Club, revelers in vintage garb fill 3 dance floors and showcase their Lindy Hop and fox-trot moves.

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