Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Social Dancing in the Washington Metro Region

One of the advantages of living halfway between Baltimore and Washington, DC is the wealth of things to do, some of them fairly unique to the area. 

You might be surprised to learn that the Washington, DC Metro region has one of the largest social dancing communities in the country, with a particularly strong presence in various types of swing.

Maryland's Gregory Scott (a WCS and Country champion) at Swing Fling

DC is often regarded as the birthplace of a style of swing dance known as Hand Dance, but today there are also very active communities in West Coast Swing (WCS), Lindy Hop, Ballroom, Salsa, Country Line & Couples Dancing, and Hip Hop as well as some smaller niches such as Hustle (and even Scandinavian Folk Dancing!).

Here's a sampling of some local dance communities:
  • West Coast Swing (WCS)
  • Lindy Hop
  • Country Line & Couples

West Coast Swing
West Coast Swing (WCS) is one of the most popular forms of social dance today with some well-known stars having crossed over into pop culture, such as Benji Schwimmer ("So You Think You Can Dance") and his sister Lacey Schwimmer (SYTYCD, Dancing with the Stars).

Maryland's Kevin Fitzhugh at Swing Fling

The DC area has one of the largest weekly social WCS dances on the East Coast with hundreds of dancers each Friday night, sponsored by DanceJam Productions at Hollywood Ballroom in Silver Spring about 15 minutes from Emerson. (They also host other styles of dancing including Ballroom and Salsa.)

During the year DanceJam also organizes large-scale workshops and competitions in Northern Virginia such as MADjam, Swing Fling, and DC Swing Experience.

There are many other venues in the area, including studios and the Promenade Dancesport Facility near Security Mall on the west side of the Baltimore Beltway.

Lindy Hop
Lindy Hop harkens back to its heyday in the Roaring Twenties and 1930's, and the music typically has more of a Big Band sound.

Among the places to dance Lindy is the historic Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park in Glen Echo, MD, on the west side of DC.

(As a bit of trivia, Glen Echo was originally developed as part of the late-19th Century Chautauqua adult-education movement.

To help promote the community, its developers built a house for Clara Barton that she designed in the style of barn-like shelters first built after the Johnstown Floods and which she used as the National Headquarters for the American Red Cross.

The developers went bankrupt and the site became an amusement park, and is now an artists' colony.)

The Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Historical Park

Clara Barton lived in this house at Glen Echo for the last 15 years of her life.
Inside, it was basically a warehouse for Red Cross supplies, and offices and
housing for the American Red Cross.

Country Line and Couples Dancing
Country Couples Dancing is a variant on ballroom dancing done to country music. Common couples dances are the Texas Two-Step (derived from the Foxtrot), Swing (West Coast and East Coast), Waltz, and Polka.

Couples dance "progressively" counter-clockwise around the dance floor.

Line dances follow a prescribed sequence of movements and are composed of small blocks (usually four beats long) put together in different combinations. Dancers are typically in lines and most dances will rotate to start the pattern again facing a different "wall."

Locally, although Country Dancing is sometimes taught in studios or in community centers, the mainstream dancers go to nightclubs, notably Nick's (Alexandria, VA), Cancun Cantina (Hanover, MD), and Revolution Bar and Restaurant (focused on line dancing and formerly Fast Eddie's in Centreville, VA).

Dance Links:


West Coast Swing:

Lindy Hop:

Country (Line and Couples):

No comments:

Post a Comment