By Michelle de Carion
Five years ago, a friend invited me out to swing-dance in downtown Chicago. Though I'd dreamed of learning to dance as a kid, watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers twirl about, I was honestly terrified and had never taken a lesson. She assured me, "Come anyway. You'll learn."
My first night out, I took a beginner class and danced with a bunch of different people. They were all kind, understanding, and also willing to show me new things. At the time, I didn't have money for professional lessons, but I went to the weekly dances anyway, met some amazing people, and in no time I was becoming a pro. I threw myself into the swing scene and learned as I went.
Five years later, I'm now helping run a swing dance in Fort Lauderdale, and I hear people tell me the same thing I told my friend when I started, "I'm a terrible dancer." "I've never taken lessons." "I have two left feet!" But the truth is, if you really want to swing-dance, you can. With time and patience and a lot of passion, you'll be doing swingouts and Susie Q's in no time.
Cutting the rug can enrich your life in so many ways. So here are eight good reasons why swing dancing is for everybody.
8. Age is no excuse.
With swing dancing, you can be 8 or 80, still have fun, and get a good workout. It's pretty rare to see a twerking grandma, but at swing dances, you often find people who are seniors busting out moves with youngsters.
7. The music is timeless.
You could be at a bar or at a wedding, hear a few seconds of Frank Sinatra, and soon everyone is singing along. A lot of music from the swing era is beloved by many people, spanning the globe and generations. People from all different walks of life listen to music from the '20s through the '50s. And once you have mastered the basics, you can even dance to modern songs like "Happy" by Pharrell.
6. There's no such thing as two left feet.
Often, a person may see a couple swing-dancing at an event and get excited at the thought of doing the same but then use this lame line as an excuse to be a wallflower. The truth is that even the most awkward, clumsy, or untalented person can swing-dance with lots of practice.
The swing-dancing community is like a close-knit family that won't give up on you... ever. So with persistence, passion, and some swing siblings, you too can groove.
5. It's affordable.
Professional lessons are typically not cheap, especially in a big city like Fort Lauderdale. But most swing dances are incredibly affordable, costing only $5 to $20 for admission, and that includes a professional lesson and a DJ dance or live music.
And if you simply can't pay anything, often swing organizers will work with you. At Swing Out South Florida at the Tennis Club in Fort Lauderdale, your first time is free, and anyone who volunteers to help run the dance gets in free.
4. Socializing is good.
Partner dances can sometimes be frightening because you are walking into a situation where you don't know many people. If you are an extrovert, swing-dancing is an incredible opportunity for you to use your people skills and network or just make new friends and a good replacement for Match.com.
But even if you're a shy guy or gal, terrified of people and public places, swing-dancing is a great way to break the ice and cushion the blow. You may not feel comfortable talking to new people, but you can use the language of dance to speak.
3. Dancing is the best medicine.
Dancing offers an incredible cardio workout that doesn't require a machine. Moving around to old-timey music, touching other bodies? There's no way your mood will suck after one of these dances.
2. You can do it anywhere.
You can pretty much dance like this in anyplace around the world. Either at a wedding or as part of the subculture or in competitions. Often, people from places like Sweden, China, England, and Slovakia visit South Florida to participate in local dances. It doesn't matter where you're from; swing-dancing is truly a global activity.
1. You will be a part of a rich history.
Swing dancing started about 87 years ago in Harlem, and it still hasn't died in popularity. From Prohibition to the proliferation of the internet, swing-dancing has lasted for generations. By participating, you'll not only learn more about music history but mark your place in it as well.
Movies like Grease and Back to the Future have some of the coolest swing-dancing scenes that show kids loving life, being free, and expressing themselves. Believe it or not, the energy and excitement you see in the movies is the same in real life. The real fun comes from listening to beautiful music and moving to the beat, and it is unparalleled.
Swing Out South Florida's dance at the Tennis Club, 600 Tennis Club Drive, Fort Lauderdale. The lesson starts at 7:30 p.m., and the DJ dance starts at 9. First-timers get in for free. To learn more about swing-dancing in South Florida, visit swingoutsouthflorida.com and like them on Facebook.