BEGINNERS, READ THIS FIRST!

Swing dancing is one of the most fun and most rewarding things I’ve discovered in my life. Maybe you were out and saw some swing dancers at a restaurant, bar, or other event. Or, maybe someone took you to a Swing venue and you want to learn more. Whatever the reason, you’d like to learn how to Swing dance!  But, it can be intimidating and hard to know where to start. I hope I can help here.

Amount of Time Required

The first thing you should know is that learning to Swing dance will take some time and dedication. If you just take one dance class per week and never go social dancing, you’ll forget everything you learned pretty quickly.

The minimum amount of commitment that I believe it takes is one or two Swing classes per week and to go out social dancing two times a week. Now, a class and social dancing can be combined into one evening, so it’s not as insane as it sounds. Dancing two nights a week is the minimum I believe most people need to make what they’ve learned “stick”.

Which Dances to Learn

There are many dances associated with Swing dancing including Charleston, East Coast Swing, Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, Balboa, and Shag.

I recommend starting with East Coast Swing. That is the easiest one to learn (in my opinion), and it is the most popular.

Once you’ve got a grip on East Coast Swing, you’ll definitely want to learn Charleston, Lindy Hop, and Balboa.  Shag is cool but not done as commonly. A lot of Swing dancers also do Blues dancing, so I include Blues dancing on my Swing calendar.

For more details on some of these dances, click here.

West Coast Swing

West Coast Swing is an eight-count dance derived from Lindy Hop. But West Coast Swing is in a different scene in L.A. and is not covered by this website. It’s more “ballroomy” than East Coast Swing/Lindy and is danced to more modern pop music, not old Jazz.

Where to Take Classes

Many swing venues have beginner East Coast Swing lessons before the main dance, for example, Atomic Ballroom, Lindy Groove, MemoriesRusty’s Rhythm Club, and PBDA. Those are a good, low-pressure way to start. Click here for a complete list.

However, it will be difficult to “get good” by taking the same intro class over and over.  If you want to improve, take a class series.

I don’t suggest taking Swing classes from corporate places like Arthur Murray. I never see Arthur Murray instructors out social dancing, whereas the people I recommended are active social dancers and are out dancing all of the time.  They have a passion for Swing!

If you really want to improve quickly, then you can “jump in the deep end” and attend a Swing camp.  The biggest one in Los Angeles is Camp Hollywood. These usually have three or four nights of Swing dancing over the weekend with classes during the day. If you go to one of these and attend all of the classes, your dancing level will definitely go up a notch or more! There are so many awesome dances at these events, you’ll improve by osmosis (or more accurately, watching good dancers will improve your own dancing). You will at least need to be pretty comfortable with basic East Coast Swing or else you might get a little intimidated at these types of events.

Another way to improve quickly is to take private lessons.  They are costly, but the personal attention will improve your dancing quickly.

See my complete list of classes and instructors.  If you want to turbocharge your Swing dancing, read the Top Ten Secretes to Becoming a Good Swing Dancer.

To avoid starting a lot of bad habits, read the Most Common Beginner Swing Dancing Mistakes.

Where to Dance

As I mentioned before, you need to go social dancing at least a couple times a week in order to practice what you’ve learned, or else you’ll forget it.  This article has my suggestions for places that usually have plenty of people to dance with and are generally non-intimidating for beginners.

Etiquette

Guys (leaders), avoid doing things that will get you banished from the dance floor.  Read the Top Ten Worst Things Guys Do On the Social Dance Floor.

Ladies (followers), here are some sure-fire tips to get guys to ask you to dance!

What Shoes to Wear

Check out this article on shoes to wear Swing dancing.

I hope this has helped you take your first steps (or triple-steps!) into Swing dancing.  Leave a comment below if you have any questions! – Brian


  • Marsh M Santoro

    I live in Portland Oregon and have volunteered for the Portland Dance Festival for a few years now and would like to dance in and compete in it but have found that I need to be a West Coast dance Association member how do I do that?

    • Hi Marsh,

      Sorry, this site is about Lindy Hop and East Coast Swing. I don’t know anything about WCS.

      Best,
      Brian

  • Hey Gang!

    We’d like to let you know there’s a new swing dance venue in Long Beach! Starting April 3rd, Jamie Wood & the Good Rockin Daddys will be playing EVERY SUNDAY from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m.

    This venue has a big dance floor and there is NO COVER CHARGE!!!

    We play plenty of swing dance music and we hope you’ll come and check it out!!

    http://www.jamiewoodmusic.com

    Catch you on flip side!

    Jamie