Start Swing Dancing With A Community Lesson

Like many people who’ve learned to dance in New Orleans, I got my first lindy hop lesson in a darkly lit bar in one of those “hipster” places in the Marigny neighborhood, surrounded by strangers. I was hesitant to give up the comfort of my drink to join in, but everyone looked like they were having so much fun! So I set my drink down, got a quick lesson, and when the live music started that night after the lesson and I saw everyone dancing – I was hooked. And now here I am.   

That’s an example of a community lesson. Typically, the lesson is done for tips at a bar or other venue where there’s about to be a live band or other music to start using what you just learned. It’s an opportunity to make new friends, sample the wide world of swing dance, and (with a little consistency on your part) get you a comfortable trying some basics while the music plays.

What Will I Learn At A Community Lesson?

Community Lessons aren’t meant to teach you advanced concepts, tricky techniques, or flashy styling. With only half an hour or an hour of class, you’ll likely learn some six count basics, eight count footwork, basic Charleston, and maybe a few turns. If those phrases don’t mean anything to you then you’ll be in good company. Most people taking a community lesson have never done any swing dancing before and are just looking for the fundamentals to get started. 

I don’t mean to say you can’t learn a lot at a community lesson. You can take your dancing pretty far just knowing the basic steps and getting comfortable with a partner. But more advanced concepts will take some dedicated lesson time and plenty of social dancing to master. 

What Should I Bring To A Community Lesson? 

You don’t need to bring anything with you, not even a partner. Just make sure to wear something comfortable that you can move around in and some shoes that will stay put on your feet. You’re also going to need some money to tip the instructors, get a drink (it doesn’t need to be alcoholic, but you’ll need some refreshment), and tip the band if there’s live music. The hard-working people of New Orleans live off tips, so make sure you show your appreciation and support them for their hard work to make your evening something special.

Who Teaches The Community Lesson?

Crescent City Swing teaches many of the community lessons, but there are no shortage of talented dancers and teachers in New Orleans. Our recommendation? Try a few and find the lesson that works with your schedule, as well as has a teacher that you connect with. But remember that variety is the spice of life, and getting a lot of perspectives on the basics can be really helpful.

Where Can I Find One?

Not sure exactly where to start? You can always check our resources page, as well as follow Swing Dancers of NOLA to see a list of common community lessons. But for starters:

I've Taken Plenty Of Community Lessons And I'm Hooked. What Do I Do Now?

Well done! Starting is the hardest part. If you're serious about having a good time, keep going to your community lessons and enjoying our live, local music. But if you want to get more serious about your learning, Crescent City Swing is here for you. Take a look at our course offerings and consider getting a pass to try Lindy Hop I or Charleston I. There's a lot to learn out there.

Community lessons are a great way to get started dancing. Nothing beats the fun and adventure of meeting new people and making friends while you start something new. If you've been waiting, give it a shot. There are so many opportunities here to jump in. We hope to see you there!

A Fresh Perspective

Seaside Stomp

Now that everyone’s settled into their usual routines, it seems like the perfect time to recap Seaside Stomp. For anyone who may have missed it, Seaside Stomp was a Lindy Hop exchange in Pensacola, FL during Memorial Day weekend. A weekend full of beach bums and dancing. If you did miss it, however, no need to worry. There are plenty of exchanges coming up in the near future.

As a newbie in the swing scene, the anticipation of my first out-of-town event was weighing heavy on my anxious car ride toward the Pensacola beach. Now, let me just say, that though I am a fairly new dancer (about three months shy of my first year), I’ve had the advantage of being from New Orleans. So while this was my first exchange I’d traveled to, I’m thankful for the fact that many before had traveled to me. So I wasn’t surprised to meet people from across the country, and some from outside of it.

The weekend started with a Friday evening dance led by New Orleans’ own Shake Em’ Up Jazz Band. Dancers got a chance to warm up their legs straight off the drive from their local swing community. Shortly after midnight most of the crowd began to head toward the late night dance, grabbing a bite to eat and having a chat with unacquainted dancers on the way. The late night dance had a plethora of studios from which to choose, for whatever might tickle your dancing fancy. The blues room was lit up to set the tone as slow blues played in the background, the Lindy Hop room jumped with people dancing to old time Swing, and the Balboa room stood just across the hall.

The next day was filled with four hours of classes at the UWF recreation center. Taking lessons for hours straight may not sound like the most enjoyable way to spend one’s day, but multitudes of people, ranging from recent beginners all the way to tenured dancers with years of experience under their belts, showed up for lessons to tighten their technique. The classes covered everything from fast and slow dancing to body awareness and fancy footwork.

Photos by Ashley McKibben

Photos by Ashley McKibben

On Saturday night, Moonshine Rhythm Club played their hearts out in a huge gymnasium-like room on a chilly night in Pensacola. Though I may be biased, this night was probably my favorite as it included a performance by the Nola Chorus Girls and Crescent City Swing Jazz Squares, as well as a Mix & Match competition in which four New Orleans dancers made it to the final round. It was amazing to see so many great dancers performing next to each other. And it’s safe to say that New Orleans definitely showed out on Saturday night. It’s also safe to say we had no problem tooting our own horn, chanting “Nola! Nola!” any and every chance we got. At midnight the band took its final bow and music from the speakers took over for dancers who weren’t tired out yet. Being among the many who weren’t tired enough to quit, I continued to have one of my best nights of dancing (dancing at exchanges is always better, for some reason). And I was even able to pick up on some moves I learned earlier in class. It was for this reason I succeeded in convincing myself it’d be alright to play hooky from classes the next day to go to the beach.

I love dancing,  though another four hours in constant movement would have been too much. I’d barely recovered from classes, let alone dancing until 3 am! The beach sounded a contrary use of time spent. So I put away my dancing shoes for the day and slipped on some sandals. The next few hours were spent accidentally swallowing salt water, napping on the sand, and reading Spanish poetry with friends. After a much needed rest on the Pensacola seaside, we all gathered our things and started to get ready for yet another night of dancing.

Avery & the Beards took the stage Sunday night at the Voices of Pensacola Multicultural Center. This was a change from traditional jazz as the room grooved to upbeat rockabilly and slow blues all night. Now as a listener, I love blues. It was one of my favorite genres growing up and I can still jam out to Stevie Ray Vaughan any given day of the week. But as a dancer, I despise it. Catch me at any slow blues gathering with my hands in my pockets praying someone doesn’t ask me to dance (I’m only a little serious). I’ve begun to love and trust the foundational steps of Lindy Hop. Faced with a dance that has less structure than what I’m used to, it’s only natural I’d hate it with a burning passion. But alas, I gritted my teeth and made the best of what I had to work with. And it wasn’t so bad after all. Because at the end of the day that’s what all of this is about. No one’s asking you to be Susie Q or Shorty George. Though, certainly no one is keeping you from being them either.

For me, the last night of Seaside Stomp ended on a pitch black beach enthralled in lighthearted conversation, listening to the waves ride to and fro, reflecting on the weekend. The first out-of-town exchange was a success, and the group was already beginning to plan the next. Wherever it may be, I’m down.

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For any of you who missed out, worry not! I’ve done some research on upcoming exchanges nearby:
- Balast Off: A Balboa exchange in Huntsville, AL for those who are interested in Balboa, have just started, or have been doing it for years. Aug. 4-6
- KLX: Lindy Hop exchange in Knoxville, TN. Sep. 8-10
- Lindy Hop on the Plains: A Lindy Hop exchange in Auburn, AL. This will be located inside the Auburn University campus. Sep. 22-24
- New Orleans Swing Dance Festival: The 9th Annual New Orleans Lindy Hop exchange. Sep. 28-Oct. 2.


Ian Monroe is a contributing writer for Crescent City Swing, community member, and friend.

A Private Lesson On Private Lessons

One of the things I enjoyed about beginning my swing dance journey was learning a brand-new skill. I’m a serial hobbyist that likes to dive deep into my new fascination and I work hard to get as good as I can at a new skill. And for me – as it is with every new learner – classes were the way to go. In group classes, you learn the fundamentals of the dance, what it’s like to have multiple partners, and make some great new friends. But after a while if you’re serious about your dance development, private lessons will give you the boost you need to take some big steps in your dancing. Big dance steps. See what I did there?   

Anyhow, I’m here to share some tips on how to make your first private lesson or private lesson series a success. Follow this advice and you’ll be richly rewarded with a killer lindy hop private lesson.

Find The Right Teacher

There are a lot of good dancers in the world. A lot of them even live in this city. Your first inclination might be to find the best dancer and work exclusively with them, and that might be exactly what you need. 

But not every great dancer is a great teacher, and a private lesson requires even more knowledge and skill than a group class instructor. Find a teacher that you think would work well with you, has experience providing private lessons, and has a set of skills that you’d like to improve on personally. I suggest asking friends and fellow dancers who they would recommend learning from. Think outside of the box a little bit with this. If you’re typically a lead, why not take a private lesson from a great follow? Do you like the way that one instructor looks during their swing out? Learn from them! You’re already going to be paying a premium for the undivided attention of the instructor, so make sure you’re getting the most out of it by choosing the right person.

Get Over Your Jitters

The first thing you realize is that it’s a lot easier to hide in a group class. The teacher’s attention is on the whole class and only sometimes exclusively on you. And even then, the experience is simply not as intense as being with a private instructor. It can be nerve-racking to feel all the eyes on you.

But can I tell you a secret? A good private lesson instructor doesn’t have any judgement about you or your dancing while you’re in the lesson. In fact, seeking a private lesson is commendable because you’re admitting that there’s something you need work on! These teachers have seen everything and your skill (or lack thereof) will not surprise them in the least. Try and relax and remember that the instructor is there to help you. You have nothing to be nervous about.

Come Prepared

Besides the essential things you should bring to every class, like water, dance shoes, a winning smile, and an open mind, you may want to bring some things you normally wouldn’t think about. The first is an idea of what you’d like to work on. There are plenty of times when you can start a private lesson with the goal of just getting better and let the instructor guide the practice. But if you are passionate about something, you should tell the instructor what it is you’re hoping to get out of the time you have together.

Do you have a partner in mind if you’re looking for some partner work? Think of a few people that you work well with and are appropriately skilled for the subject you’re working on. You don’t want to be caught in a lesson where your partner can’t keep up with the material you’re paying money to work on. If you’re not sure where to start with this, you should ask your instructor.

Do you have a song or specific tempo in mind? If you do, you should make it a point to have a song or even a few songs ready to play so that the teacher has an idea of what you’d like to work on from that perspective. 

Each instructor is different, so if you need guidance on what to be prepared for you should ask in advance of the lesson.

Be Receptive To Feedback

A private lessons, and any other class for that matter, only works if you’re willing to listen to your teachers. You’re dedicating a lot of time and energy to work on something that you think would be an improvement. Sometimes the feedback you receive isn’t what you were looking for or you have a hard time seeing the value of the lesson in the short term. That’s ok – we are often bad judges of our weaknesses. And if you have a strong perception of what you’re dancing is like, and your feedback conflicts with that perception, it can be a tough pill to swallow.

My best advice for taking criticism is to focus on how making these changes to your dancing will make you a better dancer and lead to more fun for you and your partner when you’re dancing. Keep your focus on the reward of getting better in the future and not the disappointment of not being perfect today. If you were perfect you wouldn’t need the lesson in the first place.

Record What You Learn

Maybe you’re the note taking type like I am (I keep my notes on my phone, backed up online for quick reference). Or maybe you want the visual cues to remember exactly what you went over. Either way, make sure you record what you learned so you can reference it later during your practice or spare time. Just remember to ask your instructor before you film them. It’s pretty rude to pull out a phone and record during a session without permission.

Practice

Ok, great. You finished a wonderful lesson and feel new swing dance powers coursing through you. But all that work will go to waste if you don’t practice what you’re working on. Use your notes or video to focus on key points you went over so that you can make habits out of the tips you received. If possible, seek more feedback from the instructor after you’ve worked on your new skill for a while and see if there’s something you’re missing. Even better – sign up for another private lesson session to keep plugging away at whatever you’re getting at. 

Final Thoughts

Private lessons can really fast track your dancing skill. It’s a lot of time, effort, and dedication but the rewards are so worth it. Do you need some help getting started? Contact us and we’ll be happy to get you a one on one session, or point you in the right direction if we don’t have what you’re looking for. 

See you on the dance floor!

A Fresh Perspective

Charleston

Charleston is simple in theory, yet frustratingly difficult to learn. Of course, this is coming from someone who took months to get the steps exactly right. It seemed so complex at first, but it’s literally just...walking. Remember that time you got out of bed to make a bowl of cereal? You did the Charleston on the way to the kitchen. Now just do that in place for eight counts, and you’ve got it. Though, it may get more complicated when going deeper into the style. In light of this topic, I’m going to leave you with a story of a recent experience I had with the Charleston.    

Sunday Swing

As the band banged their drums and blew their whistles, the thump-thump of a traditional jazz beat kept its time. The joining musicians pursued the rhythm, weaving their sounds in and out of its grooves. It made for a compelling tune. Not far off, a friend of mine found his way into the grooves as well. In a sea of partnered dancers, he held his space in the middle of floor busting solo Charleston moves. Every joint in his body stretched in perfect time for the movements to flow as nicely as they did. Then, he did something that caught my eye. A leg here or there would turn in a peculiar way until it didn’t look like the Charleston at all, but did. This started a string of variations that struck my curiosity.

When the song was over, I asked him about it, the steps and what he was doing with them. “You already know the steps,” he said, “Now, it’s about trying to mess with them and see what you can do while getting to the backstep on time.” It made sense. Another song started, and he did some basic Charleston moves while I followed alongside. One of the first moves I caught onto was a double-kick. Instead of kicking back on the count of seven, we’d kick forward again as we did on five, making me rush to get my foot back for one. Some were hard to get the hang of. We did this move where we stepped forward on five and pivoted to a one-eighty on seven, facing the opposite direction by the time we started again on one.

Photo by Ashley McKibben

Pretty soon, we were just having fun with it, and I didn’t care too much about where I was when the one came back around. That’s when a third person joined in, kicking through with steps neither of us had seen before. We were forming a circle of solo dancers, each doing our own interpretation of the same steps. As we clapped to keep the beat for one another, a fourth man jumped in. Now, still in the middle of partnered dancers, we formed a square, kicking across from each other; switching sides when the music called for a change, as it often did.

With sweat dripping from my skin and an ache in my body halfway through the song, I had to break. But there was no way I could walk off now. Something was coming and we could feel it. Whether it was through the anticipation of the music, a suspended chord, a lagging horn, the musicians were leading some sort of crescendo and trying, discreetly, to let us in on it. There was a moment coming, and it needed only to be felt. A melodic chorus from the band finished by putting a punctuation mark on its question. The southern drawl of a trombone jumped in to answer, all while a set of drums proved itself a mediator. At this point, the three of us were standing in a circle around the fourth, still kicking, still sweating, still aching, and still smiling all the way through. Then one of us would break in, forcing the other back into the outside barrier.  

Photo by Ashley McKibben

As this was happening, the trombone’s plea was interrupted by an aggressive trumpet with a punch packed like a schoolyard lunch. We felt this, and matched it as best we could. In the middle of the circle, her legs moving like a grasshopper in a hurry, was an embodiment of the cries we were hearing from the stage. They flowed together as one, it seemed. The trumpet spoke what she couldn’t as the dancer lifted her limbs to its voice. They were two separate forms of the same conversation.

Now, there was a shift in tone and the trumpet started to sound like it had said everything it needed to. It wrapped up the speech with a high note suspended as the others came back in full force with the melodic chorus. As if practiced, we abandoned our circle and formed our own chorus, facing each other in a square as we had in the beginning. And now we were the ones answering boldly what had been asked, like the trumpet with its potent declaration. Our kicks in sync like some jazzy line dance, each of us provided a touch of innovation to the picture we held as a whole. The song was coming to a close. As the last notes rang in unison we let out the wildest motions our muscles could carry. Then the ringing of the big brass band was met with silence, as the silence was met with applause. We doubled over and exhaled and clapped and smiled and wiped the sweat from our faces, thanking each other for the dance, and dispersing into the crowd.  

New Orleans Music for Swing Dance Practice

To those of you who have been hiding behind the classic "what music should I practice to?" excuse, step into the sun my friends. Today is your day. These songs are arranged roughly slowest to fastest and are by contemporary New Orleans artists. If you're new to dancing, use this Spotify playlist as a resource to begin practicing at home. Use it also as a jumping off point not just for bettering your dance steps, but for acquainting yourself with some of the music and musicians we dance to here in New Orleans.

While Spotify can be a helpful tool, it makes a poor master. We're lucky in this town to have access to these wonderful, hard-working artists who benefit from our patronage. Here are some next steps for finding and enjoying this music and more:

WWOZ's Livewire

Not always exhaustive, but a great place to start, WWOZ's Livewire lists live shows every night in New Orleans. The Guardians of the Groove come through for us on the reg. Make sure to download the iphone app, if that's your thing. Also, the livewire is recited on the radio at 90.7FM at the top of every odd hour. 
Get out there! Literally into the streets to listen and dance to this amazing music. Tip the bands (duh) and buy their cds.

Louisiana Music Factory

At the foot of Frenchmen St., 421 to be exact, sits one hell of a music shop. This is your one stop shop for music you need to dance to and think to and cavort to and swill beverages to. Find all the songs on this playlist and a veritable jillion more. 

Crescent City Swing

We have a growing collection of local music for sale in our studio on St. Claude Ave. As they say, come for a dance class, leave with a cd or two... thereby supporting local dancers and musicians in one fell swoop. That's a saying, right? I'm pretty sure. 

This is just the tip of the New Orleans dance music iceberg. Stay tuned for more playlists, and get listening!

A Fresh Perspective

New to swing dancing, Ian will be sharing his experiences of learning and dancing with us over the coming months as he delves into the world of swing here in New Orleans.


Meet Ian

This is Ian.

This is Ian.

I started swing dancing about seven months ago. As a distant admirer of dance, it never occurred to me that I might one day do it regularly in a semi-formal setting. Dancing and I have always had this weird off-and-on relationship in which I’d make a fool of myself at one of the wildest house parties in front of some girl I was trying to impress, then abandon it for some time until it’d suit me again. It was unlikely I’d consider it a hobby, but I’d often find myself in my room wiping sweat from my face in silence as a playlist ended, quickly remembering the homework at my desk I’d deserted in a frenzy.

I don’t think there was ever a time in my life I didn’t admire dancing. When I was younger, dancing was never something I could explain entirely. It was a concept, to me, that existed only in its present form. I’d never thought about steps or beats or time because in every instance I’d seen someone dance, it seemed that they weren’t either. I can remember the earliest example of this. The first time I was introduced to what dance was through my own visual interpretation was when I was six years old, and I saw a music video for Bad by Michael Jackson. I remember feeling exhilarated, knowing that someone was expressing themselves in the most uninhibited forms one could imagine. Of course, what I was really seeing in this video was a man who’d practiced steps and routines vigorously since early childhood alongside several others who’d most likely done the same, coming together to create something that would appear to be completely raw and uninhibited. But that wasn’t what it meant to me. The artistry exhibited a freedom of expression I could relate to. And I don’t believe there was anything I related to more so beforehand.

So how does an 80’s music video connect to swing dancing? Fast forward over a decade later, after I’d recently moved back to the crescent city. Like deadly mosquitoes or water grabbing at your ankles on a rainy day, Jazz in New Orleans was something that had always been there. Even now, as I write this, heavy-rhythmed bebop is playing over the speakers above my head.

But I stumbled on a community that used old, Dixieland Jazz to carry on traditions over eighty years old. And that’s what makes lindy hop special here. Many big cities might claim the rights to Jazz but the people who would become Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington started here with their horns blowing away the dirt under their feet on a Sunday morning in Congo Square. And so this music became the heart of the lindy hop movement which still exists today. Whether studying the footwork of the Charleston or the rhythm in a swingout, the foundation of it started on the same grounds we now dance on. So, when I was finally face to face with this movement it caused that same feeling of exhilaration all over again.

This is a gratuitous, adorable photo of childhood Ian.

This is a gratuitous, adorable photo of childhood Ian.

I’d seen swing dancing in old movies where people wore zoot suits and long dresses with suede heels and put conks in their heads. Of course, swing dancing has a very different look today than it did then. Usually in a studio or bar setting, people come from all over to dance in a style that was invented nearly a century ago. There are no zoot suits (Though, maybe there should be) and there are definitely no conks.

I began attending more lessons and events. With lessons came learning, and through trial and error came true understanding. And this is how I, a distant admirer of dance from my toddler years through adulthood, finally became a beginner in a field I’d never truly understood. Now when I wipe the sweat from my face in my bedroom after an instance that might resemble a scene from Footloose, I know exactly what makes these steps possible, and what makes my feet fly.


Ian Monroe is a contributing writer for Crescent City Swing, community member, and friend. Watch out for more updates from Ian and follow along with his dance journey. 

The Visitor's Guide To Dancing In New Orleans

New Orleans is a swing dance mecca. With some of the absolute best live jazz music in the world available every day of the week, swing dancers flock to New Orleans to enjoy our sights – and sounds. Where do you even begin? Fortunately, we’re here as a sort of jazz music spirit guide. Follow us, you won’t regret it!

Tips and Tricks

  • Check the WWOZ Livewire for a helpful listing of where to find your favorite bands. More than that, WWOZ is one of the greatest music stations in The Universe (they’ll say so themselves).
  • There’s a good chance you’ll change venues a few times a night. It’s a good idea to bring shoes you’re comfortable walking in as well as dancing in.
  • Speaking of venues – most of our dance floors are in bars. If you’re below drinking age you might have a hard time dancing at certain venues. St. Claude Social, The Ace Hotel, and the Maison (before late night) are all ages venues.
  • Don’t be shy coordinating with your friends before heading out to see where everyone’s dancing that night.
  • Our venues are small and you’ll find yourself dancing on concrete and tiles as often as you dance on wood floors. Share the space and be courteous! 
  • Not everyone is there to dance. Be respectful of other locals and tourists just interested in listening to the music. 
  • Respect and support the staff of the establishment you’re visiting and show your support for our great bands with tips and applause!

Now that we’ve got the ground rules set, let our journey begin.  

Frenchmen Street

Frenchmen Street has earned the world renowned it deserves. This street has gone through some remarkable changes in the past several years, to the delight (and sometimes frustration) of many locals. Still, Frenchmen Street is a must-see for any music aficionado and you can find dancers there many nights a week enjoying the live music and cozy atmosphere. 

The Spotted Cat – 623 Frenchmen Street

A favorite of locals and tourists alike, the number one recommendation you might hear from some people would be The Spotted Cat. Nothing beats dancing a few feet away from some of the best jazz music in the world. Sure the floor isn’t the best, but some nights this place is actual magic. Our recommendations? You can’t miss a Tuesday night with Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns, followed by Smoking Time Jazz Club. Or a Wednesday with Shotgun Jazz Band. But we promise the other 5 days of the week here will rock your socks off.

d.b.a. New Orleans – 618 Frenchmen Street

D.b.a. New Orleans is our first stop on our Frenchmen Tour. Enjoy the wooden floor and relatively more spacious quarters here while you listen to local favorites The Palmetto Bug Stompers, Tuba Skinny, and many others. Friday nights and Sunday early evenings are great times to visit.  

Bamboula’s – 516 Frenchmen Street

A relative newcomer to the Frenchmen Street area, Bamboula’s features some of our favorite local talent like Giselle Anguizola. Bamboula’s has live music every night of the week and a tile dance floor in front of the band. For you blues lovers, you’ll be able to find some blues music and dancing a few nights a week too.

The Maison – 508 Frenchmen Street

Apparently “Maison” means “home” in French. And this place is home to some of our favorite bands, including Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses, Shotgun Jazz Band, and Smoking Time Jazz Club. Claim a small piece of the wood floor near the band and enjoy yourself! Saturdays with Smoking Time Jazz Club are a great time.

The Dragon's Den – 435 Esplanade Avenue

Okay, so this one isn’t really on Frenchmen Street per se. But Monday Night Swing at The Dragon’s Den can’t be beat. There’s a community jam if you’re feeling musical, an intro to swing lesson, and a rotating group of bands to scratch your jazz itch. 

St. Claude Avenue

Ah, St. Claude Avenue. The new kid on the block. Or maybe the new block on the block? This part of town is blowing up with great bars, restaurants, and shops. And for dancer’s there are plenty of reasons to visit. 

The Allways Lounge – 2240 St. Claude Avenue

Sunday nights at the Allways Lounge is an institution at this point. There’s an intro lesson to get you started and a new band every week to have you dancing all night. Plenty of dancers have cut their teeth at the Allways Lounge and started their swing dance journey there. One of the busiest nights for dancing in town – you don’t want to miss this one.

St. Claude Social – 2358 St. Claude Avenue

Held at the Rhythmic Arts Center, the home of yours truly, St. Claude Social is our weekly Thursday night dance. There’s an intro lesson and live music twice a month. One of the places in town run by dancers, for dancers. If you just came to dance, this is your place. 

Uptown and Mid City

Live jazz is available all over the city. Beautiful Uptown New Orleans and Mid City have something to offer as well. 

The Carver Theater – 2101 Orleans Avenue

A great success story, the Carver Theater in the Historic Treme has been completely renovated. Check out the live music on Wednesdays, featuring some of our favorite jazz bands. An intro lesson is also offered to teach you a few things to get you on your way. The owners are so excited to have dancers visiting and using the space. The building is beautiful too. Check it out!

The Ace Hotel – 600 Carondelet Street

You can ride the streetcar to this beautiful, newly renovated hotel in the Central Business District. The Ace Hotel features live jazz every Sunday afternoon. You might even find yourself in the middle of a dance competition. Amy Johnson and Laura Manning have a lesson for beginners and more advanced dancers. Trust us, there’s no better way to start your Sunday than with some fresh coffee from Stumptown (right in the hotel) or brunch at the attached restaurant Josephine Estelle before starting your dancing adventure for the day.

Southern Hospitality

We could go on and on about where to go and what to do here. In New Orleans, we love visitors. And we love dancers. So if you happen to be both, we think you’ll have a great time. We have set up a handy Resources Page just in case you need a quick reference. If you get a little lost, why not shoot us an email and ask a few questions? There’s nothing we like more than helping people have a good time. Besides – we also know where to eat, what to see, and all sorts of other secrets to this great city. 

See you out there!

How I learned To Stop Worrying And Love Solo Jazz

I'm going to open this post with a soul-baring confession: I never liked solo jazz. Solo jazz was completely contrary to why I started dancing in the first place, and I suspect many new dancers feel the same way. We want to learn to dance to meet people, make friends, and socialize. Personally, you wouldn't have caught me solo dancing, ever.

Don't get me wrong, I've always enjoyed watching solo jazz dance clips, but that life just wasn't for me. But I've seen the light folks. Solo dancing is awesome. Let me tell you why.

True Expression

Did you know there are no rules? We sometimes say that in partner dancing (except for the golden rule, that's always in effect), but we actually mean it when we talk about solo jazz. When you're partner dancing, we have conventions we follow to help us work together. And you're going to spend a good amount of your energy and time focusing on your partners dancing in addition to your own. When you're solo dancing, 100% of your attention can be spent on your own movement.

Dedicating your energy to your own dancing allows you to tap into your hearts desire about the music. You can do exactly what you think needs to be done to express how the music makes you feel - in other words, you're free to show the world what the dance means to you. No rules. That's true expression.

Better Understanding Of Musicality

Music can be pretty tough stuff, especially if you don't have much musical experience like me. And good musicality, which is your movement closely reflecting the music you're listening to, is even harder. 

It's a common misconception that musicality is an innate quality, something that you're either good at or not. But like any skill, musicality is honed through practice. Solo jazz is a great way to practice your personal musicality, to discover how the music makes you respond outside of a partnership. I encourage you to give solo dancing a try if you're looking to improve your musicality.

Choreography Will Change Your Life

Choreography is a completely different skill than dancing. You can be exceptional at one and not the other. Choreography requires careful planning, good memory, and a vision. You can be a great dancer and not possess any of these skills! But working on choreography will add those elements to your dancing and make you a better dancer.

If you feel like your dancing is a little stale or uninspired, challenge yourself by creating your own choreography. You'll use a different set of mental muscles than usual and you might just get a breakthrough out of it.

Camaraderie

So my entire case thus far has been rooted in the experience of dancing all by yourself. But despite the name, you can "solo" jazz with a partner, or even a group. When I perform the Shim Sham or The Tranky Doo in a group of people, I feel connected to the larger dancing world. Even more personally, when I practice with our Performance Team on Sundays I feel connected to my local scene, my peers and my friends.

Solo dancing in a group can help expand your vocabulary and push you in ways that dancing with a partner can't. So consider asking a future partner of yours to solo dance with you rather than partner dance. It can be really personal, really fun, and really rewarding.

Partner Dancing Gets Better, Too

Developing your solo dancing chops has benefits in your partner dancing as well. The movement quality you've been perfecting through your solo practice and the new footwork styling you've done in your solo routines translate perfectly into dancing with a partner.

The creativity and comfort that you've developed dancing by yourself (it takes courage to dance by yourself, by the way), is also clearly expressed in your partner dancing too. Improve your personal style and vocabulary and your partner dancing will follow suit.

Want To Give It A Try?

Are you looking for an opportunity to try out some solo dancing? Like all of Crescent City Swing's classes, you can drop in any time. Solo Jazz is offered on Monday nights from 6:30 - 7:30 PM. You can always stay up to date with our class offerings by taking a look at our calendar

Go ahead, give it a shot. You might become a convert like me and enjoy solo dancing. But you don't have to take my word for it.

See you on the dance floor!

The Wedding Dance Beginner's Guide

Wedding dances can present challenges to even the most well organized and thoughtful couple. After choosing the right flower arrangement, coordinating wedding party outfits, and booking the best venue, you might only have a little bit of energy left to devote to presenting a passable wedding dance. Fortunately, I'm here to help guide your efforts so you can worry less about dancing and get back to worrying about your vegetarian options for the special night.

Consider Your Tastes

There are a number of ways your first dance can take shape. And the first piece of advice I'll offer here is probably going to get you good mileage for the rest of your relationship - check in with your partner and find out what they're comfortable with.

Work together to consider the best dance style for your first dance. Are you interested in a spicy salsa number? How about a sultry-looking tango? At Crescent City Swing we're partial toward classic, versatile six and eight count swing dance. 

Once you've established the style, you should consider whether you want a complex, choreographed dance. Remember that choreography takes time and patience to look good and you'll need to put more effort into classes to get the look you're going for. If you're brand new to dancing, we recommend taking some one of one sessions with your partner and working on fundamentals so that you can dance comfortably and confidently.

Find An Expert

Now that you've answered some basic questions on how you'd like to dance, you need to find the right teacher. New Orleans is fortunate to have world class talent in many different dance styles. I'm a little biased (admittedly), but Kerry Genese has been teaching wedding lessons for years and will get you on the right track for a great swing dance. 

Take the ideas you've been considering to several instructors and see what the best fit would be for you. Remember that a great wedding dance instructor appreciates and respects your vision but likely has some ideas to make your dance more comfortable and more appealing to you as a dancer and to the audience as a viewer. Respect their professional opinion! It can save you a lot of trouble in your dance journey.

Keep It Simple

A simple dance can be an elegant dance. My recommendation is to focus on simple, practiced looking maneuvers to get the most mileage out of your first dance. When I observe dancers of all levels, I am typically most impressed by the subtlety of a good partnered relationship and not the flashy moves you might see on TV or in movies.

Keeping your dance simple also means to keep your expectations in check. Unless you're an experienced dancer, there's little reason to believe you'll be able to perform at an expert level during your wedding dance. Keep your dance simple and keep your expectations appropriate to the effort you've put in to working on your dance together.

Enjoy Yourself

Dancing is actually a lot of fun. Why do you think we spend so much time doing it? But I can't sugar coat the whole thing - learning to dance can be a lot of work and even be frustrating at times. 

Learning to dance together is a great way to get to get to know each other better, even if you've been together for years. Dancers can share a special connection and it's a great joy to share that with your partner. Just don't sweat the small mistakes that happen along the way and enjoy developing a skill with your partner. You may even find you love dancing enough to make it a permanent fixture of your relationship together!

Do It For Yourself

You might think there's a lot of pressure to but on a world class showcase of dance skill. But the truth is that wedding dances are charming because we get to see people in love share a moment together!

Try and silence the self-doubt, embarrassment, and pressure you feel from outside forces and instead focus on being with your partner in that wonderful moment. If you can do that I promise there won't be a dry eye in the room.

Find Out More

If you're ready to put together a compelling first dance, we have everything you need at Crescent City Swing. We offer private lessons, perfect for the wedding couple. And if you think the whole wedding party (or bachelor/bachelorette party!) would want to get in on the action, we have group class rates as well. For more information on all our wedding offerings, visit our weddings page.

As always, we're here to serve you. If you have any questions, drop us a line or comment below!

Mazel Tov!

2016, The Beautiful

Most of the time we swing dance because it's fun, it's exciting, and it's something to do on a Friday night. We're not performing for anyone, or giving a master class in aesthetics or choreography. We're simply doing our thing, making friends and very literally taking names. I think that experience is often very beautiful, even if accidentally. Sometimes though, beauty is more purposefully rendered, or bubbles up to the forefront of a dance and punches you sweetly in the face, refusing to let you think of anything else. "It's just SO BEAUTIFUL!"*, says me, wide-eyed and nearly in tears, watching dance videos at home in my pajamas with a tortilla chip suspended in the air halfway between the bowl and my face. I digress. There are a million and a half reasons to swing dance, and creating something beautiful is just one among them. This week I'd like to highlight a few of what I consider the most beautiful swing dance moments of 2016. 

Video Roundup!

Make a snack and take 20 minutes to let this playlist run over you like a cool mountain stream. I'm serious. Remember as you watch that these people are extremely good at this and there is no earthly reason to compare yourself to them. Think of them the way you might think about a great chef. You watch them on TV or experience their food IRL (see how hip and young I am), and go, "WHOA." or "I didn't know lentils could do that!", but then you still wake up the next morning and cook your eggs. Your amateur eggs. Maybe you're inspired to BAM a little extra spice into the pan or put your egg into a hole cut in a piece of toast, like an absolute wizard, but that's it. End of story. You don't stop because you're mad you're not the best. No crying because you don't have 20 years of Lindy Hop behind you already or have yet to receive the call that your dance has brought a kitten back to life. Ok? Ok.

Enjoy!

This list is subjective, and short. It's just a glimpse. If you want to get in further, I encourage you to check out Jerry Almonte's playlist of 2016 dance videos. I also encourage you to disagree with me. Get into those comments with some videos links of your own. Get in there also and spill which of these was your favorite. Tell me why!

*What I actually say is "WHAAAAAAAAAAT?"