Swing Dancing in the Twin Cities
Photo by Erica Loeks
I first learned about swing dance as a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas when I attended a student performing arts show on campus. One of the very last dances was an upbeat swing number with about 10 couples twirling, spinning and flipping in the air. As a dancer myself, I was delighted. I had danced my whole life (well, since I was three), but I had never focused on social dance before—the energy and joy that exuded from the dancers' faces made me want to learn.
An opportunity came when a friend of mine, Thomas, invited me to a university swing dance event. It was a Friday night, and 40-plus people showed up to dance in the lower level of the student center. Girls were wearing sundresses with converse, and a couple of the guys had dressed up with some colorful bow ties and socks. After a quick sound system malfunction, the music started and students flooded the floor. I was timid at first, but Thomas had a lot of swing dancing experience and I happily walked away from the event with a basic idea of how to swing dance (although there was no flipping in the air for me that night!).
We all know the Twin Cities are not lacking in the music and theater departments, and swing dance is no different. Whether you’re a seasoned swing dancer looking to hit the local dance floor or a visitor wanting to try something new while in the cities, here are a few dance club and studio options located in the Twin Cities.
Run by Cindy and Terry Gardner, TC Swing is one of the most popular swing dancing locations. TC Swing offers weekly classes for East Coast Swing (the easiest form of swing dance) followed by Lindy Hop (the original swing dance form) later in the evening. On Thursday nights, dancers can come to its Late Night Swing with a $6 admission ($5 with a student I.D.), and if they want to get a little fancier, on the first Saturday of the month is First Saturday Swing with a live band and open bar.
Besides being a really cool historical destination (have you been on a tour yet?), Wabasha Street Caves offers a Thursday night swing dance with a cover charge of $8 cash (due to bad reception problems in the caves, credit cards aren't accepted). Doors open at 6 p.m., and live jazz music is provided from 7 to 10 p.m. Some regular bands include The Moonlight Serenaders with vocalist Lee Engele, The Minnesota Jazz Orchestra with vocalists Gregg Marquardt and Debbie O’Keefe, and Beasley’s Big Band with vocalist Courtney Burton among many others.
Located on Hennepin Avenue, Four Seasons Dance Studio focuses solely on social partner dance styles and offers East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing and Lindy Hop classes among a selection of more traditional ballroom dances. The studio also throws its own dance parties for dancers to practice their new moves. Check out the studio’s online schedule for rates, events and class options.
Named after its Minneapolis location where owner and founder Peter Strom grew up and as a tribute to Uptown, New York City-Harlem where the Lindy Hop was born, Uptown Swing offers two nights of classes with four different levels, bringing hundreds of dancers through its doors every week. Single lessons are $12 and a full four-lesson session is $40 (discounts are available with a student I.D.) On Saturday, March 24, join Uptown Swing for its first ever Uptown University with national instructors coming in to teach classes for intermediate and advanced levels. A dance will follow the lesson with a free beginner class taught at 8 p.m. and live music from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Wednesday night is swing dance night at Lee’s Liquor Lounge in Minneapolis. Lessons are taught by Bill and Shannon Butler at 8 p.m., and live music begins at 9 p.m. Check Lee’s Liquor Lounge online schedule for more music, dance and event information.