Where can I learn to dance with a partner in Washington, DC?
July 3, 2011 9:32 PM   Subscribe

Where can I learn to dance with a partner in Washington, DC?

Last time a girl asked me to dance, I had to decline, explaining that I didn't know how. I don't care to give that answer again.

So, I need a place where a single, mid-late twenties male can go to learn to dance with a partner. Salsa would be ideal, swing might work. The key is that I need a place I can go with no experience and no partner, and learn to dance at least semi-competently in a style common enough to be useful. (It does me no good to learn the Slovakian Jitterbug, or what have you, if no one else knows it and music meant for it is hard to find in American bars or clubs.)

Does anyplace inside the Beltway come to mind? Does such a thing even exist? Free is preferable, obviously, but I'm willing to spend money if necessary.
posted by Mr. Excellent to Human Relations (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The only place I know to Contra Dance near DC is at Glen Echo in Maryland, but it's pretty magical. It meets many of your other requirements, in that you don't need any experience to get started, you can go alone, you dance with many different partners during the course of an evening and many of the moves will transfer to other styles of dance. You will at least get comfortable moving on the dance floor.
The other thing is, that during the break, you will often get little tastes of other styles of dance - sometimes they'll throw on some swing or tango music and people who know how do do that style, will.
The page I linked to above, shows lots of listings for other types of dance as well.
posted by jvilter at 9:57 PM on July 3, 2011

Washington DC has a great Argentine tango scene. It's not always an easy dance to learn but oh, so worth it if you find that you find that you love the music and the intimacy of the dance.
posted by noonday at 11:18 PM on July 3, 2011

Most partner dances will give you the basic framework you need to be able to pick up others very quickly; the tricky thing to learn is the lead-and-follow dynamic. It works somewhat differently depending on the style of dance but the overall goal is the same.

For swing lessons/events, try the listings on Jitterbuzz. There is a *ton* of swing dancing in DC, and almost every event will have a beginner class that you can attend without any previous experience or a partner.

If you want to learn ballroom dancing, you might try joining one of the university ballroom dance clubs. Their training tends to be more aimed at competitive dancing but many of them also offer social dance classes for people who just want to learn the basics - not sure which ones might have dancing available over the summer though!
posted by SymphonyNumberNine at 3:30 AM on July 4, 2011

I've had a lot of fun at events hosted by gottaswing.com (mainly their stuff at the Dulles Hilton) and have also gone to some random salsa nights that are pretty good. Most events/ intro classes run between $5 and $15, usually with an open dance session after. As a guy the numbers skew in your favor (more ladies, usually) so just have a good time with it and feel free to tell people you're learning. Also don't beat up on yourself if you make a mistake-nothing was more off-putting to me than the guy who was pissed at himself over a misstep. Maybe none of that last bit applies but I thought I'd mention it just in case.
posted by brilliantine at 5:07 AM on July 4, 2011

For swing, I second the gottaswing.com people. I took lessons with them for years Most people come alone and you constantly change partners anyway.
posted by atomicstone at 7:55 AM on July 4, 2011

For our wedding, Mrs. Procrastination and I took some classes at Joy of Motion. They were good, so let me recommend them. We went to the Dupont location, but there are a couple of others.
posted by procrastination at 8:14 AM on July 4, 2011

Washington DC has an AMAZING Salsa Scene and some of the best instructors and dancers in the world. There's a place to salsa most nights of the week and it's a great way to meet people. You want to check out Stuck on Salsa and click on CONTACT and ask them where you should take lessons - they are a very friendly bunch, and will point you in the way of not just a great community but great quality dance classes. If you would like to talk to someone who's a salsa scene old timer, contact a man called Earl Rush on Facebook - he would be happy to help and is based in DC too.
posted by shazzam! at 9:34 PM on July 4, 2011

Is your goal to (a) be able to dance with other people who already know that style of dance, or (b) do you want a set of skills that you'll be able to do with people at bars/weddings/other social events where the follow might have done some social dancing in the past, but you won't know in advance what style she'll know.

If it's (a) then D.C. has a ton of social dancing of every style imaginable. Some of the big ones (among people your age) are Salsa, Lindy Hop (East Coast Swing), West Coast Swing, Tango, Conta and Blues. I am not aware of any that you could learn for free, but all of them should be pretty affordable. The key is to find the one with the community/feel/atmosphere/music that fits you best. A tango dance and contra are going to feel very different. The best way to figure it out is to watch some videos on youtube of each style and then give some of them a try in person. A lot of dances will have a beginner lesson immediately before the dance.

If you want a social dance style that you'll be able to use almost anywhere you go to any style of music then I strongly suggest Blues dancing. At lessons you'll be dancing mostly to one genre of music (Blues), but the movement and lead/follow that Blues uses is pretty easy to pick up and can be shifted to fit a wide range of music. After you get a bit of practice at leading it you'll be able to lead a fun dance with people who've never done any blues to all sorts of different music.

Feel free to PM me if you have more questions. I used to social dance in DC, but now live in Boston. I've done at least a little bit of most of the major types of social dancing.
posted by vegetableagony at 1:56 PM on July 15, 2011

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