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Places to dance
SWING
in the Boston/Cambridge area

 Opinionated descriptions of all the local places to dance Swing

NOTE: We have been out of town since 2008, and have NOT been
updating this page regularly. It is pretty much frozen in time
(late 2007 wtih some March 2008 updates.) Things have changed
a lot since then, with some venues closed and new ones open.
Please see the OTHER INFO SOURCES (below) for current
but un-opinionated calendars.


Updated 3-30-2008


SWING:

Sundays

Mondays

Tuesdays

Wednesdays

Thursdays

Fridays

Saturdays


Below is a summary — with our gently opinionated comments — of regularly recurring Swing dancing opportunities that we happen to know about, organized by day of the week. We have emphasized the places that are comfortable for Swing (6-count) dancers, and places that are nearby. If you know of others, please email us and we'll include them!

Almost all of these places are fairly informal, and at most of them, people change partners every song (although you certainly don't have to!). In most of the places, people have a mild natural tendency to dance with people they already know, which gives an initial appearance of clique-ishness — but in almost all cases it's a false impression, and the dancers are happy to dance with anyone who knows even slightly how to dance. So just ask for a dance! (Exception: the local Lindy Hop clique is pathetically cliquish; just ignore these socially-challenged folks.)
      For additional gratuitous advice, see our Pragmatic Dance Floor Tips, with a focus on partner-changing.

OTHER INFO SOURCES.
(1) Also check the web sites www.havetodance.com and www.totalswing.com. Usually they are more up to date than this list, and occasionally they fall behind. But they are always worth checking, and are much better sources of information about one-time-only special events, almost none of which are mentioned here. (They're not opinionated, though; they just list things.) TotalSwing.com is especially good for concerts and the like.
(2) Check the freebie Boston area publication Stuff@Night.
(3) Check the Thursday "Calendar" section of the Boston Globe, both the listings and the ads.

WEST COAST SWING? With apologies, we have not listed dance places for West Coats Swing, a specialized variant that has its own technique and devotees. The www.havetodance.com calendar has a good listing of WCS places.

Have fun!

  


SUNDAYS

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Free Lindy Hop / Swing Dancing at Copley Square. Summer only, most Sundays, weather permitting. Not happening in the Winter, but we'll leave the listing here anyway until the 2008 summer schedule is posted.
Copley Square (outdoors), in front of Trinity Church, downtown Boston. 1:00-4:00 pm. $Free. This is an extremely informal dance that some of the local Lindy Hop dancers run just for fun, to help promote the joys of Swing dancing. DJ'd music. The dance is held outdoors on rough granite paving stones. (Frankly, we don't know what kind of shoes to recommend for that kind of surface!)



  


MONDAYS

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Lindy Hop Practice (link) Every Monday, except not on major Monday holidays.
First Church in Cambridge-Congregational, 11 Garden St. next door to the Sheraton Commander Hotel, Cambridge, MA. 8:30-10:45 pm. $5. NOTE: You MUST wear clean non-marring rubber-soled shoes, or just socks. No leather soles permitted. They are VERY strict about this. This is an informal DJ'ed dance that some of the ultra-hard-core Lindy Hop dancers run for themselves, but anyone may come in. It's no longer a "practice," however. In reality it's just another dance. It's relaxedly administered by Five Guys Named Mike — yes, there really are five of them. Comment: We can't really recommend this for Swing dancers until you have some Lindy Hop under your belt — it is a very hard-core Lindy Hop crowd, most of whom already know each other because they dance together 3-5 nights per week (really). But it is right in Harvard Square, so we are listing it here.
(Footnote: we — that's the editorial "we" — founded this Lindy Practice Hour in December 1998. After we had to give it up and go back to work, Mike Jonas kept it going and found this new home for it.)



  


TUESDAYS

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[Nothing at the moment, as far as we know.]



  


WEDNESDAYS

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Free Lindy Hop Dancing at MIT (link)
M.I.T. Student Center, either in Lobdell Cafeteria (2nd floor), or the Sala de Puerto Rico (also 2nd floor). Admission $FREE, open to the general public. Free lesson usually at 7:30. Dancing 8:30-11:30 pm. Extremely informal dance on the MIT campus with DJ'ed music for hardcore Lindy Hop dancers. (For attire, think MIT student fashion — t-shirts and the like.) But it's 100% free, so it's certainly worth the price of admission. Since the location and the dance-lesson offerings vary, it's a good idea to check their web site (see link above).

Boston Harbor Hotel (Free outdoor dancing by the water) (link)  Every Wednesday evening in the summer. Not happening in the Winter, but we'll leave this listing here until the Summer 2008 schedule is announced.
Admission $FREE, open to the general public. Dancing 6:00-10:00 pm to live Big Band music. Outdoor dining at the hotel's restaurant also available. Big Band music and outdoor dancing by the water. Which can be delightful or miserable, depending on whether the weather is cool and dry or hot and humid. (It's always much more humid next to the water.) The dance "floor" is rough outdoor material, so bring or wear your slipperiest shoes! This summer, the band is the White Heat Swing Orchestra, which has a superb classic big band sound.



  


THURSDAYS

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"Stomp" Lindy & Balboa Practice in Arlington (link)
Calvary Church, 300 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington. $3. 9:15-11:15 pm. A very relaxed, informal, and short dance that welcomes people who simply want to practice what they are learning. The crowd is rather exclusively Lindy Hop, so we cannot really recommend this dance for Swing dancers until you have some Lindy Hop under your belt. But when you are learning Lindy, keep it in mind.



  


FRIDAYS

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Friday night dances are springing up like daffodils! We have listed the new, resurrected Swing City (starting April 11, 2008) immediately below. We have not yet had time to list the new Friday dances by Boston Swing Cooperative (starting April 4, 2008, in Central Square, Cambridge) or Swing Dance Depot (starting May 2, 2008, in Watertown near the Town Diner). We'll get to those two as soon as we can.

Swing City (link)  Every Friday (almost).
New location as of April 11, 2008: Dormition Greek Orthodox Church, 29 Central St. Somerville, MA
Swing City is moving to new management and a new location as of April 11, 2008. Please see the new web site for details (scroll down on the Home page). Admission: $15 if live band, $12 if DJ-only ($10 for students w/ID). Since everything is new, we'll postpone any further description here until things develop into a consisent identity.

Note: these listings tend to be tentative. The farther into the future — even 2 months — the less reliable the following schedule. (Our personal, opinionated comments appear in parentheses after the band's name.)
2008

• Jan 4: The Winiker Swing Orchestra. (One of the old stalwarts in the Boston area, now in the hands of the 2nd generation and superbly re-invigorated. Great energy, excellent music.)
• Jan 11: DJs Jason Provost and Mike Hibarger
• Jan 18: Bombay Jim & the Swinging Sapphires. (One of the best swing bands around. Excellent.)
• Jan 25: Shawn Hershey and the Fried Bananas. (Shawn Hershey happens to be one of the best Swing/Lindy dancers in America, as well as one of the nicest, and now fronts a band that is really enjoyable to dance to.)
• Feb 1: Compaq Big Band. (Usually genuinely excellent. This is a non-profit band made up of employees of Compaq/HP, ex-employees of DEC, plus a few outsiders.)
• Feb 8: Sweet Willie D and the Continental Walk. (On the slower, bluesy end of the Swing spectrum.)
• Feb 15: The Toni Lynn Washington Band. (On the slower, bluesy end of the Swing spectrum.)
• Feb 22: Beantown Swing Orchestra. (Crisp, tight big band sound. Most nights, all their songs are extremely fast. Occasionally they use a playlist that is nicely balanced for tempo, but which includes several abusively long songs, between 10 and 14 minutes long — even champion dancers were walking off the floor in disgust. The arrogant band leader claims to have been a swing dancer in the past, but he does not play like one. We strongly dislike this kind of playing, but some people seem to enjoy it.)
• Mar 7: The Love Dogs. (Tons of fun! One of everybody's favorite local Swing bands. But go early — t they often use up all their Swing songs in the first couple hours. The last hour can be very "experimental.")
• Mar 14: White Heat Swing Orchestra. (Superb classic big band sound. However, they tend to play lots of fast songs and slow songs, with only a modest number of medium tempo songs.)
• Mar 21: CLOSED
• Mar 28: CLOSED
• Apr 4: CLOSED
NEW ERA BEGINS: RE-OPENS IN NEW LOCATION UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
See
SwingCityBoston.com for full details.
• Apr 11: (TBA)
• Apr 18: (TBA)
• Apr 25: CLOSED for Greek Orthodox Easter.


Blues Cafe (link)  Now on Saturdays, not Fridays, as of April 2008, so please scroll down a little.


  


SATURDAYS

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Ryles (upstairs room) (link)  Every Saturday.
212 Hampshire St., Inman Square, Cambridge. 617-876-9330. Admission $10. Age ID req'd (19+). Freebie lesson at 9:15, dancing to recorded music until 1:30 am. Ineffective air-conditioning; dress lightly. It's also a bar. The music on Saturdays is unusual for a dance joint: a mix of Ballroom, Swing, and Salsa, and occasional Funk or House. The music has improved and is pretty good these days, and the sound system is excellent (but a bit loud, especially by the end of the night — the DJ keeps inching the volume up as the night progresses). Interestingly, almost all of the songs can be danced multiple ways and people cheerfully do so without anybody sneering at anyone else. For example, some folks will dance Samba while others dance Merengue to the same tune, because it falls right in between. Similarly for Foxtrot, Swing, Jive, Lindy Hop and Quickstep. The dancers are an unusual mix, in keeping with the unusual combination of music genres played; some people are there just for one particular genre and will sit out all other songs, while a few will dance to almost everything. And a large chunk of the room will often be dominated by the strange gyrations of the young MIT ballroom dance team members who come here to practice. Another large chunk will be dominated by the competition-dance students of the dance organizer/DJ, who runs a dance studio the rest of the week. Nevertheless, it is a rather friendly crowd and people change partners and dance with each other. And there are usually plenty of beginners and intermediate dancers to have fun with.
 

Boston Swing Dance Network (most people call it "the Watertown Dance") (link)  2nd Saturday of each month (except when not), but not in July or August.
St. James Armenian Church, 465 Mt. Auburn St., at School St., Watertown. Admission $13. All ages admitted. Freebie lesson at 8; dancing to live big band music from about 9:00 to exactly 12:00 midnight. Lightly air-conditioned. Dress is on the spiffy side, at least by Swing dance standards — most women wear dresses, for example. Comments: The longest running Swing dance in the Boston area. There's good live music, a huge dance floor, people at all skill levels who love to dance (from complete novice to complete expert), lots of friendly changing of partners. We recommend going to the freebie lesson, taught by the dance organizer, beforehand — not for the content (nothing new for us), but for two other reasons: first, you'll see a completely different teaching style; and second, you'll get to see how many beginners there are (and who they are), which makes the whole dance less intimidating once the band begins. [Very minor note: BSDN is a private outfit as far as we know, despite what the name suggests.]
    Current schedule of BSDN Saturday dances. (Our personal, opinionated comments appear in parentheses after the band's name.)
2008
• Jan 12: Dom V and the Swing Out Big Band. (Good musicians, but usually play in a low-energy, low-projection way, unfortunately. Hey! Pick up those instruments and point them at the dancers!)
• Feb 9: White Heat Swing Orchestra. (Superb classic big band sound. However, they tend to play lots of fast songs and slow songs, with only a tiny number of medium tempo songs.)
• Mar 8: Eight To The Bar. (Easily one of the best Swing dance bands in the country today. A terrific local Swing band with a big, crisp, clean sound and lots of fun energy. Great for dancing ... usually. However, in the recent past they have been, shall we say, "experimental" and pretty mediocre for dancing. Let's hope they go back to being a good dance band.)
• Apr 12: (TBA)
• May 10: (TBA)
• Jun 14: (TBA)
(No dances in July or August)


Uptown Swing Dance Club (link)  Usually 3rd Saturday of the month, except Dec 2007 is the 1st Saturday.
Run by Hop To The Beat studio, held at Brookline Tai Chi, 1615 Beacon Street, Brookline, MA, opposite the T Green Line 'C' train's Washington Square stop. Time: 8:30-Midnight (beginner lesson 8:30-9:00pm). Admission: $15. Air-conditioned.
(We haven't tried this dance yet because it started up after we left on sabbatical.)
    Current schedule
2008
• Jan 19: The Racky Thomas Band.
• Feb 16: Sax Gordon Band.
• Mar 15: (TBA)
• Apr 19: Solomon Douglas Trio.
• May 17: (TBA)
• June 7: Shawn Hershey and the Fried Bananas.
 

Blues Cafe (link)  4th Saturday of the month (previously third Friday of the month)
SpringStep facility, top floor. 98 George Hassett Dr., Medford Square, immediately off I-93 by the AmeriSuites Hotel, Medford, MA. Ample free parking. MBTA bus 96 from Harvard Square to bus's last stop in Medford Square, then walk just past Medford's City Hall. Free lesson 8:30-9:00 pm. Dancing 9:00 pm-12:30 am. Admission: $15 ($8 for students/seniors w/ID), includes free coffee, bottled water, and finger-snacks.
A dance with a combination of Lindy Hop, Blues, and West Coast Swing, run by Elizabeth & Matthew Miller. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming, the building and its dance space are gorgeous, the sprung hardwood floor is excellent, the sound system is really superb. The live bands have almost all been terrificly good jazz musicians and excellent for Swing, Lindy and Blues dancing, and the DJs have also all been excellent so far. The music is quite good for 6-count Swing dancing. Just be prepared for a large percentage of slower music, which will let you practice dancing smoothly with Triple steps. A large majority of the crowd are young Lindy Hoppers at the moment, but Swing dancers are very welcome. The pleasantly unusual mix of music along with more out-of-towners than at most Boston dances, seems to loosen the crowd up and lend a bit of playfulness to the vibe. This is helped by the way the hostess walks around giving out homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Current schedule
2008
• Jan 18 (Friday): Solomon Douglas Swingtet
• Feb 15 (Friday): Two Hour Change. (Funk-pop. The music samples on their web site don't sound promising for dancing Swing or Blues, or anything else really, but ya never know.)
• Mar 21 (Friday): Beantown Swing Orchestra. (Crisp, tight big band sound. Most nights, all their songs are extremely fast. Occasionally they use a playlist that is nicely balanced for tempo, but which includes several abusively long songs, between 10 and 14 minutes long — even champion dancers were walking off the floor in disgust. The arrogant band leader claims to have been a swing dancer in the past, but he does not play like one. We strongly dislike this kind of playing, but some people seem to enjoy it.)
• Apr 24 (Saturday): Mike Wyatt Quartet.
• May 24 (Saturday, 9:00 pm - 4:00 am. Free lesson 8:00 pm. $40 / $35 students/seniors w/ID): Shawn Hershey and the Fried Bananas (first half) and the Cangelosi Cards (late-night half). The May 24 dance is anomalous. This happens to be the main dance for a full-weekend "BIX lindy and blues exchange," and since it runs much later than usual, and is taking over the entire building, and has 2 live bands, the pricing is completely different: $40 ($35 for students/seniors w/ID). Note that there is a pre-registration option for a $10 late night buffet, but it is ONLY available for paid pre-registrations, not at the door. Shawn Hershey is a great Boston-based Lindy dancer who also fronts a terrific little band. The Cangelosi Cards are staggeringly good New York musicians who play fast or bluesy 20s/30s style swing with a sweetness that you just have to experience. If you like Django Rheinhardt, you'll like the Cangelosi Cards.



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