Pat McNees

Writer, editor, ghostwriter, personal historian

USAF Band WWII Holiday Flashback. You'll find some great swing dancing on this 8+ minute video.

Let's Dance (video compilation expressing the joy of various styles of performance dancing over the years)


How to cut your risk of memory loss (David C. Martin, CNN 11-9-11). "Ballroom dancing is perfect [for keeping the brain sharp] because it combines physical activity, social interaction and the mental challenge of remembering the steps," says Dr. Majid Fotuhi, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness and a neurology professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

"Football isn't a contact sport; it's a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport."
~ attributed to both Vince Lombardi and Duffy Daugherty

Dancing Without Stars. “We don’t need lessons, you just need to learn to feel the beat," said her husband, when she asked him to take dance lessons with her. Then he left her. Now she's signed up for dance lessons at Arthur Murray and we're invited to read about her progress on her blog. I predict she's going to love dancing.

"There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good."
~ Edwin Denby

"To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful.
This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking."
~ Agnes De Mille

"We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance."
~Japanese proverb, quoted in Waltz Time

"The most difficult part of tango is not the steps. It's learning to stand thisclose to a total stranger..."
~Ylan Q. Mui, writing about the people who grow addicted to the dance, in Transformed by Tango Nights (Washington Post, 3-28-08). You can do Argentine tango almost every night of the week in the D.C. area. Check out Capital Tangueros to learn where.

"People who walk on thin ice may as well dance on it."
~ quote found on Grub Street bathroom wall

"Life may not be the party we expected, but while we're here we may as well dance."
~ slogan seen on tee shirt on the dance floor

"Odds are you'll find someone here. But odds are, he'll be odd."
~ Martha, at Glen Echo, telling me what a fellow told her when she started dancing there

"Friedrich Nietzsche thought that to grow beyond his ordinariness, man needed that inner lightness which is the lightness of the dancer."
~ Walter Sorrell, Dance in Its Time

"There is a dancer buried in even the fattest of us."
~ Pamela Brown

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Dancing in the D.C. Area

"Life may not be the party we expected, but while we're here we might as well dance."~slogan on tee shirt in Glen Echo Ballroom

You can go dancing every night of the month and many afternoons as well, in the Capital area. You won't find that many politicians on the dance floors I'm familiar with, but you will find a lot of good dancers, and you can hear some of the best dance music in the country. Until I can find the time to update Dancing: A Guide to the Capital Area, I hope these links and pieces on dancing will help you find a place to meet your needs. As soon as I get a break from helping people write their memoirs I'll update to add all the great new Facebook pages, with info on current dances. Meanwhile, not this research finding, about how dancing fends off dementia:

In terms of reduced risk of dementia, here is how some of the activities, mental and physical, stacked up:
Bicycling and swimming – 0% reduced risk
Playing golf – 0%
Reading – 35%
Doing crossword puzzles at least four days per week – 47%
Dancing frequently – 76% – the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.
Source: Dancing and Dementia . See also Science Daily, "Dance therapy improves seniors' gait, balance, researcher finds."


Cajun and Zydeco
• Dancing by the Bayou (Michael Hart and Sharon Schiliro's Cajun dancing and zydeco lessons; they also host dances, often at Glen Echo). Here they are on Facebook
• Fools Night Out (Scott Mitchell's links to Cajun, Zydeco, Latin, Swing, and other dancing, plus venues for blues, swing, rockabilly, zydeco, and occasionally Latin, Ska, and Cajun music)
• WhereWeGoToZydeco.com (Cajun/​Zydeco in the Mid-Atlantic Region)
• Arnb.Org (the source for worldwide Cajun, Zydeco and Creole music, dance, and cultural information, a/​k/​a CajunZydeco.info, CajunSchedule.com, or ZydecoSchedule.com
• Artisphere
• Johnny Can't Dance (listen to the music, Ray Abshire, YouTube)


Dance Forums on various specialties, and here's a collection of articles about dancing.

Dancing in Other Cities
Let me know what links I should add here.
• Seven Day Guide to Folk, Social and Traditional Dancing in and around Philadelphia
• Central Jersey dancing
• Swing dance in Boston and New England
• The Back of the Closet (a wonderful miscellany)
• Dance Gypsy (the search engine does NOT turn up all dances in DC area)

Diamond Dance Circle (The International Folk Dancers of Bethesda).

Folk Dancing (Elliot and Karen Bogart's DC Folk Dance web page, with information about international folk dancing , Scandinavian folk dancing, Israeli dances, and contra dancing

Folk Dancing in the Capital Area
This page has been updated and reorganized. You'll find dances listed in these categories:
• Folk dance guides and calendars for the DC area
• Contra dances in the Capital area
• English and Scottish country dancing (and Morris dancing)
• International folk dancing International (Bulgarian, Romanian, Albanian, Macedonian, Serbian, Roma, etc), Scottish, English, Scandinavian and Israeli folk dancing
• Videos of folk dancing


Glen Echo dancing calendar (click on events). Here are some videos of dancing there, in the Spanish Ballroom and the Bumper Car Pavilion:
• Swing dancing in the Spanish Ballroom
• A waltz in the Bumper Car Pavilion (to one of my favorite waltzes)
• Friday night contra dance in Spanish Ballroom (this gives a good view both of the ballroom and of what contra dancing is like. Nerds prefer contra to ballroom because it is "called" and it is a predictable set of steps--yet you can see the ample room for variations).
• Dawn Hampton, who danced at the Savoy Ballroom, dancing with John Dokes at Glen Echo (at the Gottaswing dance, which emphasizes 8-count swing, or Lindy). One thing you'll notice: this is a cross-generational venue.
• Dancing a Scandinavian Hambo in the Bumper Car Pavilion
• The Friday Night Contra Dance in the Spanish Ballroom (one way it differs from American Square Dancing is that the music is always live--and there are GREAT contra bands in the DC area)
• Dentzel Carousel (outside the Spanish Ballroom, in Glen Echo Park)



Richard Powers, Historic Social Dance (a/​k/​a Vintage Dance). Powers, based in the Stanford Dance Division, sometimes does workshops in the DC area, and some dancers travel to go to his workshops. The strong vintage dance series we once enjoyed at Glen Echo died out, sadly. But you can learn a lot from these articles on Richard's dance website:
• Ultimate Partnering
• Welcome Chance Intrusions! ("Lateral-thinking dancers see differences from what they expected to happen as opportunities, not mistakes.")
• Sketchy Guys
• Conditional vs. Absolute Learning (the power of uncertainty)
• The American Spirit of Creativity and Crossover
• Intelligent Dance . Intelligence is what we use when we don't already know what to do, wrote Jean Piaget. Powers applies this to dance (vs. authority-based dancing).
• The Three Worlds of Ballroom Dance (social, competitive, exhibition)
• Thoughts, philosophies and musings on social dance (these and more stories by Richard Powers)


Washington Swing Dance Committee (Facebook page). The Facebook page is more useful than the now ad-heavy old WSDC website


Videos showing various kinds of swing dancing
• Boogie woogie (a superfast, energetic swing dance, with aerials) as danced by Maeva and Will, with Silvan Zingg on piano (YouTube video)
• Swing dancing at Glen Echo's Spanish Ballroom (six-count)
• DC Hand Dancing, old style (from '50s and '60s)
• DC Hand Dancing (Mike and Joyce Chucci and Patricia)
• Dancing at DC Hand Dance Club (June 2009)
• MADjam 2012 Champions Jack & Jill Final - Arjay Centeno & Melissa Rutz.mov (West Coast swing champions)
• Greg Scott and Hannah Wenzel perform their Classic West Coast Swing routine (mind you, not everyone does it this well!)
• Baltimore Dance: The Friday Night Swing Dance Club (held in Towson, MD, video from 2009)



This spot on my personal website is a stand-in for Dancing: A Guide to the Capital Area, my information-packed guide to social dancing, mostly in the suburbs of DC. It includes a social history of social dancing in and around Washington, D.C., including the Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs, describing and listing nearly 200 regular dances, dance groups, and classes in:

International, Cajun, German, Greek, Hungarian, Indian, Israeli, Italian, Polish, Turkish, and Scandinavian folk dancing;

English and Scottish country dancing and Irish ceilis, American squares and contras, morris dancing, and clogging;

Ballroom dancing, swing (East coast and West coast, lindy, jitterbug, shag, and so on--and Charleston), and country western;

And the marvelous Sunday waltzes and LaSalle Band tea dances at Glen Echo Park -- in the Spanish Ballroom and/​or the Bumper Car Pavilion (link below), where the contra dances Friday and Sunday evenings are also held, as well as countless swing, ballroom, Cajun, and zydeco dances. Glen Echo's ballroom is generally VERY sweaty in the summer months, as there is no air-conditioning, but as of June 2006 there were six wonderful big standing fans in the ballroom, which suggests that the park management is listening to dancers' suggestions!

This little guide (very slowly being revised, because I am swamped with other work) was most recently available through Travel Books & Language Center, 202-237-1322.

"What an extraordinary job. I can't believe that you've done such a complete search. Very valuable."
-- Dr. Gabe Mirkin, fitness expert

"Well worth the price." --Country Dance & Song Society News

"An essential tool for the neophyte." -- Michael Dolan,author of The American Porch, in Washingtonian Magazine

My favorite dance is the Sunday afternoon waltz at Glen Echo's Spanish Ballroom (or, second Sundays, the ballroom dances to the LaSalle Band's music from the '20s and '30s), with swing and jitterbug a close second -- and little by little (it takes forever)I am learning the Argentine tango. But I've tried most of the kinds of dancing offered in the Washington area --a surprisingly wonderful and affordable venue for dancing. Elsewhere on this site are selections from my guide to dancing in the capital area, which I put together because many of the dances aren't listed in the Post's Weekend Section. (It is their policy to list only dances with live music, although many kinds of dances are done to recorded music, including Argentine tango and many kinds of folk dancing.)

"This guide is as entertaining as it is informative."
--Roberta Gottesman, Finding Fun & Friends in Washington

Other dance pages on Pat's website


• Dancing: A guide to the Capital area (Dancing in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia)
• Ballroom Dance
• Ceilis (Irish cιilνs and set dances)
• Country Western Dancing
• Folk dancing in the Capital area (Contra, English country, international, Irish, Israeli, Scandinavian, Scottish)
• Love at First Waltz (by Cheryl Kollin)
• Shuffling Off to Buffalo Gap Dance Camp (Pat McNees)
• Swing, lindy, jitterbug, shag, and hand-dancing
• Dating -- again! (that's extra, but often relevant -- dancing is one way to restore your social self, after separation)
Many of the stories by Pat McNees posted here appeared first in the Washington Post
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Books, articles, and more

Writing or telling life stories
Everyone has a story to tell. What's keeping you from telling yours? Become a storykeeper or personal historian or find one.
A loving testament, or legacy letter, sharing your life experiences and lessons with the next generation
Learn to write articles, reports, ethical wills, or life stories (memoirs and beyond).
Mom — hardworking, sassy, and full of surprises
Mutual support and discussion
Social history through the life of an ordinary Midwestern businessman.
Dancing, food, good books, and other diversions
Favorites of several book groups
What is the single lunch-bag item most hated by all children?
What heightens the caviar experience is the price of those little gray or black sturgeon eggs.
Links to dancing venues and calendars for the Washington, D.C. area.
Midlife "first dates"
Did she fall in love with the man or the waltz?
Also related: jive, hustle, hand-dancing.
All the dancing your feet can take
Choosing a school of dance
Contra, English country, international, Irish, Israeli, Scandinavian, Scottish
The big ones, with dirty stems
"A rich, varied, and highly rewarding collection," says Joyce Carol Oates
Ceilis (Irish dancing)
Medical mysteries, patient stories, and practical links
John Travolta played the boy in the movie. The real story ended far differently.
Thin little Marian had a cholesterol problem most people have never heard of.
You've probably never heard of this national research hospital and clinic. But someone you know may be able to benefit from it directly and all of us do, indirectly.
Understanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the debate on health care reform. Avoiding medical errors
Dying, mourning, and other inevitable events
"This remarkable collection, coming from personal experience and wide reading, will help many find the potential of growth through loss." --Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the hospice movement
For those dying, for caregivers, and for the bereaved
Listen to samples of popular songs and music
Girls and science
Cool science sites
Best practices for teaching science--to strengthen the science workforce.
Some links and a selection
Practical matters
Identify children's learning styles and improve their ability to learn.
Six weeks to hassle-free homework.
Why parents should be concerned.
Public speaking is a craft, not an art. It can be learned.
Can you wash it if it says "dry clean"?
Fact vs. fantasy
One woman's story.
Don't focus on the fabric.
Organizational histories
A frank history of the Young Presidents' Organization.
The little lift truck that could — a story of brilliant marketing in America's heartland.
Online Shopping
Best places to shop online