Dancing in the D.C. Area
Places to dance in the Capital 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
APRIL 2023: SOCIAL DANCING IS COMING BACK IN THE CAPITAL AREA! When this page launched, you could go dancing every night of the month and many afternoons as well, in Washington DC and its neighboring states, Maryland and Virginia. Then came Covid. Now dancing is coming back. You won't find 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. Little by little I will update these pages of my website on Dancin in the Capital Area, to help you find a place to trip the light fantastic.
Social and ballroom dancing
• Argentine Tango in the Capital area (Capital Tangueros, Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Annapolis, MD)
• Blob's Park Social Dance Club Yes, we're back! Blob's Park may be gone but the dancers and fans are still here. Follow us on our Facebook page: Blob's Park Social Dance Club
• Ballroom at Maryland (BAM) The University of Maryland's Social and Competitive Ballroom Dance Team. See its Resource page for more places to go social dancing.
• Capital Blues Blues dancing in the Capital area. "Our weekly dance happens Thursday nights at 9 in the Back Room at Glen Echo Park."
• Chevy Chase Ballroom (Dancesport Center) Learn to social dance.
• Dance Factory (Arlington, Virginia) Wedding First Dance Lessons in DC. Waltz, Foxtrot, Rumba, Cha Cha, Swing, Salsa and Tango. Serving the Northern Virginia and Washington DC area
• Dances at Glen Echo Park (some in the Spanish Ballroom, some in the outdoor pavillion). Not the full weekends of activity of yesteryear, since the pandemic.
• Waltzes at Glen Echo
Cajun and Zydeco
---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 A placeholder site for Cajun, Zydeco, Creole, and Swing music, dance, and cultural information.
---Dancing by the Bayou(Michael Hart and Sharon Schiliro's Facebook page) Cajun dancing and zydeco lessons; they used to host dances, often at Glen Echo).
---Johnny Can't Dance Four minutes of Cajun music (Ray Abshire, Stallet Stockholm 2008). Stay tuned to that YouTube video and you'll hear more videos of Cajun music.
Folk Dancing: International (Bulgarian, Romanian, Albanian, Macedonian, Serbian, Roma, etc), Contra and Square, English country and Scottish Country, Scandinavian and Israeli
• Contra dancing, folk dancing, and square dancing (Pat McNees, article for Washington Post and from her book about Dancing in the Capital Area)
• Folklore Society of Greater Washington (FSGW) roster Weekly events include English Country dance every Wednesday night (at Glen Echo Town Hall) and a co-sponsored American contra and squares every Friday night (at Glen Echo, Spanish Ballroom) Monthly events include a Family Dance and several co-sponsored American contra dances. FSGW cosponsors International Folk Dancing at Glen Echo and in Greenbelt.
• Germantown Country Dancers
• Scottish Country Dancing
• The Black Nag (Video of one English country dance, in Gainesville). Here's another sample of the music.
• Contra Dance Primer (Les Francey and Farrell Boyce, Hamilton Contra Dances) See also What Is Contra Dance (Gary Shapiro)
• Contra Dance Resources An old jam-packed page of links to resources.
Irish music and dance Irish social dancing involves two, four, or more couples dancing together in a programmed set of movements)
• Greater Washington Ceili Club
• Greenfeet Irish dancing and music in the Washington/Baltimore area.
• Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers Scroll down for calendar of local Irish events.
• Country western (honky-tonk) dancing (Pat McNees, article for Washington Post, umpteen years ago)
• DC Area Country Dancers (a Facebook group) Maybe country dancing is coming back from Covid
• Northern Virginia Country-Western Dance Association (NVCWDA)
Swing and Jitterbug
• Swing, Lindy, Jitterbug, Shag, and Hand-Dancing (Pat McNees, article for Washington Post)
• DC Swing Experience (Dance Jam Productions) Seems to be active, April 2023
• Dance Jam Productions swing dancing (Dave Moldover, YouTube)
• Dance Jam Productions (video, Dave Moldover)
• West Coast swing Facebook group
A few pieces about dancing
• Ballroom dancing in the DC Area (Pat McNees)
• Irish céilís and set dances (Pat McNees)
• Honky Tonkin' (Dan Zak, Washington Post, 9-6-07)
• Love at First Waltz (Cheryl Collin)
• Shuffling Off to Buffalo Gap Dance Camp (Pat McNees)
A few videos about dancing
• History of the Spanish Ballroom (Glen Echo Park, Maryland, 3.5 min.)
• Swing Jam Circle in the Spanish Ballroom (2013) Age no barrier. Most dancers don't dance that athletically.
• Contra dancing at Glen Echo's Dance Pavilion
• Swing dancing at Glen Echo to Doc Scantlin (2013)
• Tango: It's Not Just a Dance (YouTube video) Carol Meier's excellent video-narration of the history, music, and origins of Tango, from early in the 20th century on. Informative video and narration conveys the complexity, pleasures, and difficulty of this addictive and demanding dance form. For example, the male tango dancer does not wear pants with cuffs because it would be too easy for the woman's high heel to get caught in them.
• Salty Dog Rag (Folkdance Noa-am)
• Bottle Dance from Fiddler on the Roof (clip from the movie)
• KLEZMER Israeli Dance Yoav Ashriel
• Klezmer dance music (Imani Winds)
Dancing helps fend off dementia--so go crazy on the dance floor!
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.
[The source has disappeared, but I'm leaving the numbers here.--PM]
• Science Daily: "Dance therapy improves seniors' gait, balance, researcher finds."
• Kick up your heels – ballroom dancing offers benefits to the aging brain and could help stave off dementia (Research Brief, The Conversation, 1-3-23) Not only is it good aerobic exercise, but dancing may help the elderly with reasoning skills and memory.
A lot of the entries that follow seem to have been rendered out of date by the Covid Pandemic. Above I have pulled together the dance venues and activities that still seem to be happening.
Below are scraps of the old dance page, which I have to go through and delete or update. I just don't have time to do it right now.
-- Pat McNees
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)
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 Great 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 céilís 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