|Creators of this website, Swing Dance Instructors (West Coast Swing and East Coast Swing), Innkeepers and owners of The Sleigh Maker Inn, Westborough, MA.
Jim and I started taking swing dance lessons after becoming empty nesters during the spring of 1999. At the time we were living in Crozet VA, west of Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia. We sign up for an 8 week course in West Coast Swing offered by the Parks and Recs Dept. (not having any idea what it was, but it said "swing".) When we went to our first lesson, the instructors, Patty Ennis and Michael Smith, did a little demo of what we were going to learn. Well Jim and I thought, "yeah right, we are going to be able to that." As Patty started talking about the dance and the way her lesson was taught, she mentioned about the class rotating so that we all dance with each other, but if couples so choose they did not have to rotate. Well, as Jim I had been married for a very long time, even back then, we opted not to rotate. Big Mistake. We strugled through the 8 weeks and did mange to have a few heated discussions about what "he was suppose to be doing". Even still, we enjoyed taking the dance lessons and at the end of the 8 weeks we knew more than when we started. What we were doing did look somewhat like what the instructor was doing.
At the end of the last class we talked to Patty and explained how difficult it was for us. Patty suggested we try taking some East Coast Swing classes next time as it is an easier dance for beginners to learn, but she also suggested that we take part in the rotation. So, the next round of classes came up and we signed up for East Coast Swing. During this 8 week course Jim and I did participate in the rotation, and had a lot of fun doing so. I relized that all the leaders were having dificulty so I stopped giving Jim a hard time when we dance together and I also got comfortable dancing with other partners, both male and female, (yes, some of the women took the class as leaders). We were hooked and fell in love with partner dancing. While we lived in the Charlottesville area, we took lots of lessons in East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing, repeating a number of dance levels offered throught he Parks and Recs Department. We also took some lessons in Hustle and Night Club Two Step and even a beginner Ballroom course. After we started getting the hang of it, we volunteered to help out with the beginner level lessons. Jim was voted onto the board for the Charlottesville Swing Dance Club and we were out dancing as often as possible.
After dancing for 18 months we attended our first weekend dance event called "Swing Fling" which is held outside of Washington DC each August. I purchased my first offical pair of dance shoes as did Jim (Yikes that was a big bite out of our wallet) and we both found out what a difference they can make. During the first event, Jim and I stayed up to 3 in the morning dancing with everybody then we were up by 10 am and took advantage of as many workshops. Fun Fun Fun, but very tiring. As a side about the dance event weekends; they can be very imtimadating. The dancing is awesome, and you do feel like you are not up to par. Fortunately we had a number of people with us that kept saying, "All of the these people were beginners at some point too, just get out there and dance. " This was hard, but after a few glasses of wine, it became easier .
When Jim got his job offer from Motorola in Plantation FL, the first thing we did was look for information about the dance community there. When we went out for his job interview, after spending a long day with the realtor, we found a place to go dancing. Almost nobody was friendly. This was a shock for us as the group in Charlottesville was very friendly and welcomed a new face with open arms. Well after going to the South Florida's Swing Dance Society monthly dances for a few times we were discouraged and one night driving home we had a discussion about dropping out of dancing or "getting in their faces to the point that they could not ignore us". Guess which route we took. We started hunting down more dance lessons and showing up everywhere and asking them all to dance. They finally relented and started acepting us. As we became more involved we were asked to join the board for their club. It turned out that many of the members had been with the club since it was started and just did not notice new faces, they always danced with the same people. Well, we changed that. Though the years Jim and I became officers and Jim did the website. Eventually I became president and during that time we manage to increase membership from abour 120 people to 300. The club became more inventing and started treating new faces with open arms.
The last year we lived there, the board decided that we needed more WCS instructors in the South Florida area and we got a number of members to sign up and take a course with Ron Christy at the Arthur Murry Studio in Sunrise FL, in the basics of teaching WCS. Jim and I both took this course (this was on top of all the dance lesson and workshop and privates we had taken the last 4.5 years.) During this time period was when our little grandson, Ethan, was diagnoised with Leukemia and we made the decision to move back home to Massachusettes if possible.
During our trips up here right after Ethan was born we found out about the dances that Alan Cormier (Dance2Swing.com) was holding. At the time he was doing a monthly dance in W. Boylston, just a few minutes from my daughters house. After moving back, we started to go to Alan's dances. Folks asked about what type of dance we were doing and showed an interest in learning. Alan offered us the chance to start teaching with him on Sunday afternoon at a health club in Fitchburg. So this was our first go at teaching group lessons. It was unnerving but we manage and our students were very patient with us. Since then we taught a few lessons at Alan's Sunday night dances and two or three group lessons along with some privates. In the fall of 2008, I contacted the director of the After Dark Program at Assabet in Marlborough about having WCS swing lessons and he said "Yes" they would love it.
Jim and I have done a couple of minor Jack and Jill competitions and Jim placed once or twice, but we found competiton dancing is not for us. We love the social aspect of it and don't like the stress the comps can bring on. Anyway. That is our little history with partner dancing. I'm sure I left out many funny details. I just want people to know , Yes, you to can learn to dance.
To encourage everybody we meet to dance and to bring dancers together .