Thursdays at the Fed!

Thursday nights the Women’s Fed holds a swing dance… it’s $5. ($3 if you’re a member of the Swing Society, but I haven’t quite convinced myself it’s worth the money to join.)  It’s not my favorite venue, simply because it, like most of the Austin dance scenes I’ve been in, is pretty closed off.  As far as I can tell, most of the people dance with people that they know, and when they do decide to take a chance on a new partner, it’s someone who they’ve determined is a good enough dancer.  And even outgoing and really good dancers have a hard time breaking into the community, from what I can see. (Multiple people have shared this observation with me, sadly.)

I’m used to the San Antonio scene, where about 10% of the better leads and follows will make sure everyone is getting danced with – and others follow suit.  This makes it much easier to get into the community. Not, of course, that anyone has an obligation to dance with anyone else, but still, it’s better when the general attitude is to dance with people for the sake of dancing, rather than for the sake of being good. (For example, in San Antonio, if I go with a group of friends, all the leads I know will generally dance with as many of my friends as possible, I’ll dance with all the leads my friends know…  At the Fed, my friends and I all have different leads we dance with, with very little crossover. Even though we almost always go together. It’s weird.)

That being said, the Fed is an excellent place to people/dance-watch.  There are tons of excellent dancers, so if you’re looking for swing inspiration, this is the place to be.   People have incredible style, both in dress and dance!  There’s a huge crowd and people are of all ages are evenly mixed.  It’s a good way to keep in touch with what’s happening in the swing/blues world as well, because they’ll announce and post upcoming events. They offer lessons beforehand, which might make it easier to get into the community – I’ve never been to one (I think they’re $10 or something) – and they cover a variety of dances.

You will get at least a few dances, even if you don’t know anyone. The DJs vary in skill – there’s one who likes to stop songs right in the middle of phrases, which causes some awkward stops – but the music keeps going and it’s a good selection.  There’s a side room that plays blues or groove or shag, or something swing-related-but-not-swing, which is a nice break if you need it and a great way to learn new dances. (If you’re a learn by doing person.)  At 10:30, there’s a birthday dance – participate during the week of your birthday! It’s a whirlwind of fun and you’ll dance with so many people!

It’s usually worth the $5, unless I have something better to do or am really tired.


Tango Mondays!

Every Monday, Cafe Medici hosts an instructor from Esquina Tango for an hour (ish) long lesson at 8:00 (ish) and then a milonga (tango social dance) until 11:00 p.m.  I’ve been going for a couple of months now, more or less consistently, and I really enjoy it! 

The instructor’s name is Gustavo (sp?) and he’s originally from Argentina.  (Warning: When he gets excited, his accent can be hard to decipher and occasionally he slips into Spanish when he really gets going.  My Spanish is fairly limited to Tex-Mex, but it’s usually easy to figure out what he’s trying to tell you.)

He’s really upbeat and incredibly nice – even when correcting! – and will wander during lessons helping couples.  I generally get a few minutes of one-on-two instruction from him during a lesson, which is very unusual for a free intro lesson.  He also peppers the lesson with nuggets about the history and culture of tango, which is very nice.  It’s always a fun and festive atmosphere – lots of jovial joking and laughter.  A big part of the atmosphere is fueled by Gustavo’s energy and enthusiasm!

Tango is difficult, especially for the leads, so don’t get discouraged if you have trouble with anything beyond the basic movements for the first few lessons. Skill levels vary, from brand-spanking new to intermediate (found at lessons) to seasoned, skillful veterans (at the milonga afterwards).  Age tends to vary wildly, as well, though most everybody is 21+.   The really wonderful thing about here is that it’s much more open than most other parts of the Austin dance community I’ve been to.  There are plenty of people who’ll ask you to dance (or accept an invitation, depending on how outgoing you are), especially if you attend the lesson, and it doesn’t take very long to become a regular.