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.