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Swinging in the Rain (in Boston)

By Zarminae Ansari

Staff Writer

I had always thought it exciting to twirl over the dance floor -- but the only person who could lead me through the delightful twists and turns of swing dancing is not one of my peers. He is my dad. He calls it “jiving.” Fortunately for people like myself, the swing dance revival hit the West Coast and eventually made its way to our eastern shores. From movies like “The Mask,” and more recently “Swingers,” young people discovered that actually touching your partner as you dance is fun.

Then there was the Gap Khaki Swing ad. Bostonians knew that it was a hit when Barry and Eliot of Jordan’s Furniture based one of their now-famous spoof ads on it. Suddenly, swing was everywhere. Regulars found that their previously comfortable dance halls (once a well-kept secret) were now too crowded to really dance in. Nowadays, while the fad has leveled off and the first fad-followers have given up or moved on, there are even more dancers joining the ranks of swingers as people graduate from their swing classes.

A successful Swinging Under the Stars event with live bands and free swing dance lessons brought young and old to Quincy Market on Wednesday evenings this summer. There were special swing nights at all major night club venues. Soon, I found myself committing to a swing-dancing course.

Since it is always a good idea to join a dance class whose instructor is highly recommended by ex-class members, I asked around. It turned out that some friends had just recently, and, as they proudly told me, successfully, completed a six-week course at the Dance Complex in Central Square Cambridge.

The course description advertised that dancers need not bring a partner, but for moral support I grabbed a friend and found myself at the first class. I need not have worried. There were many people without partners, and all age groups were represented: high school students, graduate students from local universities, and both young and older professionals.

Our instructor was Ken Kreshtool, a professional dance instructor and ex-lawyer who is currently finishing a PhD dissertation in social psychology at Harvard. With instructions like: “Pass your partner like two Red Line trains crossing each other on the Longfellow Bridge,” Ken made our classes interesting and fun, even as we struggled with making the more complicated moves effortless and elegant. As the weeks progressed, we found ourselves actually swinging. I have to say that my partner was a real sport and had the right attitude to learning and was not self-conscious about asking for help from the instructor.

I asked Ken if he had encountered anything unusual as an instructor, and if he had any advice for someone thinking of taking dance lessons. “I had a student who did not seem to learn anything in the first four or five classes of a nine-class course. Then, on the sixth class, he seemed to be at exactly the same level as other students. Acknowledging the improvement, when I asked what had happened he said: ‘I’ve been practicing.’ My advice to beginners would be: just begin! Find a good teacher, not just a good dancer. Finally, don’t start classes before September 29th. Why? Because that’s when I start my classes!”

At our last class, we felt sad that something we had begun to look forward to had come to an end. Actually, it was just the beginning. Someone took the initiative of starting an e-mail list and now we try and meet at least once a week at one of the many venues around town. We can confidently dance even at outdoor events, including the wonderful dance at Quincy Market.

Now I have a whole group of friends ready to join the next classes which begin in the fall, while I will join the Advanced Swing II class to learn the more complicated stuff. See you on the dance floor.

Places to Learn Swing:

Freebie lessons at local swing events (more info


MIT Ballroom Dance Club

Dance Complex, Central Square

Cool CDs:

The Ultra Lounge Series: Wild Cool and Swinging

Frank Sinatra: Come Dance With Me