You’re about to take your first group dance lesson! Or perhaps you’ve taken them before but it’s your first time at Ottawa’s Weekly West Coast Swing Event. Here’s what you can expect from a group dance class with Smoothstyle:
Our weekly group lessons and socials are located at a local bar. Half of the facility is a neighbourhood bar with regulars, pool tables, and other bar games. The other half – behind our red curtain! – is a spacious dance floor with seating surrounding it.
You can bring drinks and food from the bar side into the dance side – we encourage it! (Within reason – partner dancing is not suitable for intoxicated people and we make sure everyone stays safe).
Lighting is low in the venue. We teach under lights, but the areas where coats, bags, and shoes are kept can be dark. The, lights are lowered for social dancing and we also turn on “party lights” for the social.
We do our best to offer a fragrance-free environment so that everyone can fully enjoy the evening. We ask our attendees to avoid wearing perfume and cologne. Check these guidelines for how to smell good but not too good when you dance.
What to Wear
West Coast Swing is a casual dance. Women rarely wear skirts or dresses. Jeans, tights, and even shorts in the Summer is normal attire. T-shirts are fine. If you like to dress up, khakis and a button-down shirt or fancy tights and a flowy blouse will fit in, too. It’s most important to be well groomed – wear freshly laundered clothes and brush your teeth before attending.
We wear low-heeled to flat shoes. If you don’t have dance shoes yet, clean indoor shoes will work. Sketchers, Toms, and Airwalkers are popular among new and experienced dancers alike.
When you enter behind the red curtain, you’ll be greeted by our friendly door staff.
If it’s your first visit:
- You’ll be asked to sign a waiver (our insurance requires it)
- Your entry will be free that night
- The door staff will answer questions and invite you to take a seat until your class begins
- There’s room to hang coats, places to stash personal belongings, and to change your shoes (please bring clean indoor shoes)
If you’re a returnee, you’ll pay via cash, credit, or debit. Then come on in and get ready to dance.
We teach two 45-minute classes on Tuesday nights, and the higher level class (Intermediate/Advanced) is first at 7:00 pm. Beginners begin at 7:45 pm.
You’ll be taught by two of Smoothstyle’s well trained, talented instructors. They’ll begin by getting everyone set up into partners and rows, then will explain how the class will unfold.
If you’re a new beginner and the main class has advanced past two weeks, we’ll give you a “crash-course” to the side of the main lesson.
West Coast Swing is danced by a wide range of ages and walks of life. At Smoothstyle events, ages range from early 20s (sometimes younger) through retirement and beyond. The average age of our attendees is mid- to late 30s. This diversity creates a “family” feel.
We rotate partners in class every few minutes. This means that you don’t need a partner to attend. It also means you’ll be holding hands and interacting with many folks. It’s a great opportunity to meet the people you’ll be dancing with later in the evening.
If you attend with a partner and do not want to rotate partners, simply stand at the END of one of the rows and politely say, “We’re not rotating tonight” as the rotation occurs.
Note that we strongly recommend rotating partners for many reasons (even if you attend with a preferred partner), which an instructor or Maria will explain if you ask.
Please follow these guidelines for having (and giving others) the best possible learning experience:
- Listen to the instructors. Ask questions if something isn’t clear. If you disagree with something being taught, TRY IT for the duration of that class. If you still disagree or have questions, ask the instructor(s) about it personally after class.
- Smile and greet each new partner as you rotate – but please don’t start a conversation, as that becomes disruptive.
- Do not give your partners feedback unless the instructors specifically guide you to. If your partner asks you for feedback, it’s usually best to have them ask the teacher instead.
- Assume the best of each partner. For example, many people have a “thinking face” and sometimes partners will interpret that face as a judgement about them – but it’s more likely just the other person trying really hard. Likewise, assume that each partner is trying their best. Everyone learns at their own pace.
- Practice a growth mindset. Simply put, come to class with a positive intention, such as to learn one new thing, improve one thing, or make one person smile.
After both classes are finished (8:30 pm), the instructors will briefly recap what was taught in each class so that students may take videos of the recaps. Have your device handy at 8:30 pm – it can be a panic to have to dig around in the coat rack or a purse in low light to quickly find it.
We do not allow the video recording of entire lessons, and the video recaps should be used for personal use and not published online.
The Social Experience
After the lessons and video recaps, one of our trained, professional DJs takes over the night, playing music until 11:00 pm and sometimes later.
- The first hour of music is designed to be easy to practice to.
- At 9:30 pm we have brief announcements and often an activity or brief show.
- After 9:30, the music gets more complex and sometimes experimental!
We have no rules about the social experience, aside from Have Fun, Don’t Hurt Anyone, Be Polite, and Be Clean. Here’s what you can expect in terms of asking and being asked to dance:
- Everyone asks anyone to dance. Yes, it’s OK to ask a “really good” dancer or an instructor to dance. And they may ask you! Since many of us dance both lead and follow roles, you may be asked by someone of the same gender to dance, although this usually happens more often with instructors and among dancers who are familiar with each others preferences.
- It’s OK to decline a dance, and you don’t need to give a reason for doing so. It’s less polite to decline a dance and immediately dance with someone else, but again – you don’t owe anyone an explanation. But please be polite – a simple “No thank you” and a smile will do.
- We’ll say it once more: assume the best of everyone. 98% of folks who dance are doing it to feel good, meet new people, and challenge themselves. A smile can take you a long way, even if you’re not feeling your best one evening.
Code of Conduct
We developed a code of conduct and we ask that everyone familiarize themselves with it. The purpose of the code is to be transparent about expectations and “ground rules” so that everyone can have maximum fun and comfort with the learning and social experience.