News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Swing is king in Fredericksburg
BY LIANA BAYNE
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Dance enthusiasts in Fredericksburg are getting their groove on.
Many area social dance groups meet regularly, and several offer different styles of swing. Swing encompasses a wide array of styles, including two practiced in the area: hand dancing and East Coast/Lindy Hop.
SMOOTHER THAN SMOOTH
Kevin Tisdale hopes to help revive an urban dance tradition—hand dance—in the area.
Tisdale has been dancing for eight years. Hand dance is rooted in swing, he said, but is slowed down and more smooth.
The Washington, D.C., resident started teaching in the area five years ago, and currently offers classes at the Sport & Health Fitness Club in Central Park.
Tisdale also hosts dances at Shannon’s Bar & Grille inside the Fredericksburg Hospitality House, also in Central Park. He started holding dances there in January. A free 30-minute lesson is offered before each dance.
Tisdale’s Smoother Than Smooth Hand Dance Company is affiliated with the D.C. group Smooth and EZ Hand Dance Institute.
Hand dancing is similar to West Coast-style swing, Tisdale said, to more of an R&B beat.
“The ladies come out and look nice, but after one song they’re sweating and their hair is messed up,” he said. “We slowed it down.”
During the most recent dance at Shannon’s on July 6, Tisdale and his business and dance partner Dana Martin demonstrated their moves.
Hand dancing is more fluid than other styles of swing, with the dancers seemingly gliding across the floor.
Martin said she’s been dancing for nine years.
Tisdale said hand dancing originated in cities like Chicago and D.C., and it attracts a culturally diverse group of practitioners. Many of the participants are older; Tisdale estimated his younger dancers are about 30, while his oldest was 72. But he hopes younger people will become interested in the dance.
“When we learned, we were young,” he said. “Now we’re trying to pass it down.”
Tisdale said the dancers are courteous and have good etiquette.
“The men are actually gentlemen,” he said. “It’s a different situation than most clubs.”
Richard Perry of Stafford went out to the dance at Shannon’s. He likes the old-school feel of hand dancing.
“I’m older,” he said. “I’m not into hip–hop.”
Perry and his wife have been dancing since 2007. He said it feels like a great accomplishment to be able to put together moves fluidly. He also enjoys the social aspect of getting to know other dancers.
“You make friends, and it’s something for all ages,” he said. “You’ve got to come out and try it.”
On the Net: smootherthansmooth.com
If you’ve got to get your East Coast swing on, look no further than the upstairs of Picker’s Supply on Caroline Street.
Valerie and Joel Webber of Stafford are swing dance instructors affiliated with the D.C. group Gottaswing. They teach East Coast swing dance lessons on Sundays at Picker’s. They also host monthly dances open to anyone for $10.
The Webbers said one of the biggest benefits of swing dancing is the social aspect of getting to meet and dance with multiple partners in one night. They met through swing dance and eventually married.
Valerie Webber said she grew up dancing jazz and ballet. She got into swing later in life as an adult.
“I wanted to try something different,” she said.
She started taking ballroom dance lessons and found she really liked swing.
She lived in Fairfax at the time she met her husband about 3 years ago at a dance.
“There’s always single people,” Joel Webber said.
He has been dancing for about seven years. In addition to social benefits, he said East Coast swing, because of how upbeat the music can be, is a great form of exercise.
Gottaswing members can go dancing every night of the week if they want because of many regularly scheduled dances in the metro area. Many serious dancers attend multiple events per week and get to know one another.
“Swing dancers are the friendliest people,” Valerie Webber said. “We do a great job of pulling people in and making people comfortable.”
The couple wanted to try to replicate that great community feeling in Fredericksburg, Joel Webber said.
They have been teaching and hosting monthly dances at Picker’s since January. There’s a free lesson offered before each dance.
Valerie Webber said as many as 60 people attend when the University of Mary Washington, which has its own swing dance club, is in session.
At the most recent dance on July 7, which had a luau theme, about 25 people came out in their best Hawaiian shirts to rock the night away.
Many had traveled from Northern Virginia. A dance in Maryland was also happening that night, but the venue there didn’t have air conditioning, while Picker’s did.
For dancers like Tom Atwater of Springfield, who said he can sweat through as many as six shirts in one night of dancing, that made a big difference.
Other dancers like newlyweds Janice and Glenn Gardner of Woodbridge (who also met through swing dancing) like getting cheap exercise and enjoying their friends’ company during the dances.
“You don’t even realize you’re working out,” Janice Gardner said. “You’re just having fun.”
On the Net: dc.gottaswing.com
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE?
Swing Scene isn’t the only social dance in the area. Check out these groups for different styles to fill your dance card.
The Battlefield Boogie Club, specializing in shag, swing, boogie and line dance, holds a weekly dance every Thursday from 7–10 p.m. at Shannon’s Bar and Grille. There’s a $4 cover, and a free lesson is given from 7–8:15 p.m. battlefieldboogieclub.com.
The Fredericksburg Country Dance group, specializing in two-step, waltz, El Paso, blue rose, wooden nickel, schottische, McGraw stroll and line dancing, meets the second and fourth Sundays of the month at the American Legion Post 290 in Stafford. They also host dances at other venues. 540/273-1812; fburgcountrydance.com.
The Strictly Ballroom Dance Studio gives lessons on 26 different types of dance, ranging from Latin and swing styles to country western and traditional ballroom styles. The studio gives group, private and couples lessons and also hosts dance parties and workshops. 540/832-7602; strictlyballroom.net.
Enjoy Latin dancing? The Fredericksburg Salsa Meetup Group meets at Cancun Mexican Margarita Bar and Grill at the Spotsylvania Towne Centre every Saturday from 9:30 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. for salsa and other styles of Latin dancing. The event is free. The group also organizes other Latin dance events. 540/548-1737; meetup.com/Fredericksburg-salsa-dancing.
Liana Bayne: 540/374-5444