Boulder Swing Dance classes meet at several venues throughout the county. (photo courtesy William Kucharski)

Cuttin’ A Rug

By Michael Renier

It’s a Saturday night at the historic Dickens Opera House in Longmont and the joint is jumping. Follow the sound of music up a dimly lit, narrow stairway that leads to a ballroom packed with couples dancing toe-to-toe to the bluesy riffs of Kerry Pastine and the Crime Scene. When the band cranks out a rockabilly tune, the energy on the dance floor rises. Jeff Dahoda guides Lisa Kincannon through three consecutive spins. Boulder residents, they have been dancing together for about three years, mostly variations of swing, like Country, and East and West Coast.

(photo by George Khentskye)

“It’s so fun!” Kincannon says. “It’s a great cardio workout, and I love the social interaction.”

They are not alone. Social dancing is on the upswing across the country as people take it up for fitness and fun. “It’s all kind of kicked off with the television show Dancing with the Stars and has really been shooting up ever since,” says Isaac Lynn, owner of the Arthur Murray Dance Center in Boulder. “A lot of cities have dropped off in dancing but Colorado has had a resurgence in social dance.”

You can find someplace to cut a rug in Boulder County nearly every night of the week. On Friday nights, the St Julien Hotel in Boulder offers dancing (usually salsa, but sometimes swing or samba). On Saturday nights, License No. 1 in Boulder features Banshee Tree, which plays a combination of swing, gypsy and and pop folk, while couples crowd the small dance floor, says Alex Garcia, manager. “It’s kind of an intimate space.”

In the summer, the rooftop patio of Element Bistro is packed with couples salsa dancing. But the heart and soul of the local dance scene can be found at The Avalon Ballroom in Boulder, whose large ballroom and smaller spaces host a variety of dances and lessons every day of the week.

Social dancing attracts all ages, says Lynn. “The majority tend to be in the 30- to 60-year-old range, but we are starting to get a younger group. CU Boulder has a couple of dance groups, a tango and swing group, which have helped out with the numbers of dancers.”

Nostalgia also drives the social dance trend. The 1940s WWII-era Ball held every summer at the Boulder Airport attracts dancers in period clothing. The dancing itself is held in the hangar, amidst WWII-era aircraft, as well as on an outdoor stage, to big- band music from that era.

With so many types of dancing, including ballroom, Latin, swing and country, there’s something for everybody. While some dances are fast-paced (think salsa), others offer a slower tempo. Latin tango requires dedication to its art form. The Lindy Hop, jive, jitterbug and other forms of swing dancing have also become very popular.

Dancers crowd the floor at the 1940s WWII- era Ball, held each summer
in Boulder. (photo courtesy 1940s WWII-Era Ball)

If you have two left feet, many venues in Boulder County offer reasonably priced classes for either group or individual lessons. Unless your goal is dance competition, you only need a comfortable pair of shoes with a leather sole. Many who start competing or dance regularly purchase special dance shoes.

Social dancing, as its name implies, is a great way for folks to connect with a network; there might even be a little romance tossed into the mix. “Everybody has different goals,” says Lynn. “Some people do it for the exercise, and it’s a lot more fun than some other types of exercise because you get to do it with other people and you learn new skills. Some couples dance to have something to do together.”

Dancing can help couples enhance their relationship. For example, Dahoda appreciates his job as the “lead,” guiding his partner around the dance floor, which he says creates a unique bond. “Through my touch I communicate with Lisa that I won’t let go of her. She can trust me.”

Adds Kincannon, “Dancing has created more intimacy for Jeff and me.”