“Dancing is addictive,” says Alice Williams, confidential assistant to the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. “I start taking a lesson and think, ‘Oh, this is going to be so difficult.’ Then I keep practicing, and it’s amazing when I realize what I’ve done. It just keeps pulling at me.”
Williams’s favorite dance is the Viennese waltz, which she does at the Chevy Chase Ballroom, but there’s a host of styles taught, practiced, and enjoyed by men and women of all ages across the area.
The Chevy Chase Ballroom (5207 Wisconsin Ave, NW; 202-363-8344; chevychaseballroom.com) hosts social-dance parties the second Saturday of every month. The parties have a “dance and learn” theme: Hourlong instruction begins at 8, followed by open dancing until 11:30. Those who aren’t quite hitting the steps during the initial instruction can take mini classes throughout the night; half the ballroom is reserved for people to receive additional tips from instructor Terry Chasteen. At the end of the night, Chasteen serves up apple pie and ice cream; the $12 fee includes both lesson and party.
The ballroom also offers lessons in such styles as Brazilian samba and salsa rueda—think square dancing with a Latin flair. For more information on Chasteen’s lessons, visit pleasedancewithme.com.
County recreation centers offer a variety of classes. In Fairfax (703-222-4664; fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/parktakes.htm) , choices include Hawaiian, Maori, and Irish step. In Montgomery (240-777-6870; montgomerycountymd.gov/rec) , even within the category of ballroom dancing are many options, including ragtime and Viennese; an eight-week session is $52. Check other jurisdictions’ Web sites for similar offerings.
At Glen Echo Park’s Spanish Ballroom (7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo; 301-634-2222; glenechopark.org) , swing dancing continues to be a big draw. But recently, says instructor Donna Barker, people are trying blues dancing: “It’s like slow swing, and it’s great for the sultry summertime. The music is just wonderful. If the music is good, people want to move to it.”
Glen Echo hosts dances with live music Thursday through Sunday ($8 to $15). Before each, a one-hour beginner class is taught for no additional charge. Other styles include salsa, Cajun, and contra. If you come by yourself, you’ll be paired with someone; Barker says people enjoy switching partners. Glen Echo also offers classes in such styles as West Coast swing, lindy hop, zydeco, and tango. A four-week series ranges from $35 to $60; six weeks $54 to $90. See the Web site for a schedule.
The Jam Cellar (Josephine Butler Parks Center, 2437 15th St., NW; 202-558-0338; thejamcellar.com) hosts swing-dancing events in an 18th-century mansion. Every Tuesday night, there’s a $10 intermediate lesson at 8:30 and a free beginner lesson at 9. From 9:30 till midnight, there’s a swing-dance party with a DJ ($6).
Many classes at Joy of Motion Dance Center (three DC locations, one in BeÂthesda; 202-333-6801; joyofmotion.org) are in styles that don’t require a partner—ranging from flamenco to old-style Irish tap, called Sean nos, to belly dancing. The intro series—including dance technique, elements of dance, ballet, jazz, and modern—gives building blocks for other styles.
Assistant manager Jenelle Joseph says the best class for letting loose is hip-hop—it’s especially good for those who have never danced, because there isn’t a “right” technique. Those who have a knack can take it to another level by trying break dancing.
All intro classes are $68 for five weeks; regular classes are $135 for ten weeks.