After I came up with the idea for this website, I had a feeling of a call to action; I wanted to go to the places that I was putting in my website to get a good feel for the atmosphere, the type of dance floor, the people and the bands. I tried to get a group of people to go with me. Life happened, and I ended up being the only one who was still going to go on the trip, but it helped me realize one very important thing: I was the only one stopping me from taking the step forward into adventure. Just because my friends couldn’t go with me, didn’t mean that I couldn’t go check these places out.
So the first place that I decided to check out, I decided to start with a familiar scene, then test the unfamiliar waters. I decided to go back to where my love for swing dance truly began: The Wabasha Street Caves in St. Paul, Minnesota. I booked my flight and my Airbnb, did some research, and found another place to check out while I was in town. I had two days off, and only one night to dedicate to my search for dancing, so I decided to add TCSwing to my list.
I departed my home city of Cincinnati early on the morning of September 27th, 2018, hoping for the best. The flight was smooth, my Airbnb hosts were amazing, and the day flew by exploring the city, until it was finally time to go get ready for dancing.
The Wabasha Street Caves were everything I remembered them being; the Snoopy statue outside the venue dressed up like Frank Sinatra, the heavy wooden doors that led into the grand entrance, the doorman who stamped your hand for your entry. Apparently the night I chose to return also happened to be the Cave’s 25th anniversary of being open again, with a nights attendance of almost more than 100 people! The price of entry was $8, and there was a wonderful live band playing on stage, that performs weekly at the venue. The Caves are decently sized, with many tunnels leading to the dance floor, or to the museum that is open by day, or the bar that has free water for the dancers, or a choice of alcohol for those of age. The dance lessons started at 6pm until 7, but I had sadly gotten my information a bit mixed up and didn’t arrive until 9pm, towards the end of the dance. Normally, the dance goes from 7pm to 10pm. The delightful band that I got to hear were called Swing Beat Big Band, and had a wonderfully talented singer accompanying them with some of the songs. There were plenty of places to sit, and the air of the venue itself was pleasantly cool. The dance floor was not too slick, yet not sticky, so perfect for just the right amount of slide for hip swivels and heel slides.
Upon arriving, it didn’t take more than maybe one or two songs to pass for me to be asked to the dance floor, and the leads I met were an absolute delight. If there’s one thing that I love about swing dance, it’s the fact that no matter where I go, I know I will make instant friends on the dance floor. I learned some moves from a couple of the leads, and taught a couple moves as well.
Once the dance wrapped up at the Caves, I was offered a ride to the next venue by one of the leads and his friends, which I was happy to accept. We headed across the river to TCSwing, which was held in the Ukrainian Center, otherwise known as 301 Main. That dance started at 10pm and went until 2am. I had not been there before, so I didn’t know really what to expect. What I got to experience was something absolutely amazing. TCSwing had an attendance of nearly 200 people that night, and according to one of the people that I spoke with, that was almost slow for them. There was a coatroom for purses and coats, which is a perk that is not oft come by. Entry fee was $6, and I was allowed into the main room. The music was DJ-ed, but the music was extremely well chosen. I saw many talented dancers out on the floor, but the thing that made me feel most at home was participating in the Shim Sham dance* halfway through the night. (For those new to swing dance, look to the bottom of the page for explanation.) I also got to learn a new line dance that seemed unique to TCSwing; they had made moves up to be done in time to the song Footloose! It was very high energy, and awesome. The venue didn’t have a bar, but it did have multiple water fountains which had high foot traffic, especially after the fast songs. And while the venue didn’t have much AC, they did have a giant fan up next to the stage that people would stand next to to cool off; then again on the night I went, the temperature outside slid down to the 30s-40s F, so most people headed outside to cool off. The dance floor wasn’t sticky or too slick at this venue either, but due to the high attendance, getting noticed for dances was a little trickier, but not impossible. I had a lot of fun dancing there, seeing the different moves and the dance levels of the various dancers, then decided to head to bed around Midnight, due to a early morning get up for my flight homeward.
All in all, I had a wonderful time at both venues, and highly recommend that you, the reader, check them out if you’re ever in town!
Swing Beat Big Band
*The Shim Sham originated as a dance routine done by swing dancers in the 1920s. The routine consisted of standard steps: eight bars each of the Double Shuffle, the Cross Over, Tack Annie (an up-and-back shuffle), and Falling Off a Log, all of which are standard dance moves, and can be applied in most dances. Today in most swing dance venues, once the choreography is over, dancers typically grab the nearest partner and break into swing dance for the remainder of the song.
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