Swing Dancing Lessons: Frequently Asked Questions

This page covers general frequently asked questions about our multi-week lesson sets. If you didn't find the answer to your questions here, feel free to e-mail our lesson chairs at lessons@illiniswing.org.

How often do lessons meet?

Lessons are once a week. We try to schedule sessions so that the lessons are uninterrupted by holidays when possible.

How do I sign up?

You can sign up in advance for a discount online, or just show up at the first lesson (or second if you can't make the first) to enroll in the class.

When do I pay for lessons?

If you sign up online, part of the registration process will take payment. Otherwise, pay at the first lesson in either cash or check. You can also try the first lesson free!

Where does the money go?

Revenue from lessons is used to help cover the expenses of our special events, such as live bands for weekend dances and professional visiting instructors for our workshops.

Where are lessons held?

Lessons are currently held in room 314 of the Illini Union.

Do I have to be affiliated with the University of Illinois?

No, we're open to all members of the Urbana-Champaign community. We are organized as an RSO, which allows us access to university facilities, but include many non-students (including most of our instructors) as members of our organization.

Do I need to bring a partner with me?

No. Most classes teach a partnered dance style (though our solo jazz classes are, unsurprisingly, solo dances), but we make sure to change partners regularly during the class. Students are strongly encouraged to change partners during the classes in order to get used to the diverse approaches to the dance. It's learning a new language: Talking with different people will improve technique much faster than talking with one person all the time. Plus, you'll meet lots of new people! Changing partners is not required, so if you have a partner you really want to stick with, you can.

What should I wear?

Wear something you can move in and are comfortable wearing. If you'd wear it to any other classroom, it's probably fine here. Flip-flops and marking soles are best avoided, in order to avoid limiting movement and as a courtesy to our various venues, respectively, but other than that, just dress normally.

What is the difference between Swing and Lindy Hop?

Swing is a family of dances. Lindy Hop is one of them; others include Balboa, Charleston, East Coast, various Shags (Collegiate, Heel, and St. Louis to start with). You'll see any of these on our floor in any combination at our weekly social dances. Our usual recommended path is structured around Lindy Hop, since it's well-suited to a wide range of jazz music and is the most popular contemporary swing dance.

What class should I take?

If you haven't taken swing dance classes before, Beginning Swing is recommended, even if you have other prior dance experience. If you have taken a Beginning Swing course with us or another swing organization, and you feel comfortable to move on, try one of our Lindy Hop classes.

Are classes going to cover the same stuff as previous sessions?

Sort of. We rotate instructors regularly, and each instructor has their own perspective to the dance and approach to teaching. This can make taking the same class multiple times very useful, since both old information presented in a new way and new information will be provided in a class. The instructors routinely update their structure based on their own journey, so taking the same instructors can also be helpful.

Are there options other than lessons?

Plenty of people have learned just by going to social dances and figuring it out as they go along, including pretty much all of the people who learned way back in the 1930s. You can also schedule private lessons by contacting our Lessons Chair.

Do you do flips and stuff?

Not for the most part. Our focus is on social dancing, which air steps aren't well-suited for: People going through the air have to be on the same page as each other to make it work, and there's no telling what other couples on the floor will do, so it creates too much risk of collision. Air steps are used for performances, which is why you'll see them in a lot of professional choreographies, but for social dancing (what we do), they're too risky.

What types of events does the Illini Swing Society host?

There are at least five types of events you might hear mention of: Lesson Sets, Workshops, Special Events (usually including a free newbie lesson), Open Practices, and Social Dances.
  • Lesson Sets: Multi-week progressive classes.
  • Workshops: Multi-hour class sessions, usually held on a weekend (part or all) and taught by professional visiting instructors. We're not the only group that does workshops: Check out Dance Cal for a large number of upcoming events. Our Travel chair is also responsible for keeping people informed about those, usually via our mailing list.
  • Special Events: Usually one-night events, put together by our Events chair, usually including a free newbie lesson before a social dance.
  • Open Practices: We'll reserve a space suited for dancing that any of our members can visit and work on anything they want (including asking questions of more experienced dancers). It's often a good idea to bring a partner to these so that you can work with someone on the same things, planned by yourself in advance.
  • Social Dances: The whole point of all the other things we do! Social dances are held once a week while classes are in session, usually DJed by a local DJ. Most everyone at our social dances is glad to dance with anyone, so you don't need to worry about coming by yourself. Coming in groups is also fun, since that way you're guaranteed to know some people here. Everyone is welcome at these, regardless of experience or skill!

Where can I find some swing music?

This isn't a complete list, but it should be plenty to get you started!

Classic artists:
  • Artie Shaw
  • Benny Goodman
  • Billie Holiday
  • Bix Beiderbecke
  • Cab Calloway
  • The Cats and the Fiddle
  • Chick Webb
  • Count Basie
  • Davina and the Vagabonds
  • The Dorsey Brothers: Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey
  • Duke Ellington
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Fats Waller
  • Fletcher Henderson
  • Glenn Miller
  • Jack Teagarden
  • Jelly Roll Morton
  • Johnny Hodges
  • Lester Young
  • Lionel Hampton
  • Louis Jordan
  • Nat King Cole
  • Oscar Peterson
  • Teddy Wilson
  • Wingy Manone
  • Woody Herman

Contemporary artists:
  • Baby Soda
  • Ben Polcer
  • Boilermaker Jazz Band
  • Fat Babies
  • Glenn Crytzer
  • Gordon Webster
  • Jonathan Stout
  • Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns
  • Miss Jubilee
  • Orleans 6
  • Palmetto Bug Stompers
  • Rhythm Junkies
  • Solomon Douglas
  • Sons of Susan
  • Spicy Pickles
  • Swing Deville
  • Tuba Skinny