When the city shut down in March 2020, so ended my newfound passion for going social dancing. I had only discovered this wonderful world a year before it was brought to a screeching halt with the rest of our lives. During pause I took solo jazz classes on Facebook Live, led sunrise dance parties for my friends over Zoom and took online classes that I subscribed to, all in my bedroom. But nothing matched the excitement of dancing hand-in-hand with a three-dimensional person.
Thankfully, in the spring of 2021 an intrepid swing dance instructor, Spencer Weisbond, armed with a laptop and a Meetup group of over 500 members, began to organize outdoor events every Saturday night as the weather permitted. First it was on the stone steps of the Museum of Natural History. Soon we moved to a heavenly wooden dance floor in Riverside Park South.
Why isn’t there a dance floor in every park? Every Saturday night until December dancers gleefully greeted one another. As the weather cooled, we adjusted to dancing in our parkas and mittens and eventually with masks as cases of Omicron began to rise.
For 28 Tuesday nights from May to August I danced salsa through the heat, rain and humidity. These events were a partnership between the vivacious teacher Talia Castro-Pozo and the 34th Street Partnership that brought back free classes and events in Greeley Square, directly below Macy’s on 34th Street.
In the fall, Talia was able to return to Pier 45 in Hudson River Park, a much bigger venue with a spectacular view of the river. I danced at a street festival in Spanish Harlem and at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park on weekends too. I danced so much that I wore through a pair of my favorite shoes.
Most recently I discovered blues dancing on the last Friday of the month at La Nacional at 239 West 14th Street. This indoor event had a live band and a lesson for beginners. I found the movements to be more relaxed and effortless than salsa and swing and enjoyed learning something new. The events are held on the last Friday of the month.
What I love most about social dancing in the city is the community. I started to get to know the “regulars” at each event; some of them overlapping genres like myself. Everyone dances with everyone – twentysomethings with septuagenarians, beginners with experts, East Coast with West Coast swing dancers, NY Salseros (they dance on the 2 beat) with LA style Salseras (they dance on the 1 beat). What we all share is the joy of connecting to the music and each other in real life!
I look forward to experiencing other types of social dance events in the future. Next week I start Israeli folk dance lessons at 92Y. I will also be back dancing in the streets and in the parks again this spring and I hope to see you there too. A good place to get started is the blog This Week in Swing NYC, 34thstreet.org and bluesdancenewyork.com.