Swingin’ in San Francisco

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No, not that kind of swingin.’ I haven’t added an appropriate category for that kind of post.

My birthday brought out weird vibes in me this year. After another day of flat hunting, I ventured out to a place my friend Jeremy has often talked about – the Doghouse on Mission in San Francisco.


Every Saturday they have a healthy five hours of swing dancing. Sadly, its a DJ and not the 16 piece orchestra I grew accustomed to in my early days of swing in greater Boston. But the music grabs you nevertheless…….and, it doesn’t let you go.

When you have a birthday and the “floor” knows about it, you are thrown into what’s called a “birthday jam” by the dance community.

What’s fabulous about a jam, is that in one four minute dance, you experience a few ‘swing outs’ and turns with nearly every man in the place. They line up, throw a few moves your way, duck out and the next one comes in.

I realized as I drove to the venue that I had not been to an “official” swing dance in close to five years. The night brought back too many memories to describe.

I went in and out of various emotions throughout the night. One move reminded me of an all night dance I went to in France, while another one reminded me of the Millenium Dance in Mexico, and another yet brought me to a dance camp in Catalina. The list goes on.

I spent years training with some of the best dancers in the world, including Frankie Manning and Sweden’s Eddie & Eva of the Rhythm Hot Shots. Then suddenly one day in early 2000, I just stopped dancing. How tragic.

My grandfather once said to me about a man I brought home – “He doesn’t have music in his soul. It’ll never work.” He was right. You can see it in someone’s eyes – the music.

Dancing sits underneath the soul and dance moves are how they look at the world. It’s amazing what you can learn from someone after spending three minutes on the floor with them…..a bit like a chess match, but much more interactive and much more fun.

It’s engaging and addictive. While I tried to pace myself, the music touched me so deep inside that I lost track of the hours, the original plan and eventually the nerves I had when I arrived. It’s been five years, I kept telling myself. Stop the mantra. Just feel it and the rest comes.

It’s not exactly the same as riding a bike….you don’t “remember” all the moves. What I was reminded however, is that when you close your eyes and listen ‘to the music,’ the moves are irrelevant because rhythm overtakes you. It swallows you. You become it. It becomes you. You’re no more alive than when you reach this plateau. God, its such a beautiful thing.

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