Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve done some social dancing before, or taken lessons with another school. Which level should I take?
We always recommend starting from the beginning, as there are often technical elements explained in a class that are not explicitly learned in a social dance setting. It never hurts to polish the basics!
However, if you feel you would not be challenged in a beginner class, you are welcome to sign up for the level you feel would be appropriate. For example, if you have recently taken an intro course with another teacher or in another city, and you are familiar with basic 6-count and 8-count rhythms and movements, you may not need to do the Swing 1 class with us. If you have taken many classes or workshops elsewhere and are comfortable with more advanced moves such as swingouts, you may want to consider a higher level class such as the Lindy Lab.
To be totally sure, the best thing to do is drop in on an Open Practice session ($5, Wednesdays from 7:30 - 8:30 pm). Teachers are always on duty to help with whatever you're working on, and they will be more than be happy to do a short assessment to help you figure out which level will be best for you!
If you're still not entirely sure which level to try, this chart may help you decide!
What should I wear to the classes?
Wear clothes that you can move comfortably in! You don’t need to dress up for the classes, though you can if you’d like! You also don’t need to go as far as wearing workout gear - dancing is great exercise, but we won’t be getting *that* sweaty.
What kind of shoes are best for swing dancing?
We recommend wearing comfortable indoor shoes that you can move in easily. You don’t need special dance shoes or shoes with a heel, although if you own a pair and want to use them you’re welcome to do so!
Where can I find parking?
There is paid parking available at the Rideau Centre or at one of several public lots in the Byward Market. Free street parking can be found nearby in Sandy Hill, however it can be difficult to find a spot. Make sure to give yourself a bit of extra time!
Where can I practice?
Nothing will improve your dancing faster than practice, and lucky for you, you've got options!
Side Street Swing hosts a weekly Open Practice session, on Wednesday evenings from 7:30 - 8:30 pm. Open Practice is available to anyone who wants to work on their dancing, and teachers are always present to help with whatever you're working on. The practice is free for anyone currently doing a class or team with Side Street, or $5 otherwise.
The Ottawa Swing Dance Society has weekly social dances on Friday nights at St. Joseph’s Parish in Sandy Hill. If you're looking for a place to casually work on your dancing with a wide range of people, that's the place for you!
I signed up for a course but I have to miss some of the classes - what should I do?
If you have to miss one or two classes we understand! Sometimes it’s hard to find 6 nights free in a row!
The very best thing you can do is attend an Open Practice session (Wednesdays, 7:30 - 8:30), and ask the teachers to help you catch up on the material. Teachers at Open Practice are well versed in the entire Side Street syllabus, and can show you what you missed! Open Practice is free for anyone currently doing a class or team with Side Street, or $5 otherwise.
If Wednesdays really don't work for you don't worry! The teachers do a recap each week of the material from the week before, so if you have to miss one or even two classes it’s not a big deal - you should still be able to catch up!
Do I have to switch partners during the class?
While there’s no requirement to rotate partners during your class, we have found that students typically get more out of the course if they are switching partners regularly. Changing partners helps you learn how different people move, and will almost always improve your dancing faster than staying with the same person. Switching partners also allows you to meet and make friends with all the people in the course, so that when you go social dancing you will already know people!
However, if you are not comfortable rotating partners or dancing with strangers you absolutely don’t have to! Our goal is for everyone to enjoy themselves, and if you’d prefer to stay with one partner you definitely can. Just let your teachers know that you’d prefer not to rotate, and they will not press you to do so.
I went out social dancing, and someone I’d never met before asked to dance with me. Is that weird? How should I respond?
Swing is a social dance, and at a swing dance night it is totally normal for people to dance with lots of different partners, or even to ask a total stranger for a dance. Meeting new people is part of the fun, so if you’re comfortable dancing with new people, go ahead and do so!
However, if you are not comfortable dancing with strangers, it is also totally normal to just dance with your friends or to sit on the sides and watch the dance floor. Again, our goal is for everyone to enjoy themselves, and that means feeling comfortable. If someone asks you to dance and you’d prefer not to, just give a polite “no thanks”.
I went social dancing, and nobody asked me to dance all night! Is it because I’m a bad dancer?
I’m sorry that happened to you! No, it doesn’t mean anything about your dancing. Everyone has a wallflower night once in a while! Beginners sometimes get overlooked because they don’t have a network of people they know at the dances yet. Advanced dancers sometimes get overlooked because people are intimidated and afraid to ask them to dance. Intermediate dancers sometimes get overlooked because they are so used to asking people to dance that no one thought to ask them. It happens! If you want to dance just get out there and do your thing, whether that means standing closer to the dance floor, asking someone to dance with you, or busting out on your own.
I asked someone to dance, and they said no! Is it because I’m a bad dancer?
Nope! This question might sound silly, but it brings out a very real fear that lots of people have the first time they get turned down for a dance. It can be difficult to work up the courage to ask someone to dance, and there are all kinds of fears that accompany a no answer. However, the vast majority of the time, being turned down has nothing to do with you! The person you asked might be tired, maybe they just really don’t like that song, or maybe they are sore and need to sit out for a while. Maybe they are shy or self-conscious, and would prefer to dance only with people they know well. There could be all kinds of reasons, and often it’s unrelated to you. If someone doesn’t want to dance, that’s their call! All you need to do is say “Ok, thanks anyway”, and go ask someone else.
Do you offer children’s classes?
Not yet! While we've had a few inquiries about children's classes and have tried a few times to offer a parent/child class, we have never reached the critical mass needed to run a full session. We do love working with kids and families, and regularly offer parent/child classes on Family Day, Mother's Day, and Father's Day!
If you are interested in doing a class with your child, we are happy to accommodate you!
I have a few friends who all want to learn to dance together.. Can we book a course for just our group?
Yes! We are happy to arrange group private lessons, either a one-off class or a multi-week course, whatever you need! If you and your friends or colleagues would like to do a 6-week class (or other length, as required), we will work with you to find a time in the class schedule to accommodate you. Please contact us to make further arrangements!
To learn more about rates for one-off classes, please see our private lessons page.