What kind of dancing do you do?

At New Columbia Swing, we like to celebrate all kinds of dancing from the Swing era.  On a given dance night, you might see people doing the Lindy Hop, Balboa, Charleston, East Coast Swing, Shag, you name it!  And, when you come dance with us, we encourage you to bring whatever dance moves feel right for you!  But, most of our classes focus on the original swing dance: the Lindy Hop.

Lindy Hop was developed by the Black community in Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s, and it soon spread throughout the country and the world.  There are numerous other swing dances out there, but virtually all of them evolved out of the patterns and rhythms of the Lindy Hop.  The dance still has a large and active following throughout the world today!

Want to learn more? Our friends at Yehoodi made a nice video history of the dance:


What should I wear?


Our dances may be in fancy venues, but we there is no need to dress fancily (unless you want to of course!).  For classes, you will want to be comfortable and able to move in your clothes, and you'll want to dress in layers because you may get warm.  Jeans and t-shirts are a great option.


Experienced dancers can be very particular about their footwear.  However, as a beginner dancer, you should be able to start dancing with shoes that you already own.  Your shoes should be comfortable and have a small amount of traction, but not too much.  A well worn-in pair of sneakers will often work very nicely.

We do not recommend wearing shoes with overly-high heels, stiff boots, flip-flops, or other open-toed shoes that are not secure on your feet.  Shoes that are overly-sticky can also be hard on your ankles and knees.  However, feel free to bring more than one pair of shoes to try out on our floor.

If you've been dancing for a bit and you would like to invest in a pair of dance shoes, there are many options for you to suit your preferences and style.  Ask an instructor or a friend who's been dancing for awhile, they'll usually be happy to point you in the right direction.

Where can I park?

Tuesday nights at the Josephine Butler Parks Center: We recommend you park on 16th Street, across Malcolm X/Meridian Hill Park. Street parking is available to all cars (not just DC residents) after 6:30pm.

Saturday nights at Glen Echo: Glen Echo boasts a large parking lot adjacent to the grounds. 

Can I pay by credit card?

Yes. You can pay by credit card with our online payment system, and at the door you can pay with Square.

Do I need to bring a partner to class?

No. Partners are not required for our classes. We rotate partners throughout the class so everyone has a chance to dance with everyone else.

If I already have a partner, do I need to rotate partners in class?

If, for any reason, you do not wish to rotate partners, you and your partner are welcome not to rotate.  The instructors may ask you to step out of the main circle in order to avoid confusion.

However, we do in general encourage new dancers to enter the rotation of the class. Our years of experience teaching dance classes and participating in dance classes ourselves have demonstrated that, overwhelmingly, people who rotate in class progress faster than those who do not.  There are three key reasons why this is true:

  1. If a couple falls significantly behind the pace of the rest of a class, it becomes harder to keep them up to speed without slowing the progress of the rest of the class.
  2. People learn at different speeds and frequently one person in a couple will pick up material faster than the other. This usually results in one half of the couple helping (read: teaching) the other with material that they, themselves, are still trying to learn. This can inhibit learning for both partners, and it creates unnecessary stress.
  3. Couples who only dance with one another are prone to reinforce each other's bad habits.  They also limit their progress by dancing in a way that accommodates the other partner's specific shortcomings.  This can happen in subtle ways even without either of you realizing that it is happening, and it can greatly affect your progress in the future.

Rotating allows people to find others in the class who are at their learning speed, and it encourages all dancers to remain focused on their own improvement without being too much impacted by the overall progress or specific issues of a single partner.  Both members of a couple can then progress at a level that is comfortable for them, yet still get to dance with each other when they meet in the rotation. So please consider rotating. Of course, if you still prefer not to rotate, that's totally fine. Ultimately, we want you to be comfortable in class, and the best way to achieve that is up to you.

Can I retake a class?

Yes! It is normal to do so and encouraged by our instructors. We are committed to helping our students grow and learn as dancers. The diversity of our teaching staff ensures that you will always learn something new, whether you are taking a class for the first or the fifteenth time!

What is a follower? What is a leader? Which one should I choose for classes?

In partner dances, there are two roles, leader and follower.  Typically, the leader "defines the shape" of the dance, determining the basic moves that take place and choosing the timing of the dance.  The follower "fills out and interprets the shape" of the dance, interpreting those moves as they are led and providing additional context and style.  Both leaders and followers have a critical role to play in the dance.  In fact, a good dance among experienced dancers can be a sophisticated and nuanced conversation, with ideas passing back and forth between both dancers within the basic structure of lead and follow.

We encourage you to take classes as whichever role you prefer.  However, if you are new to swing dancing, we ask that you pick one role for your first class series and stick with it to avoid confusion as you learn the basics.

Is New Columbia Swing LGTBQ-friendly?

Absolutely!  We welcome all students, and ensuring that our classes are a comfortable environment for all students is extremely important to us.  For more details on our policies, please see our Code of Conduct.

Do you have a Code of Conduct or other policies that I should know about?

Yes.  At New Columbia Swing, we believe it is extremely important that all of our dancers feel safe and comfortable in their environment.  That is why we have adopted a Code of Conduct that applies to everyone.  Check it out here.

I want to volunteer! Are there opportunities for me?

Absolutely!  We are always looking for people to help out.  Want to learn more?  Check out the About Us page.

What's with the name?

New Columbia is a nod to the DC Statehood movement.  Did you know that there are 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia that have no voting representatives in Congress?  Yeah, we don't like that fact either.

The first proposals to make DC our 51st state presented "New Columbia" for our name, and this name has a long association with the statehood movement.  Some more recent proposals have suggested "Douglass Commonwealth" to honor Frederick Douglass, one of our city's most illustrious residents, while maintaining the DC abbreviation.  But no matter what the name is, we like it when people can vote, and so should you.

Can I use a side room for practice when I'm at an NCS dance?

Yes! You are welcome to pull yourself or some friends aside to practice in the upstairs classroom opposite the ballroom at the Josephine Butler Parks Center. Other people may be using this room for practice or hanging out during this time, so be courteous about sharing the space! 

If you would like to reserve a downstairs room for exclusive use or practice during an NCS dance, email info@newcolumbiaswing.org. Rates vary depending on usage.