In Full Swing: Underground dance club keeps jazz era hip

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If you’ve got the Monday blues, an underground swing dance club might just put a little pep in your step.

An underground swing dance club? Groovy!

Every Monday night, swing dancers from the metro head to Ambient+Studio in Castleberry Hill to start off the workweek by cutting a rug at Hot Jam Swings. Some arrive at 8 p.m. sharp to attend the beginner’s crash course (30 minutes of basic steps) before the dance floor opens to newbies and old timers alike.

Echoing the etiquette of the Jazz Age, Hot Jam encourages a social scene where partners switch every dance. There’s no possessiveness among couples, no competition to dance with the more experienced. A courteous “Would you like to dance?” is offered to every dancer, beginner or seasoned. Extending a hand to everyone is how Hot Jam got its start.

The group began more than a decade ago, hosting small dance nights in local bars, before starting a weekly event at the Garden Hills Community Center, where Hot Jam really took off.

“Atlanta has always been known for being a friendly, open, and inclusive dance scene,” says Russ Ruddell, one of the original Hot Jammers. “Everyone dances with everyone and makes you feel welcome.”

Ruddell remembers when he got caught up in the swing scene after noticing intriguing footwork on the floor at a country dance. Not long after learning east coast swing, he started taking lessons and now teaches swing himself at Down South Swing, a dance school in Decatur. Like the best teachers, Ruddell meets students where they are. While students learn to feel the beat, he feels each student’s energy and caters the dance to their level of proficiency.

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“I wanted someone to dance with, so I started showing all these people how to do it so I would have someone to dance with,” Ruddell joked. “I wanted to share that with someone else and help them learn to enjoy it as much as I do.”

Once you are in the swing of things, Atlanta offers a variety of swing dance opportunities. Georgia Tech Dance Association (gtda.gtorg.gatech.edu) hosts a lively dance once a month in the student union ballroom. Down South Swing (downsouthswing.com) offers weekend workshops and on June 1 kicks off a full weekend of the Atlanta Lindy Exchange (atlantalindyexchange.com), an annual event full of fast swing held in various venues around the city.

For more information about Hot Jam Swings, visit hotjamswings.com.