Grab a partner and put some swing in your step at Austin Grill

ON NIGHTLIFE

January 18, 2007|By SAM SESSA

My new mantra:

Rock, step, step, together, step, together, rock, step.

An instructor drilled this basic footwork formula into the heads of dozens of wannabe swing dancers (myself included) Monday night at the Austin Grill. Charm City Swing organizes an introductory dance class at the restaurant at 7:30 every Monday night. We had a blast this time and will definitely go back to learn some more moves.

The free basic session began with about a dozen people at 7:30 p.m. sharp. Colleen, the instructor, started us off with the step routine above. It was still running through my head the next day.

In the first part of the program, we got the footwork mostly down pat and practiced with partners. My girlfriend, Amie, and I started out together, but that was short-lived -- Colleen made the women rotate every couple of minutes. I think I speak for most of the men there when I say I dug this part of the setup.

The free footwork segment finished in about a half-hour, and the hour-long beginner class started at 8 p.m. It cost $10 for adults and $5 for students and was definitely worth the price.

By the time the beginner class started, the number of dancers had doubled since the free footwork session. Pretty much everyone had come with a partner, and since we rotated, you met everyone there. Good luck remembering their names, though. I had one woman call me out on it the second time we danced. She said, "Hey Sam! Do you remember my name?" I didn't even try to guess. She told me again, but I still can't remember.

The crowd was all kinds -- from late teens to late 50s or early 60s. Some were calm and collected, others were chatty and self-conscious. Colleen didn't give us much time to talk, though -- she plowed right through a few routines.

We learned the inside turn, the outside turn, the belt turn (where the guy spins and the woman drags her hand along his belt line) and the "she goes, he goes" turn. The rotating was cool because Amie would come back around every 15 minutes or so, and we could show off the new moves we'd learned in the meantime.

From what I understand, the Charm City Swing folks change the beginner course every week so you can keep coming back and learning new moves. The ones we walked away with last week were pretty easy to learn and will look good the next time we hit the dance floor. I'm not saying we'll burn it up, but we might singe it slightly.

The beginner course ended at 9 p.m., and the floor was open to anyone who wanted to dance. Some people left, but even more people showed up for this part of the night. We took a breather and ordered a drink at the bar.

The Austin Grill does a late-night happy hour from 10 p.m. until close Sundays through Fridays with $2 drafts and two-for-one margaritas. It also gives you free chips and salsa if you sit at the bar. Last Monday, it had Shiner Hefeweizen, Ozzy and a couple of other good beers on tap.

Looking back on the dance lesson, it was much better than I'd expected. I'd love to take another class and learn some more moves -- and I'm not one who likes taking dance lessons. But I'm looking forward to the next chance I get to flash my newfound moves with Amie on the dance floor. It was a Monday night well-spent.

Charm City Swing starts at 7:30 p.m. Mondays at the Austin Grill at 2400 Boston St. The free basic step class runs from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The beginner class starts at 8 p.m. and costs $10 for adults and $5 for students. Open dancing starts at 9 p.m. and is free for students and those who took the lesson and $5 for adults. For more information, go to charmcityswing.com.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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