Irish Swing Dancing: A Hidden-Jazzy Gem

Let me start off by saying that I don’t love swing dancing. I’m certainly not good at it and it makes me sweat. A lot. But something about learning in a foreign country, a new city, is absolute magic. Especially if you find yourself at The Grand Social jazz bar in Dublin, Ireland like I did. A local Dublin friend of mine (she’s actually Canadian but anyway…) convinced my travel buddy Meg and I to come out for lessons on Monday nights. 10 bucks. Sure why not.

As soon as you enter the pub, there is a quirky sense of elegance. Dark wood, knick-knacks, and strung lights all added to the atmosphere, but nothing as much as the live jazz band playing downstairs. However, this isn’t where we’d be dancing. We headed to the upper level where the ceiling looked as though you were inside a circus tent. It was colorful, dimly lit with hues of red, and possessed an old charm that only a pub in Ireland could have. After a clumsy warm up, everyone proceeded to circle up and divide into leads and follows. Naturally, I headed to the lead group. HA, sike no, off I went to join the followers. We rotated in a circle switching from partner to partner, some being more talented than others but each having fun along the way. At the end of the hour the dance floor opened up to freestyle. This was my favorite part. We stood back and watched as people seemed to seamlessly flow with one another to the jivey music. If you can dance - I bow down to you! I got pulled in by different people every once in a while only to be exhausted in a matter of minutes… in the best way. I surely looked like a ragdoll, but it was thrilling nonetheless!

This was one of the more challenging but rewarding things I experienced over the course of my time in Dublin. There are so many subcultures within the Irish community. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look. Be it swing dancing, surfing, or anything else, challenging yourself to go beyond your comfort zone results in positive things WAY more frequently than negative. Plus, you might find yourself grabbing a pint afterwards with a ‘cheeky’ traveling Australian who holds your hand and walks you home.

Until next time, Grand Social.

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