Swinging into the weekend at Mobtown Ballroom

By EMMA SHANNON | February 28, 2019

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COURTESY OF EMMA SHANNON

Shannon and friends enjoying a night of swing dancing at Mobtown.

I have never, ever been a religious person, but recently I have found myself wandering into a church on as many Friday nights as I can.

The thing is, it’s not a church anymore. It’s actually a dance hall, filled with people swinging to classic jazz and big band music. Some people seem like they’ve been doing this since the genre was invented, and some people have two left feet but are trying their best anyways. Regardless of skill and experience, everyone is having a good time grooving to the music.

Mobtown Ballroom is a venue in the Pigtown neighborhood of Baltimore, located at 861 Washington Boulevard. What used to be a 19th century church is now a gorgeous place hosting old-school dance parties multiple nights of the week. 

At 9 p.m. on every Monday and Friday, Mobtown opens up its doors for swing dancing. Anyone is welcome to come and spend as much time on the floor as they please, no dance partner required.

Swing nights encourage you to meet people. You ask others or are asked to dance, while still abiding by a very solid “don’t be creepy” policy. 

I’ve loved swing dancing ever since I was a kid, and having a place like Mobtown is really a dream come true to me. I love being able to go out dancing, learning as I go, swinging with someone there who definitely took actual classes at some point in their life.

But for people who want to swing and don’t know where to start, there’s a drop-in lesson an hour before the dances start on Monday and Friday. The lesson gives you all of the basic moves you need to start swinging and gives you a way to meet some potential dance partners if you came by yourself. You’ll learn rock-steps, turns, crossovers and that any dance move goes so long as you’re having a good time.

Swing is a style designed for people to make mistakes and not need to care about it as long as they keep grooving. The lesson and the dance together on either day of the week are just $10 for an entire evening of good music and good vibes. And if you’re feeling a little nervous about the class, don’t worry — the ballroom’s bar opens at 7:30.

On some Friday nights the price goes up to $15, but those are the nights when it’s the most worth going. On those nights, a band livens up the stage. Now swing dancing is fun on a regular night, but live music brings it to another level. There’s a difference between “feeling the rhythm” while moving to records and truly feeling the music beat out from a brass section and reverberate through your bones during a nice Charleston. Another small difference that comes with a band is that after every number, instead of moving on to the next dance immediately, everyone stops to give the musicians some well-earned applause. I just find something enjoyable in that experience.

So if that sounds like a good time to you, the Mobtown house band Sarah Sullivan and the New Old Fashioneds are playing the swing night this Friday, March 1!

Mobtown is a great place to go to get a break from campus and modern dance parties of bouncing around in a basement to some Hot 100s playlist. I must admit, learning specific moves and having them under my belt is a lot more enjoyable to me than going to a club and wondering, “What the hell am I supposed to do with my arms?” the entire time.

During swing nights, you can really go dancing in the old sense of the phrase. They’re also a great way to get yourself out of the Hopkins bubble and into a different, more relaxed mindset. A change of scenery is always nice, especially when the change is to a dance hall lined with stained glass, strings of lights and red velvet curtains towering from the ceiling while jazz classics make up the score. 

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