Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Neal Klein of The Dancing Fools.
Dr. Klein, please share your story with us.
I began teaching an academic west coast swing course at Lesley University in 2009. While the students were hooked from the moment they started the class, west coast swing is first and foremost a social dance; thirty minutes of dancing at the end of class wasn’t enough for the students to truly practice and grow their skills. In 2011, I partnered with international instructor and professional dancer Rob Glover and acclaimed DJ and all-star dancer Joe Mahoney to form “The Dancing Fools” and create a community space for college students. “The Dancing Fools” began as a Sunday night lesson at the First Street Church in Cambridge, with a social dance afterwards at the nearby Fire + Ice restaurant. For six months, we were a small group of nine Lesley students and three instructors. At that point, we saw the need to change our night because Sundays were better suited for catching up on homework and gearing up for an 8am statistics class than for dancing until midnight. We moved our entire operation to Fire + Ice and shifted from Sundays to Wednesdays. Our dance became a mid-week escape for students and adults alike, an alternative to traditional college parties, and a community centered around creative expression.
In five short years, we grew from our little group of twelve from Lesley University to well over 100 dancers from all walks of life every Wednesday night. We were all packed into Fire + Ice so tightly that it was hard to see the floor before 11pm, so in 2016 we moved to the spacious dance floor at the Cambridge Masonic Hall and currently fill the floor with 125-150 dancers every week. In addition to our regular attendance from students enrolled at Lesley University, Boston University, Northeastern University, Tufts University, and beyond, we also enjoy a diverse community of engineers, teachers, counselors, physicists, and more.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
We are thankful that our growth has been relatively smooth and organic. Our tight-knit team of organizers, instructors, and DJs are always ready to pitch in and work together to keep everything running smoothly. The biggest challenge has always been finding enough space to fit everyone who shows up! Since 2011, we have been lucky enough to find venues large enough to accommodate our ever-growing community. While the Masonic Hall feels comfortably roomy now, we’re excited to have more new dancers coming in every week to pack the floor!
So, as you know, we’re impressed with The Dancing Fools – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
“The Dancing Fools” have been teaching social dance lessons in Boston for over 30 years. We specialize in west coast swing because it can be danced just about anywhere and uses today’s current music- everything from hip-hop, to popular music, to R&B, to country and more! Our ability to incorporate good technique, musicality, and the sheer delight of being playful and having fun with each “fool” we dance with is what makes us “The Dancing Fools”! We offer a progressive rotation of classes that dancers can jump into at any point, and we coordinate lesson material each week to provide a cohesive structure across all class levels.
We are known for and are most proud of our impact on the local west coast swing community, particularly related to college students. As a venue started for the sole purpose of creating a community for college-age dancers, we pride ourselves on not only having a constant flow of new students coming in, but also on how we support their development as dancers and community members long-term. Many dancers who started with us as undergrads have become community organizers, running west coast swing clubs at their respective schools. As alumni, those students continue to come back every week; some purely to dance and enjoy the social atmosphere, others as instructors, DJs, and organizers for “The Dancing Fools” (including Alli, co-author of this article- she ran Lesley’s west coast swing club for two years as an undergrad and is now one of our teachers and our social media coordinator!).
The atmosphere we create every Wednesday night is unique in that it is both a social space, a creative outlet, and a community hub that welcomes all identities and all bodies. Leading and following have no gender requirements here! Our staff is a huge part of that; we are one of the only groups in the dance world that has a staff of eight to ten people with such a strong sense of camaraderie and collaboration. All our teachers and DJs are constantly travelling to other dances both in and outside of Boston to grow their skills, and everyone who dances with us is encouraged to do the same; we don’t know absolutely everything! As the people who dance with us travel, they spread the word about what we do on Wednesdays like wildfire. Not a week goes by without someone telling us that a friend suggested they come, or they saw someone post about how much fun they had at a dance on Facebook and just had to check it out.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We have recently created an organization called University Swing, which seeks to spread swing dancing in all forms to college students around the globe. As an independent group, “The Dancing Fools” has successfully created a large student community of dancers who not only have clubs and run classes at their schools but are also connected members of the Boston west coast swing community. Our Wednesday dance is a space for student leaders to brainstorm, collaborate and network with their peers as well as local and international community organizers. University Swing, which launched in the fall of 2017, will utilize our uniquely student-oriented community as a model for spreading their global mission to support the future generations of swing dancers. We are thrilled to have this new opportunity to expand dance on a global scale as we continue to be a local hub for college students to learn west coast swing, make life-long friendships, and become part of a massive dance community.
- $10 general admission (lesson & social dance)
- $5 student admission (lesson & social dance)
- Lessons 8pm-9pm (beginner, intermediate, & advanced levels)
- Social dancing 9pm-12am
- Address: The Cambridge Masonic Hall
1950 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
- Website: http://thedancingfools.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @thedancingfools
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thedancingfools/