Editors' pick

Glen Echo Park Spanish Ballroom

Dance Club
Glen Echo Park Spanish Ballroom photo
Mark Finkenstaedt

Editorial Review

By the time you've crossed the footbridge and passed the carousel and the booth with a neon CUDDLE UP sign, you're sure you're not in Washington anymore. In this 1933 ballroom, recently restored to its original glory, saddle shoes are still cool, men know how to lead and women know how to follow.

The regulars are more curious about how often you dance than where you work. And you'll chat with lots of curious people as you switch partners, especially on square and folk dance nights. You'll meet grandmothers and college students, dancers who enter competitions and people who step on your feet. At a Sunday afternoon waltz, you might see a man in tails glide by with a woman in biking shorts.

The architecture is the only thing Spanish about this ballroom, which rotates live swing, Cajun and waltz bands through its schedule. All music is live -- from small combos to big bands, including house group the Tom Cunningham Orchestra. Holiday parties are especially popular, and fortunately the place can accommodate the crowds of 300 to 500.

The swing and lindy hop are the equivalent of high-impact aerobics. Don't be fooled by the more sedate-sounding waltz -- it can still tax the sedentary, and you're supposed to manage to look graceful as you whirl around the floor. Brace yourself for no heating, no air conditioning, no food and no alcohol. Bring Gatorade, or buy water or soda for a dollar.

Beginners or those who need a refresher should take advantage of the very good free lessons before the dances.

-- Kira Marchenese