Our dance community is one the best parts about being involved in our dance classes. Students get to know each other during our weekly classes and attend local, regional, and national events together. While at events, we sit together at a group table, go out to dinner, and cheer for those who choose to complete. Occasionally, we even arrange for social events like going to performances, going on hikes, or meeting for brunch. 

You are invited to be a part of our community page. If you've been part of our classes, please feel free to use the following guideline questions to create a few sentences/paragraphs. Please add a picture, too. Your participation will help to inspire others. 

  • Where are you originally from?
  • When was your first exposure to dance (dances classes as a child, a dance performance, etc)?
  • How did you find West Coast Swing, Hustle, or partner dancing?
  • How long have you been doing West Coast Swing or Hustle socially and competitively?
  • Are there any dance achievements or competitive placements you're proud of?
  • What does dancing mean to you, and how has it affected your life?
  • Is there anything else you'd like to say (family, work, shameless plug, etc.)? Feel free to promote your own business, too.

These biographies can be updated at any time. 

Send your biography to me

Janice Frank 20190921 600pxI have been taking weekly West Coast Swing classes at SwingShoes since January 2018, with no prior dance experience. During that time, I have also taken Erik’s workshops in Hustle, Salsa, and Nightclub Two-Step. In 2019, I pursued additional lessons in Salsa at another studio to continue to expand my dance vocabulary. Socially I’ve been dancing West Coast Swing in NYC and CT, have attended a few dance events in CT and MA, and various workshops in the tri-state area. I competed in a West Coast Swing Jack & Jill competition at the dance event Swingin’ Into Spring in 2019 for the very first time. It was new and scary, but also tremendously exciting and educational. Shockingly, I placed fifth!

Paul OkuraI was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Chicago when I was 11 years old. I went to school in Japan and in the U.S. so I am bilingual and bicultural. In the U.S., I lived in Chicago, San Francisco and New York. Prior to establishing my IT company, CMIT Solutions, I worked for major global banks in New York and Tokyo and traveled to countries in Asia, North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Russia, China, India, Australia, etc. for business.

When I used to travel to different countries, I used to dance with local people. I was able to dance Tango in Argentina, dance Samba in Brazil and danced Waltz and Salsa in Beijing, China. It did not matter that I did not speak Spanish or Portuguese or Chinese. Dancing is international language and immediately you can become friends with the local people.

Terry SantiagoI grew up watching dancers from the sidelines, not having the knowledge or confidence to do much social dancing. In 2008 I started belly dancing, which showed me I could learn to dance and helped me gain confidence; I even did a solo student performance at Jebon in the Village. But I still wanted to enjoy social dancing. So, I convinced my husband, Mike, to try ballroom dancing and we took lessons in many of the smooth and latin dances. A friend showed us West Coast Swing and recommended Erik Novoa for lessons.

Anne HumphreyI have always loved dancing. I never had any formal dance training until after college, when I signed up to take an Adult Ballet class in Syracuse, New York. I loved the ballet class and eventually added jazz classes as well. Once I started, I never stopped. I moved to Torrington CT thirty two years ago and I am now retired, and still attend an adult ballet class once a week.

Jerry GregoryI started dancing in grammar school—I think my mother made me go. Fast forward to the rock n' roll era, jitterbug, the twist, etc. Going to weddings after college I always wanted to dance like the older folks watching them glide around the floor. After a stint in country line dancing and 2 step, I started into ballroom. Slipped in and out of dancing for some years and got serious about 6 years ago. About 3 yrs ago, I met a wonderful retiring teacher who introduced me to West Coast Swing and the Thursday night SwingShoes class. She’s made me a better dancer and a better partner. What could be better! Swingshoes is Great fun and great people. What’s better than dancing?

Carrie Vickrey 600pxMy father was an artist and my mother was an activist, I’m a little bit of both. I was born in Manhattan, where my family and I spent every Sunday at the Met exploring the endless galleries of armor and art. Later we moved to Fairfield where my siblings and I spent countless hours creating fantasy worlds hidden within the towering rhododendron plants in our back yard. At the age of five I was introduced to dance at Miss Comer’s ballet classes in Bridgeport. Although my ballet potential was frequently questioned, my interest in tap dancing took off. What I lacked in talent I more than made up for with enthusiasm. The special mix of music, rhythm and music made me feel alive. The energy, excitement, not to mention all that noise, were intoxicating. But, after a bout of extremely ferocious tapping on plasterboard walls, my shoes were confiscated. Further forays into the world of dance were strongly discouraged.

Maria VialeI was born in Rome. When I was 6 years old, I moved to Argentina and I came to New York (South Salem) in the year 2000 with my 2 boys. When I was living in Buenos Aires, I started “dancing” at the age of 10. It was called “gimnasia rítmica” and then “expresión corporal”(body expression) with Patricia Stokoe, inspiring teacher, dancer and creator of this artistic discipline in Argentina. We had an excellent improv dance group for years! The concept was awakening the awareness of the body by using different techniques to improve your own creative dance and movement. I also took ballet and flamenco classes when I was younger. It did not work for me! My feet were killing me! Later in life, I really enjoyed tango and salsa lessons, and belonged to a theater group for six years which added to continuing a creative process. I pursued most of my studies in Argentina. I finished college in the United States at SUNY Binghamton and my Masters in French in Paris, with Middlebury College.

Brandon GaydorusI was born and raised in the Binghamton, NY area. After being tired of dancing like a robot on nights out with friends, I was intrigued when a friend of mine told me about SwingShoes. My first class was in January of 2017 and Erik's teaching style had me hooked immediately.

Sharon CloutierI was born and raised in Fairfield, CT. I am a retired public school educator and I come from a family of educators. My family is also very musical....organists, pianists, choir directors, soloists....so music has always been prominent in my life.

I credit my sister for getting me involved in dance. I was newly divorced and looking for an outlet as a single person that was safe and fun. She was a very accomplished vintage dancer so I gave that a try but it proved to be a little too intimidating for a rank beginner like me....and not quite my "cup of tea". We did contra dancing together as well and that's when I got hooked on dance....nice people, live music, easy to learn, something to look forward to at the end of the work week.

I was born & raised in San Francisco. In 1978 I moved to New York City to pursue a career in photography. I met my wife, Stapley, at a bridge class in Manhattan-we made a 2 heart contract, and married three years later. After our son Ryan was born, we decamped for Westport, and, some years later, to our current home in Weston. We started taking dance lessons at Sandra Cameron studio in the Village, so as not to embarrass ourselves at our wedding, and found we liked it. Kids and work interfered with progressing until a few years ago, when we took it up again. We’ve really enjoyed learning with you, and hope to resume as soon as it’s safe.

Laura RyanWhen most SwingShoes dancers recall their first time participating, they think of that first Thursday evening. My memory is a little different… because I started on a Wednesday evening (3/1/17 to be exact). I was so nervous about taking the Thursday group class that I took a private lesson with Erik the night before. Yes, I started my West Coast Swing journey with a self-imposed "audition." And before we even ventured into our first sugar push, I listed all the reasons why “this might not work” and why I might have to “try macramé as a hobby instead.” You see, I had never taken dance lessons, had never played a sport, am certainly not built like a dancer, don’t have great vision – well, you get the picture.

Sheldon Green 2019People used to say that life begins at forty. For me, life began at fifty. After my son's mother and I divorced, I began exploring, learning and doing things I either had not done in years or had never done before.

I had never been one to voluntarily step upon a dance floor in a social environment - not without proper (alcoholic) fortification. Not having ever taken a lesson, I felt odd, clumsy and could be easily embarrassed! However, one Sunday while in my early fifties, I accepted an invitation from a lady with whom I met while trail hiking to share a drink at Terrace Club in Stamford. She was in the medical field and familiar with sports medicine was going to help me discuss a recent skiing injury.

Georgette WirthIt was like discovering a Jackson Pollock painting splattered on the wall the first time I walked into Erik's studio. ALL the senses were ALIVE!! So many of us feel like this when we re-discover the passions that we have buried so deeply over the years.

Vijay Kerstin Rao 600pxVijay started West Coast Swing lessons while living in Brooklyn in the 1990s. Kerstin never had a dance lesson in her life. When they started dating, Vijay sought an activity they could enjoy together, so they joined Erik's West Coast Swing classes in Norwalk. As they learned the steps, faced frustrations, began to understand the syncopation, they discovered joy. But what keeps them coming back is the strengthening of their connection through dance. Vijay attends more regularly than Kerstin and was proud to dance in the International West Coast Swing Rally in 2019.

Ed and Sandy BlumWe met at the University of Chicago as undergraduates, are a longtime married couple, and best friends. Sandy is a Chicago native. Ed was born in New York, lived in New England as a child, and mainly grew up in Chicago. Neither of us has any training in dance. Ed plays guitar and sings at home, has been known in his younger years to perform. Sandy can’t carry a tune. Both of us love music and dance of any kind. 

Susan Chen West Coast Swing and Hustle Dancer in CTSusan Chen is best known to many as Erik Novoa’s original “business manager” during Erik's first two years teaching classes in Connecticut. Her friendly smile and her encouraging words made many newcomers feel welcome and helped in establishing the Hustle and West Coast Swing dance community in southwestern Connecticut.

Having admired the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as a youngster, Susan was finally able to begin taking regular dance lessons after her 40th birthday to introduce some fun exercise into her low-key lifestyle. Although at the time she thought that was “old” to take up dancing, her love for those early East Coast Swing and Lindy Hop classes made her feel young at heart. She found that her asthma eventually went away and her overall muscle tone improved.

Lynda Williams 600pxI am originally from the Bronx, NY, and I moved to Westchester when I was 13. My father was an avid ballroom, Latin, and Tango dancer who tried to introduce dance to me when I was a teenager. Unfortunately, at that time, I only had an interest in freestyle dancing (and boys), so unfortunately, I never learned to dance from my dad. A few years after my father passed away, in his honor, I decided I would sign up for ballroom dance lessons and from the moment I stepped onto the dance floor, I was hooked!