Review: Hustle and West Coast Swing classes and party in Norwalk, CT

In January of 2010, the Norwalk Citizen wrote an article about our Hustle and West Coast Swing lessons and party at Dance Dimensions in Norwalk, CT. The article featured one of our prominent and long-standing members, Pam Ross. It described her journey into her first West Coast Swing class and how she was impressed by the regular people, wearing jeans, dancing to contemporary music.

The link to the article is here:

or you can read it here:

Try something new this year

Staff reporter - Nicole Rivard
Published 01:04 a.m., Friday, January 1, 2010

In ancient times, the New Year was celebrated on the vernal equinox, or first day of spring. (The Romans were the first to recognize New Years on Jan. 1.) Knowing this takes some of the pressure off of declaring all your New Year's Resolutions tomorrow. Shouldn't we be setting goals for ourselves year-round anyways? Rather than focus on resolutions, which typically involve giving things up, we decided to help readers add to their lives in 2010. Below are suggestions for hobbies you might find enjoyable, and that just might benefit you mentally and physically as well.

Norwalker Pam Ross had been taking ballroom dance lessons three years ago when someone in the ballroom studio mentioned Erik Novoa's Hustle and West Coast Swing dance classes currently being offered at Dance Dimension, a Norwalk studio.

When she went to check out the swing class, she was thrilled.

"People were doing partner dancing to contemporary music, and wearing jeans," she told the Norwalk Citizen recently.

"Coming from the formal world of ballroom, this was exciting. I remember watching Erik teach the intermediate students a routine to the song `Don't Cha' by the Pussycat Dolls. That was a far cry from ballroom."

Ross has been hooked on West Coast Swing, a slower type of swing dance that evolved from the lindy, ever since.

"I've never been athletic and have been looking all my life for an enjoyable sport or physical activity. I finally found it in dance. I only wish I had found it when I was younger, instead of in middle age," she said.

"People should try this because it's a thousand times more fun than going to the gym. One of the things I love about West Coast Swing in particular is the music. You can do the dance to pop music, R & B, oldies, blues, 40s swing music, and more. The other great thing about taking this up as a hobby is that you can be any size or shape, any age and you don't need to bring a partner. The dance community is friendly and welcoming. And I'm not at all a natural dancer. You don't need any experience whatsoever to start."

Novoa explained that he tries to set people up for success from day one. He recommends beginners start his one-hour classes the first week of the month. He teaches Hustle on Tuesday nights and West Coast Swing on Thursday nights. The classes are followed by a practice "dance party."

"The whole idea behind this is to have a good time. It's not fun when people walk out and say. `I didn't get it at all.' People who have said, `It's not for me. I told you I was a terrible dancer,' started on week three, so it was impossible for them to `get it.'

Novoa promises that if people start at the right time, they will `get it' and will be glad they gave it a try. Even during the week of Christmas, attendance was up.

"During Christmas week classes were packed and I turned to people and said, `Why are you here?' And they were all like, `This is our thing. We love this. This makes us forget about what goes on during the day,'" he told the Citizen.

For people like Ross, who has been unemployed from time to time over the last few months, dance has kept her spirits up. And Novoa is graciously offering free classes to people who want to learn to dance, but are currently unemployed.

"It's demoralizing to lose one's job and even worse to lose one's social network because of the costs associated with going out," Novoa said in a statement. "The dance community is a social network and provides and important source of entertainment."

He plans to offer free classes to out-of-work students for as long as he can.

"Since my freelance projects have wrapped up, my week lacks structure. It's great to know that I have something fun and active to do two nights during the week, and that I'll also get to see friends and socialize," Ross said.

"That's a big part of coming to class, and it definitely lifts my spirits to see dance friends. The other thing is that once you're in class, learning steps, and then dancing to music, you're completely removed from your day-to-day concerns. Instead of worrying about the economy you're thinking about your feet, your movement, your partner, the music, etc. You're giving yourself a few hours of vacation from reality."

And that is good for the soul, says Novoa.

"When you finally accomplish learning a new move, you get a rush of endorphins. So there's a challenge, and then you get it. It doesn't have to be perfect, but you get this huge flood and rush of endorphins, and that makes you feel good."

Novoa is a two-time National Hustle Champion and a three-time U.S. Open Finalist in West Coast Swing. His dance expertise grew out of a 20-year background in ballet, jazz, tap and musical theater. He is a featured instructor at regional and national dance events and has been instrumental in developing and maintaining West Coast Swing and Hustle in lower Fairfield County and New York City. Recently, he taught West Coast Swing to the Connecticut Ballet Company for its historical dance series and to more than 500 people at Midsummer Night Swing at Lincoln Center.

For information visit

--Nicole Rivard