Skip-stepping, slide moving, and fast dancing are the norm at the venues where dozens of swing enthusiasts gather every week with happy feet, ready to party.
Founded by Jersey City resident Earl Hicks four years ago, the Hoboken Swing Scene (HSS) is one of the mile-square's alternative to all-night partying and drinking.
"You can't really swing well if you're drunk," Hicks said last week. "This is one of the safest places to meet people."
Last Sunday, about two dozen swing dancers gathered at Maxwell's on 1039 Washington St. for an afternoon of fun and laughs with New York City swing band The Delegates. The couples drank lemonade, iced tea, or water and danced their hearts out to the cool beats provided by the band. Hicks served as a master of ceremonies and referee, ensuring that everyone danced and had a fun time.
"The people here really appreciate swing and truly enjoy dancing," said Jim Greene, the band's lead singer. "It doesn't matter if we don't have a full house, because they make it feel like the place is packed."
Former Hobokenite Dave Miller was one of the first HSS members when the group began. On May 5, he drove from Washington D.C. to visit relatives, and stopped by Maxwell's with his wife for a quick hour of swing.
"This is the best swing crew. They are friendly and people love coming here," Miller said.
Hicks began to organize swing dancing events four years ago. He had enrolled in a swing class at Steven's Institute of Technology on Castle Point, and eventually with the help of his instructor, began his independent dance group. Initially a small faithful crowd met with Hicks to swing the night away, but soon after it grew.
"Once you learn, you want to keep coming back and get better," Hicks said.
To become an HSS member, the person just has to show up to an event. Lessons are $5 for a half-hour and $10 for a full hour. So far, according to Hicks, there are more than 300 people signed up from throughout Hudson County.
HSS meets every Wednesday Night at 7:30 p.m. at Willie McBride's on 616 Grand St. Dancers are required to pay a small $5 fee at the door for the event. And Sunday's they meet at Maxwell's from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and there is a $12 fee for the dance.
HSS' Community Affairs director Celeste Young, coordinator of the group's weekly newsletter, is content with the boom the swing scene has scene in Hoboken in recent years. She attributes the newfound interest in many people's desire to have a good time without all the hassle of drinks and smokes.
"This is a terrific venue to meet new people and not bother with the loud music and attitude," Young said.
According to Hicks, HSS is designed to promote swing dancing in the city and develop a body of swing dancers through instructional lessons, practices and the experience of the joy of dancing.
"We will further work to insure that the dance occurs in a quality environment and with proper dance etiquette," Hicks said.
Swing dancing is not as easy as it looks. It requires skills and etiquette, which, Hicks said, includes dancing to the level of your partner; adjusting your dancing to the size of the crowd and the floor; learning to distinguish between a grin and a grimace with your dance partner; and if someone asks you to dance, never saying no.
For more information on HSS call (201) 459-0264 or visit them on the web at www.HobokenSwingScene.com.