I’m not good at dancing.

The only time I’ve danced in an organized way in front of others was during my good friend’s quinceañera when I was 14. I had to take dance lessons twice a week for about two months to feel somewhat comfortable to perform a 45-second routine.

When the opportunity presented itself to better my dance skills, I was excited at the chance. I’ve always been envious of those who can naturally find the beat and move with such intention that it looks unintentional. But as I drove to GoDance Studio in downtown Goshen, the nerves really started to set in. I felt that familiar twisting and turning in my stomach as familiar questions flooded my mind.

“What if I make a fool of myself?”

“What if everyone else is better than me?”

Luckily I wasn’t alone, as I brought along a dance partner with the promise of food afterwards. The studio was brightly lit, with large windows looking out to the street. There were already two couples waiting when we arrived five minutes before the beginner lesson was set to begin.

Tonight’s lesson was West Coast Swing, which is characterized as an elastic dance where you and a partner move forward and back in what’s called a “slotted area” on the dance floor. It has become increasingly popular because you can dance to any song in a 4/4 beat pattern.

We met the instructor, Emily Wenger. She was very personable and easy to talk to, asking about our days and what brought us to the studio. Right off the bat, her demeanor helped to ease the nerves I had previously been feeling. The classes usually fall between five and 15 people. Today there were 12 others.

We first split into followers and leaders. I chose to be a follower. Wenger first covered establishing a good connection with your partner—a foundational part of the West Coast Swing. She went over how to hold each other’s hand, proper weight and body placement, and how much pressure you apply to your partner before we even started moving.

Then Wenger said, “Followers, switch partners one to your right.”

I was anxious as I left the person I came there with and moved to a new leader. She was a talented dancer, flowing like water as we were continuing to learn new steps.

“Everyone thank each other and switch again,” Wenger instructed.

My second partner was a taller man with blonde hair and a beanie on. He, like me, seemed to be newer to West Coast Swing.

Wenger said: “Come to a good stopping point. Thank each other and switch again.”

My third partner was another extremely talented dancer. He had long hair and an even longer beard and was so confident in his movements, never coming off the beat. It was intimidating being partnered with him, but every time he offered helpful tips that made me just a little bit better and more conformable.

My last partner was the oldest in the room. He reminded me of my grandfather with his painter’s brush mustache and easygoing demeanor.

As we continued to rotate partners and learn more difficult steps and turns, I really got a feel for how different everyone danced. At the same time, I realized that not everyone needs to dance the same to look good. Everyone was always on beat in their own way, going at their own pace.

Everyone was so welcoming and it really felt like they were all a big family. We were all joking around with Wenger during instruction, and everyone was extremely willing to try new things and embrace the mistakes rather than criticize them.

As someone with two left feet, I can wholeheartedly say that this was the best experience I’ve had trying something new while succeeding and failing all at the same time.


South Bend Latin Dance

1025 Northside Blvd., South Bend, IN

Multiple beginner and intermediate classes Wednesdays, Thursdays, and weekends


113 E Lincoln Ave, Goshen, IN

Weekly classes on Monday and Thursday

Youth Dance Programs by the Goshen Parks and Recreation Department

Fall, spring, and summer classes for children and teens