What to expect for Swing Dance comp workshops?

I'm thinking of going to the Swing Dance Grand Nationals at Atlanta, May 21-24, to see the comp events and to attend the workshops. As a beginner, I never been to one of these events before and am not sure what to expect at the workshops. Anyone care to enlighten a newbie?


Active Member
Expect a lot of awesome social dancing into the wee hours, great workshops (not sure who's giving workshops but I am sure they'll be great), seeing a lot of pro competition routines, etc. But mostly you will come back a much better dancer because of all the dancing you'll do all weekend. These weekends are awesome for social dancing. You should also try to compete if there are newcomer/novice jack&jill competitions...

I've not been to Grand Nationals but have heard many great things. Have heard that the shaggers who go to this comp are supernice and fun...
It varies from event to event. Grand Nationals is fairly typical of a large event, though.

The Workshop Schedule is published.

The workshops are all being taught by top competitors (in other words, the same group of folks that you would see in Champinons/Invitational divisions). Generally about an hour long. Most workshops, but not all, will be "learn a cool pattern". Well attended classes are usually broken up into several rows, with partners changing every few minutes.

Skill levels in the workshops usually run from "I'm new, this is my first event" to "I'm not ready to compete yet". In my experience you won't see many of the competitors in the workshops - they are using that time to catch up on sleep.

It's a very "group class" environment. There's normally space for questions during the workshop, but you shouldn't anticipate being able to manage a 1 on 1 discussion with the instructors (they are normally heading from the workshop to some other obligation).

There's often a demonstration of the highlights of the lesson given at the end, either for professional video taping (if the event has made arrangements for a video notebook), or for the attendees to record using their own equipment.
The Grand Nationals is one of my favourite competitions and I miss not being able to go any more. The workshops are well worth doing.

A few things I found:
  • You may get teachers contradicting each other, or contradicting your normal teacher back home. Don't worry about this. It is not that anybody is wrong - it is just that different teachers place emphasis on different points.
  • You will probably forget most of what you have done unless you get the video notebook.
  • After 3 days of dancing, workshops, and one competition, I could hardly walk. The very last workshop I went to I watched from the back, and only tried the move once at the end. Take care of your feet, and relax whenever you can.
So workshops will be sort of a "super-sized" group class... yeah, that brings it down to my comfort level!

Thought of competing gets me way outside my comfort zone. Love to see the big names dancing, that and the workshops look to be reason to attend. Will likely check out the scene for the newbies competition and maybe give it a go at the next event that comes my way.
Well it seems most of the people here have covered all the bases for what to expect from a workshop. However important things to note:

  • Prepare to have a lack of sleep or miss dancing. The last workshop I went to in Ohio I got about two to five hours hours of sleep tops a day for about three days straight.
  • Bring changes of clothes, especially if you sweat a lot. (This may not be as much of an issue due to this being a championship event.)
  • Prepare to be overwhelmed with information. I am usually lucky if I maybe take 1/3 of the material I learn at workshops. (Make friends who legally video tape the events, to retain more.)
  • Like DavidB says, you'll be on your feet a lot. Take care of them.


Active Member
You will be both mentally and physically exhausted at the end of the weekend, but in a good way.

I went to a four day comp once, 8 hours of lessons/workshops/day.
I was taking extensive notes (no videocamera then) and did well in the retention LATER, but when I came back and tried to take a regularly scheduled class the next week, I sat in a corner and watched while my brain refused to enter anything else into memory. LOL

Have a great time.

Introduce yourself to epsom salts and the concept of a bath or soaking your feet/legs. I swear by it.
As I am turning 54, overweight and out of shape, there is no way I could stay up and keep dancing into the wee hours. Even without the dancing I can rarely keep going beyond eleven-ish before it's beddie-bye time for me :nope:

But lets see if I can surprise myself. Thanks for the suggestion of epsom salts, bjp22tango, I think I'll give that a try.

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