Even if you have yet to attend your first event, there’s a good chance you’ve probably heard about Late Night, either by experiencing it for yourself from your own local dance scene, or hearing about it from peers who’ve enjoyed it at conventions. So, what is Late Night? What makes it so magical? Well sit back, relax, and get ready to get the low down on all things LATE NIGHT.
What is Late Night? Late Night is the social dancing period after the last competitions of the night. It can begin around 11 pm or midnight and last until 6 or 7 a.m. (or sometimes even later!)
What makes Late Night so unique? For one, it’s completely different from your local dance scene. This is the time at events where you really get to experience social dancing. There is social dancing between comps, but usually it’s just for a couple of songs as the contestants and judges prepare for the next round. During Late Night they turn the lights down and put on some groovy jams. This is your chance to dance with dancers of all levels from different regions around the U.S., and even around the world!
Late Night Groove Ideally, Late Night is the time we enjoy each other’s company and this dance we love so much in a chill environment, not pressured by competition or expectations (from ourselves or others). Practice time is practice time, but during Late Night don’t pressure yourself to be so technically perfect. Some of my most memorable dances happen after 2 am, when I’m in this semi-zombie state, yet I’m completely grooving with my partner. A sense of fearlessness enters your body, and your creativity reaches another level. When you social dance, you want to enjoy the moment! I wrote on my own blog about a unicorn dance (an impressionable and incredibly memorable dance, leaving an imprint on your dance happy heart) that I had at an event, and that’s truly what gave the dance such impact. We were having a conversation through movement, and that happens when you feel the music, connect with your partner, and clear your mind.
Late Night Specials Some events add special flair to their Late Night. A number of events bring in live musicians. Jack and Jill O’ Rama hosts a “Westie Rave” on Saturday night – complete with neon paint and glow sticks galore!
Last year Swingtacular encouraged social dancing by challenging attendees to dance with two hundred people over the weekend and get them to sign your paper. Those who completed the challenge got a free pass to the event for life!
This year Wild Wild Westie hosted a “Dance Owl Night” challenge. Anyone who stayed until the ballroom closed from Saturday night to early Sunday morning received a commemorative mug. The social dancing was insane! The ballroom was filled with at least 30-40 dancers minimum, and we danced to “Scat Man” (which is 136 BPM, thank you very much!) at 6 a.m.! The owl mugs were given out about 7 a.m. to a throng of dancers eager to get their hands on the prize. So many cool stories come out of Late Night–it’s surely not to be missed.
Now you might be asking, How does one power through and dance into the wee hours of the morning? Not to worry, I’ll give you some tips on making sure your first Late Night encounter lives up to its hype.
Naps aren’t just for kids! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, naps are king in the westie world, especially for late-night dancers. It’s extremely tough to manage comps, workshops, eating, sleeping and social dancing. Napping in the middle of the day where there’s a big break, or the early period of late night dancing is fairly common. You don’t want to deprive your body of sleep during an active weekend. So grab your favorite blankie and nap away, friends!
Comfort I touched on the best social dancing attire in my packing post. When dressing for Late Night, make sure it’s something you would feel comfortable in for a lengthy period of time. That goes for your outfit and your dance shoes. A flowy tank leggings, and dance boots is a popular ensemble for the ladies. Gentlemen tend to wear sweats or comfy pants, loose fitting shirts, and dance shoes/sueded sneakers. Have an extra shirt (or five) handy if you get sweaty, or you can always go up to your hotel room to change shirts. Also don’t forget your handy dandy pack of mints and deodorant stick! Hygiene is another important element of comfort, both for yourself and those you are dancing with. 😉
Coffee!! – Caffeine boosts are great for that little pick-me-up needed for Late Night. Coffee spots are hard to find late at night, so I suggest bringing your own or using the complimentary coffee found in your room. You can share among your roomies/friends, or ask the hotel concierge where you can find coffee at late hours. Some hotels even put out free coffee in the lobby in the middle of the night.
Shots! Shots! Shots! – Adult beverages can be found at a lot of different hours of the day, but they tend to be more common when the bar is open for late-night dancers. Just be aware of what the hotel’s policy is regarding bringing personal drinks into the ballroom. Sometimes the hotel partners up with the event and will have a bartender in the ballroom, in which case they won’t allow personal alcoholic beverages to be brought in from outside the ballroom. And remember, if you do drink, please be aware of how alcohol affects your dancing. We don’t want to make our partners feel uncomfortable, and we don’t want to hurt them either.
Find a partner! – Each late night crowd is different. Sometimes the floor can be really crowded and sometimes many dancers can be found sitting out near the dancefloor. Don’t get discouraged in either situation. Nothing’s wrong with asking a dancer who’s available if they would like to dance, and if they say “no,” move onto the next person. Once you get onto the dance floor, sometimes it’s best to find a new partner on the floor when the song ends rather than leaving the dance floor after each song. It takes some of the pressure off that long walk to ask someone to dance.
Another pro tip is to be mindful of the person you are asking to dance. They might have just danced to several songs in a row or be grabbing a drink of water. Wait until they’re free and then ask them. I’ll go more in depth about “Social Dance Survival Tips” at events in a future post, but for now, don’t be afraid to dance! That’s what you paid for!
Last minute advice: If you plan on dancing late into the night or early evening, be aware of when ballroom shut-down time is. Sometimes, the event staff/crew have workshops or floor trials to prepare the ballroom for the next morning. Speaking of shutting down ballrooms that brings me to my next point.
The Breakfast Club: Dance all Night, Sleep all Day
At Wandering Westie, we’re adamant ambassadors of late night social dancing. The Breakfast Club is a badge of honor for the proud, the few, the dancers who are so crazy passionate about this dance that they’re still dancing as the sun comes up. You cannot purchase this shirt unless you have photographic proof that you made it at Late Night past 6 am (yes it’s ok to nap in between). No longer is “The Breakfast Club” just a cult classic John Hughes flick, now it’s also a representation of hearty dancers who love their social dancing and don’t want to miss those magical wee hours of the morning when the creativity flows. The group stays until close, and typically grabs breakfast while most folks are just starting to stir. If you’ve earned your stripes and would like to join the club and get your Breakfast Club shirt, message the Wandering Westie page on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org (you need the special coupon code to be able to buy them at the normal $30 price on the Etsy shop). 😉
Balance is key at westie conventions. Sometimes, managing your schedule can be an art form at events, but make sure you’re not pushing your body beyond its limit. I danced until (almost) shut down time Saturday night at Wild Wild Westie, and didn’t go to bed until 7 a.m. I woke up 3.5 hours later, showered, and headed down to the ballroom for my private lesson. Talk about the zombie/vampire feels. haha You know your body better than anyone else’s. Have fun, but don’t hurt yourself or get sick!
Alrighty folks, I hope this post got you all excited and hyped for your first Late Night experience. Dance the night away! I’ll be back next week to talk about safety at westie conventions. For Wandering Westie blog, I’m Stephanie Pham. Keep dancing!