Tips for Enjoying Your Dance Outing at the Reservoir Lounge

The Reservoir Lounge

Social dancing at the Reservoir Lounge is like playing russian roulette with your dance outing (not to be confused with the real russian roulette which I have an inkling is played at the bar next door, “Vodka”). Sometimes you end the night having fun dances and great times with your local Toronto swing scene friends, and other times, you are sitting on the subway with your brains all over your lap in disappointment and swearing off the venue forever. Well why fight the good fight and try to change a local dance venue favorite here in Toronto? Here are a few quick tips for when you do find yourself on a Wednesday night with nothing to do and want to make the best out of your outing at the infamous Reservoir Lounge (“Rez”).

Tip 1: The music will always be the same. Get over it.

No, you are not in some sort of crazy Bill Murray movie where the same day repeats itself. You are however, at the Reservoir Lounge, where the music set NEVER CHANGES. I repeat, the music set will never change. Never ever. It’s something you just have to accept and move on to enjoy the rest of your night.

The first couple of times you head to the Rez, you’ll probably notice that the songs are actually quite decent and the sets very tight. Then something odd will happen. You will start memorize which songs go after each other and then realize that the exact same set had played the week before.

The jazz fanatic and swing dj in me dies a little bit inside whenever I go out dancing at the Rez. It took me a while to get over it but I think you can too. As long as you accept the fact that the same set will play week after week regardless if you are there or not and be able to stomach the song, “Flip, Flop, Fly”, on repeat for the rest of your dance life, you will have the recipe for success.

Dancing to the same songs is always better than not dancing, right?

Tip 2: Get used to aborting moves and standing still during dances.

Waiters and waitresses walking around with trays full of expensive glasses of wine, rich financial district workers rolling out twenties on the middle of the dance floor, and inexperience dancers flailing in full flight, these are just some of the obstacles in your way if you choose to accept the mission of dancing at the Rez. It may seem tough, but with just a little bit of skill and some good old fashion luck from Saint Frankie Manning, you should be able to do it.

Learn to dance small when the even smaller dance floor gets packed. Or learn to dance in between the lanes of circular tables. You basically have two square feet of space maximum to dance with your partner. I’m not kidding.

If you are a lead, learn to use chest-to-chest connection for majority of your dances (win!) and work on your fast-twitch reflexes to be able to abort tuck turns during any count. If you are a follow, try to insist to your lead that you do not need to do Savoy style swing outs to every song.

Tip 3: Learn to distinguish quickly between actual dancers and PUAs wearing fedora hats (or Cougars in flapper dresses).

While there is nothing wrong with PUAs, the Rez is a very dimly lit venue for dancing and the “public” are sometimes indistinguishable from the Toronto lindy community. If you are new to Toronto or its your first time dancing at the Rez, make a dancer friend quickly and ask for referrals as to whom to ask to dance with next.

This is what I like to do whenever I am in a new city for dancing:

1) Immediately ask someone to dance as soon as you get into the dance venue (after putting on your suede soles and hat of course har).

2) If the dance was not terrible, ask your partner who you should dance with next.

3) Ask the next person and indicate that you were referred. That usually makes that person immediately more friendly as they are getting a compliment as being a desirable dance partner.

4) Repeat step 2 and 3 until tired or what a break.

Also, do not leave your drink unattended. Haha joking, it’s not that bad…

Tip 4: Don’t open a bar tab.

This is especially true if your first name rhymes with “candy”, which oddly enough, a lot of the Rez’s martini tastes like. Mmm..

Got any tips for dancing at our beloved and infamous Reservoir Lounge? Leave a comment! 🙂

The Reservoir Lounge (52 Wellington St. E).

(P.S. If you are any way affiliated with the Reservoir Lounge, what about the idea of having free cover for dancers? I bet you’d get a lot more people out (and buying drinks) in the long run which would far outweigh the $100 or so dollars you make from cover charge. Just sayin’).


  1. Well, As for free cover’s….The people that get in for FREE have been coming for years, Tip well & buy more then a glass of water! Dancer’s are one Of Rez’s pet peeves. Yes you do add a wee bit of fun to the room. But you should Not take a table If the place is busy & your not ordering more then a pop. The waitstaff is not there for the fun of it all. Buy Drinks…Not a drink….Buy food. This will get you in the good book’s with all. As well Tip the coat check. They are handling your stinky shoes.”use the coat check”.
    yes the set’s do repeat, But we in Toronto are lucky that we have soooo much live music. & that we do have that option.
    Do not bring outside Food & water! This is an establishment.
    Sorry to come across so harsh 🙂
    Let’s just try & be more mindful.

  2. Hey Lana! 🙂

    Thanks for leaving a comment. Even though I do not share your point of view, I do respect what you have written as a dancer and as a person who works at the Rez. 🙂

    Majority of people I know who go to the Rez buys drinks and food so I do not know which dancers buy just a pop. A monthly glance at my Visa statement usually informs me that I have exceeded my allocation of funds for `rez shananigans`. In fact, there has not been a night at the Reservoir Lounge that I can remember when I have not spent at least fifteen dollars (coinciding with the cost of two local bottles of beer). Obviously, the bar wants everyone to spend as much money as they can, and I totally understand that from a business perspective. From a dancer`s perspective however, arguments about buying food and drinks has no relevance whether I enjoy a night of dancing or not. The blog post is about enjoying the Reservoir Lounge with your friends and family even for its faults.

    I do not agree that we in Toronto, as a LINDY HOP SCENE, are lucky just because we have so much live music. I would rather have quality over quantity in terms of bands. Lets be honest, most of the bands that play great jazz in Toronto do not play great dance music. C`mon you know it too Lana. 🙂

    Maybe having free cover for dancers will never pan out at the Reservoir Lounge. All I am saying is that there is a potential for opportunities as the Toronto scene gets bigger and bigger that instead of seeing us dancers as a pet peeve, to see us as an opportunity and capture a market share. I don`t know about the rest of the community, but I would feel a little bit offended if I knew that was the real stance and attitude by the bar and staff. What if the dancers just stopped coming on a particular night, like Wednesday night, would the Rez make more money.. maybe. I`d wager not though. 🙂

  3. Hey Rob;
    I don’t know how long you have been coming to the Reservoir lounge on Wednesday nights but We haven’t played the same set twice in 3 years. I work from a song list and pick songs Randomly for the sets. I also add new songs almost every week ( when I have my regular first string band with me ) and if you were reffering to last week, I added 5 new songs. The reason we have a cover charge is to pay the band. If you can’t cough up $5 to see a live band play 3X1 hr sets then my friend, you shouldn’t go out. As Lana put it in her rebuttal, this is a business. Any where else in the world you would be paying a lot more to see a show of this calibre. Most of the swing dancers don’t drink very much but the serving staff at the Reservoir does not discriminate, They still deliver Ice water to any one that asks wether they get tipped or not. I think your comments are way out of line and I challenge you to do what we do every week and keep it fresh. Oh sorry, That is assuming you have any talent whatsoever. I think you should check out the alternatives to this venue and get back to me.
    Your critique isn’t worth the time you took to write it.
    all the best

  4. Hey Bradley,

    Thanks for your comment!

    Let me clarify that I enjoy coming out to the Reservoir Lounge and have had many great nights there with my friends. I have in fact commented various times to you that I enjoyed the songs you have played in the past. Having said that, I do not know where the spending money comment originated from because I do pay the cover charge, buy food, and buy drinks. I also pay the cover charge, buy food and buy drinks at many live jazz bars and venues throughout the week. When I say “throughout the week” I do not mean just every now and then, I mean multiple times throughout the week. As you can imagine, that can get expensive. The suggestion about the cover charge is just that, a suggestion. Maybe the Rez wont make as much money if they take out the cover charge. But maybe it will (by way of food/drink sales).

    The great thing about the internet is that ideas can get exchanged and view points shared.

    It’s cool that you send us swing dancers invites to events around town as well invite us out to the Reservoir Lounge on a weekly basis (hence why we come). However, as this is a personal dance blog site, I wrote this blog post in the view point of a LINDY HOPPER and DANCER in Toronto. We are a different group of customers and as a business, I’m sure you know that customers are a finicky bunch. I agree that we may not be the best in terms of cashing out at the bar and believe me there is nothing more than I want than to have bling to spend at every venue for me and my friends. No matter what though, as a dancer, my first goal is to have a great time dancing to great music, and not making sure I spend enough money at the bar.

    Also, as you may have noticed from the title of this blog post, its about how to enjoy your time at the Reservoir Lounge. It’s not a critique of the venue and it’s not telling people to not go on Wednesday nights. We all have our passions in life. Mine is dancing to jazz music so I will continue to strive to find the best music to dance to and do it as much as possible. That’s just me though. I’m a bit crazy and will travel far and spend a good portion of my salary for my passion.

    Lastly, the time worth not worth it comment is irrelevant. This is a blog site not a professional jazz review site. That is better left to the more talented than I am.

    All the best as well 🙂


  5. I think that the thing about Rez is that we picked it, it didn’t pick us. They are trying to run a business and we happen to be occasional patrons. I wouldn’t consider it to be a true dance night, and I wouldn’t consider us to be its most valuable customers. This greatly affects the music choices and whether the bands have incentive to greatly increase their song lists for our benefit. Most dance venues don’t have the same band every week, so it is difficult to notice at other venues. It is unfair to compare a band’s versatility to a DJ’s.
    The average customer is wealthier than us, has slightly different taste in music and probably doesn’t come many weeks in a row. Additionally the bar isn’t huge, so there are only so many more people that could comfortably fit in there (depending on the night and the time). If they were going to do free cover to help them succeed as a business, they would have to do it at a time when most of their regular patrons have already left to gain any benefit. No cover at all wouldn’t make them any money, no cover after 11:00 might earn them something.
    Is the Rez substandard as a dance venue? Yes. Who decided it should be a dance venue in the first place? The dancers. Which ones? The ones who like to drink a lot.
    When you decide to go to Reservoir, you just have to understand what you are getting into. If you aren’t in the mood, don’t spend your money on what will be a mediocre night.

  6. Hey Kevin,

    Fair enough! 🙂 Great points, I think you are right. There definitely is a greater movement in our scene I believe for ‘dancing first’ mentality so we shall see in the new year if any changes occur.

  7. I would like to make one more comment on this Blog, I have always put the dancers first in my shows. I have taken there comments and suggestions to heart and have picked nice medium tempo songs for them to dance to. I value the dancers immensely and I don’t think it would be the same without them. I understand the pitfalls of the Res and agree. There is limited dance space, the sight lines are horrendous, and the drinks are more expensive than a pub. That being said, I think that it is still the best venue in Toronto for live music and well worth the extra effort it takes to negotiate a dance in its confines. I will continue to take comments and suggestions from dancers and will also continue to put on the best show I can for the other patrons. The Res is a very special place and I take it to heart when I feel it is being unfairly bashed. See ya Wednesday. 🙂

  8. Hey Randy,
    I heard you’re a recent transplant and new inductee to the Toronto Lindy scene…Well, I felt as a “veteran” of said scene, I had to weigh in. I started dancing in ’98 and took lessons in the neighbourhood at a now defunct dance studio called Dancing on King…ask around, anyone who has been dancing since about that time learned there too. Or they transferred over to Yonge/Eg when Lisa Jacobs moved over there…But I digress. When we would finish up a lesson, the Rez was THE place to go. Now this was at a time when Lula, Bar Code and shit, even the Chicken Deli were boasting live swing music.

    Dance space has ALWAYS been at a premium at the Rez, that is NEVER going to change. However, what has also never changed has been the quality of the music and the staff. Perhaps dancers from the west coast are different, but most Toronto Lindy peeps NEVER drink when they dance. We find it makes our moves a little sloppy. The Rez never made us feel as though we had to belly up to the bar. The staff are deft and nimble and often will move around the dancer, not the other way around. Specifically, Luke, Jesse and Tara are probably three of the city’s best servers in a very thankless and unforgiving room.

    I want to address your specific rant at Bradley and the Bouncers. As I stated, I’ve been coming to the Rez for 11 years and I still remember when Brad first started singing on Mondays. Aside from being one of the most affable people I know, he’s one of the most passionate musicians they have at the Rez. He painstakingly pours over set lists and songs and charts. That is also to say nothing of the talented and skilled musicians in his band…Terry Wilkins, Howard Moore, Mitchell Lewis…all amazing. I’ve yet to attend a Wednesday and have any of these men drop a note, be off key or clear a room. I can’t say the same for the other musicians on other nights. Yes, there is a repeat of songs from one week to the next, but not in that “oh, it’s 11 it must be time for…” I watch Brad turn to Terry or Howard and say “what do you want to do next?”…Also, do you see other musicians play live? Fuck, even The Boss has his list of songs he HAS to play. Name one person who’s gone to see him and hasn’t seen him play Thunder Road and I’ll give you a thousand dollars.

    For me the shine has come off the Rez a little and I’ve since hung up my dancing shoes…but it has NOTHING to do with the staff or the musicians. I’ve found the quality of the leaders to be subpar. Not nearly as fun as they were 11 years ago. It’s more of the casual douche bags who make the room like a frat reunion that have done it for me. But the long and the short of it is, they order booze and food. Maybe YOU are the exception to the rule…but I’ve stood at the door MANY times and watched MANY a smug dancer come in thinking they are OWED free cover. Let me tell you, I put in MANY years of dancing, paying cover, tipping my wait staff and coat check person and actually ORDERING before I got into the elusive free cover club.
    You seem to think that George and Hae Soon are just sitting in the back counting their piles of money they rake in with the WHOPPING 5 dollar cover…you’re just a simp if you think that. There’s a 6 piece band to pay, two chefs, two wait staff, a manager and usually one or two more bar tenders on top. So, if you think your 100 dollars (and please, show me a night when all 20 dancers pay cover) is really going to make a dent in that, you should consult with Suze Orman, cause I think you have a future in financial journalism.

    Here’s my challenge to you…find another room on a Wednesday (easily accesible…and in Toronto proper) with a cover lower than 5 dollars, with a better band, more dancing room and a bevvy of willing followers and I will bow down to you and declare myself entirely wrong.

  9. Oh, and you DID take it upon yourself to critique the musicianship…”The music will always be the same. Get over it.
    No, you are not in some sort of crazy Bill Murray movie where the same day repeats itself. You are however, at the Reservoir Lounge, where the music set NEVER CHANGES. I repeat, the music set will never change. Never ever. It’s something you just have to accept and move on to enjoy the rest of your night. ”

    That’s just simply not true. And as Kevin replied, most of the patrons do not go EVERY week. You are the exception in that as well as your desire to actually spend money.
    I’ve been to the Rez more than one week in a row and have never on a Wednesday said “oh, wasn’t this the exact same set as last week?”. As I said some songs will repeat, but not in the way you’re implying.

  10. RE: Bradley,

    Great to hear that! At the end of the day its what I think we all hope for. Be able to have a great time doing what we love doing with our friends and the people we love. And if we can make money while doing it as well… well that’s the life right.

  11. Hey Jessica,
    I wouldn’t say that this is a “rant”, by any means – just some comments with a bit of cheekiness. I don’t think observations and statements of feelings, i.e. general commentary counts as a rant.
    As Randy mentioned, in no way did he say that he didn’t like the Rez, the band, or discourage people from going: he’s just pointing out what he sees, and as it’s his blog, he’s free to do it with the tone he wants.
    It’s completely normal that a band repeats a lot of its tunes and even its arrangements because when they are working multiple gigs, they often don’t have time to learn a ton of new tunes and get them arranged and rehearse them from week to week, esp if they may have other musical endeavours that take up more of their creative time. It just so happens that if you come out faithfully to hear/dance to a band, you will more quickly recognize what is the same and as Randy is saying: Get over it. And Bradley – we know you love us! Hugs 🙂
    Likewise, his comments about there being wait staff walking around was not criticism, just an observation – he says nothing about them being annoying (which they are not) or rude (which they definitely are not) and in fact I think his advice for handling small spaces should be heeded (um, esp the leads who seem blissfully unaware of people and walls and frequently bang me into them – not a fan)
    Re: cover charge – I don’t think it would be a good idea to stop charging it, as I know that is what goes towards paying the band…as musician, doing gigs (esp with long sets like they have) for percentages of the bar is terrible…and unwillingness to pay for live music (unless it’s a jam/pass the hat situation) shows disrespect towards the profession. I would much prefer paying a cover knowing it’s going directly to the musicians than drinking when I don’t really like alcohol and not knowing how much they are getting.

    “Here’s my challenge to you…find another room on a Wednesday (easily accesible…and in Toronto proper) with a cover lower than 5 dollars, with a better band, more dancing room and a bevvy of willing followers and I will bow down to you and declare myself entirely wrong.”

    Whoa…was that really necessary? Why is it that whenever someone makes simple observations and gives an opinion that the response is always “well, find something better”. There is no need to be so defensive! If that was the answer to everything that someone made observations about we would constantly accept the status quo and never improve anything. Even if it’s not possible, due to various circumstances to bring about change, knowing how to understand/appreciate and work within the circumstances in a sane, safe, and joyful way is valuable.
    Finally, the blog title is “tips for enjoying your outing” not “the REZ SUCKS!”
    Alisha, who likes the Rez, and dancing, and musicians, and not drinking so much 🙂

  12. Alisha,
    it’s very nice of you to defend Randy, however, my response was directed at him, not you. No offense.
    Also, if you read the tone of his blog, it starts by saying Brad NEVER changes his set and goes into how the Rez shouldn’t charge dancers cover. I didn’t misinterpret that. Whilst it’s “tips for enjoying your outing” and it’s an honest critique, he’s a newbie…and his observations are errant as they are honest and “cheeky”.

    You’ve misread my tone…so your “whoa…was that really necessary” is actually a bit of over reaction. I simply threw down the gauntlet.

    I’m not being defensive, I am simply, like Randy, sharing my opinion. And often people’s response to critique is “find something better” because that’s the natural response. The Rez isn’t suddenly going to get bigger in space, the cover charge isn’t going to change and largely the crowd isn’t going to change. The observations about the elements he doesn’t like unfortunately are as concrete as the floor at the Rez. So, if he wants a place with no cover, a band that NEVER repeats their set list and more room for swing outs and better dance partner options, I’m asking him to find that. Not harsh, just simply making a suggestion.

  13. Hey Jessica,

    thanks for chiming in and thanks for the short Toronto history lesson 😉 I always respect everyone’s opinion even if I do not share them.

    Here’s the thing Jessica, I will constantly be trying to find great dancing to great music. It’s what I love doing more than anything else. So maybe you are right, maybe the Reservoir Lounge is the best live venue that we have in Toronto (and hey it’s only $5 right)? Shouldn’t there be a better way to market and promote that though, if it is the best live venue in Toronto other than, “try to find something better”?

    As far as the cover charge, It was simply a suggestion to create more business opportunities. Obviously if you say it’s never going to change, well I guess it’s never going to change. I think we are saying the same thing though, the cover charge that dancers pay is very minimal, so why not think outside the box and try to see if something else will work to make more money? Finding out how to fully tap into market segment is what every business should be doing.

    I’m sorry that you have hung up your dance shoes. I feel that a lot of your comments has a lot of historical aspects tied to it and maybe that is why you feel so strongly about this issue. Sadly, I have only been in Toronto for over a year so I do not know the history of lindy hop and Toronto. You are right, the Rez isnt’ going to get bigger but you are wrong if you think that the crowd is not going to change. You don’t come anymore right? I would bet that a lot of people from your generation do not come anymore. Maybe its time for Toronto’s Lindy Hop community to actually take ownership in their venues (like the Dovercourt House) and where they should spend their money on.

    Jessica, feel free to hit me on email or over the phone 647.330.9230, if you want to discuss The Rez or the toronto lindy hop scene past and/or present. I’ll be happy to talk further in detail about it and love to hear more of your view points.

    – Randy

  14. Jessica,
    I’m sorry if you feel I misread your tone 🙁 I was reacting to what seemed to me to be like a good deal of sarcasm – I think a response to a critique (and again, I’ll state that I don’t find this so much of a critique as observations and suggestions on how to handle the venue, done with some measure of irreverent tone which I actually find humorous) that is, in essence, “find something better” IS often defensive or at least, comes across as such. Saying you’ll bow down to someone and declare yourself entirely wrong is not something I’m used to hearing within measured and unsarcastic speech but admittedly tone cannot always be detected with absolute certainty through a medium such as the internet.
    I’m not defending Randy so much as a) also sharing my opinion, which just happens, to a large degree, to be in agreement with him, and b) pointing out where I thought you might have misinterpreted what he was saying (i.e. that saying “Never ever” re: the set list was hyperbole used for effect and not meant to be taken literally)…and stating that commentary does not = rant. I realize putting your name in front of the comment may have made it seem pointed but it was just so you would be alerted to the fact that someone had responded to what you said: it was not my intent to butt into your conversation if it was intended to be private, but seeing as this is an open forum, I felt free to respond to it.
    Since I’m not sure if you know Randy I’ll just say that he may be new to TO but he’s not new to dancing and he travels quite widely so he’s not really speaking from the point of view of a “newbie”. Actually, he didn’t say the Rez shouldn’t charge cover – just brought it up as a suggestion, not as something that should be done out of some kind of right we have…and as you can see, I disagree with that suggestion.
    Again, he didn’t say that he wants a place that’s bigger with a band that never repeats his set list – the whole point of the blog entry was how to have fun within the confines of that space, even if there are things that aren’t optimal…which is why I didn’t understand what prompted you to “throw down the gauntlet”, since none of this sounds like a complaint to me.

  15. Hey Randy,
    actually, I do come out almost every Tuesday or Wednesday…just been absent lately. And I really thank you for taking the time to read my post.

    Alisha, my term of newbie for Randy refers to the fact that he’s been in Toronto for a year, not that he’s a dancing new come.
    As for the issue of cover Randy writes (and I quote) “If you are any way affiliated with the Reservoir Lounge, what about the idea of having free cover for dancers?”
    I know what he’s trying to achieve here, and it’s laudable, just not possible.

    As well, it wasn’t a “private” conversation. As you said, it was posted on a blog. And I welcome your comments. Just because someone has a divergent opinion doesn’t mean I’m not interested in hearing it… You took my response to this blog and responded not just with your own feelings and misinterpretation of my tone (which, being written, and since you don’t know me is understandable) but how you think Randy feels or an attempt to explain to me what Randy meant. That’s genuinely kind, but not necessary. I’m fairly certain I understood the tone of his blog…somewhat jocular, light hearted and sadly a bit offensive to other people (not me, but other people who have read it).

    I welcome any and all interpretation of what I’m saying, but please don’t be offended when you’re corrected that you’re incorrect.

    If you could, if you want to continue this, write from the first person…as opposed to “Randy means…” or “Randy says…”

  16. Jessica,
    For the record = not at all offended at the correction. 🙂 The reason I referred back to the source of writing was because that was what was being discussed in the first place, as opposed to my opinion, which wasn’t in question and not even necessarily relevant since I didn’t have much that was different to say…if I spoke with more confidence about what he meant than seemed warranted, it may be because I’m going based on what I also know of him outside of this particular piece, and he would confirm that I was pretty much on the mark. 🙂

  17. I’ve only been to the Rez once, and I had a blast. I rarely dance to live music in Toronto, so it’s a treat. My only hesitation about going regularly is that I don’t like to drink much, especially when dancing. $5 is totally worth it for the band *applause*! I just wish I wanted to drink as much as I wanted to dance (which I don’t). The staff were great, so I don’t want to go when I’m not bringing in business. It’s just the reality of dancing in this kind of establishment.

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