|February, 1999 Forum|
Take your Valentine Lindy Hopping!
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Archive of Dance Forum Articles From February, 1999
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Live Events at Chevy Chase Ballroom
Tom and Debra are happy to announce two nights of live music at Chevy Chase Ballroom. I know you all weep and moan at the very thought of the absence of Bernstein, but please note these two events.
Hope to see everyone there. These are both general-admission dances, so just show up with your money clenched in your grubby little hand, and The Enforcer (Michael Henry) will be glad to relieve you of it!
TV Cameras at the Grille
One of the local Network TV affiliates is doing a piece on swing. They want to come out and tape some of the good dancers at a local club. Could you plan on coming to Vienna Grille Tuesday, February 2nd and be part of the shoot? As well, they would like us to dress up a bit (zoots and feathers, nice outfits, etc. - we usually don't dress up at the Grille, but this can be an exception). We'll dance and probably have a jam.
Any way, the video should be going on after 8:30, so come on out and dance this next Tuesday 8:30 - 11:00 and show the world what good Lindy looks like. Normal cover at the door.
If you can make it, please email me so I can see who's
Another Psychoboy Dance
I will be holding a dance on Feb. 19, 1999 at the Bethesda Dancesport (across from the Shark Club) from 9pm until midnight. Bethesda Dancesport has a wonderful wooden dance floor with floor to ceiling mirrors. Dance to the swingin sounds of the Bill Eliot Trio. Admission will be $10.00 at the door.
John "Psycho Boy" McCalla
Lindy Hop Europe 1999
Combine social dancing at the hottest nightclubs in Europe, plus top notch lindy hop instruction by the best lindy hop dancers world wide at two international European workshops, plus sightseeing of some of the most spectacular parts of Europe, and a visit to the world's largest and oldest beer drinking festival, Germany's Oktoberfest, and you have Lindy Hop Europe 1999. If you like lindy hop dancing, and want to see some of Europe, no matter what your skill level, this trip is the perfect combination. You can expect four star hotels while traveling, and community dance centers- where you will be lodging with other dancers from around the world, during the workshops. You will have days to explore on your own, as well as special moments to share with the group. See for yourself- this is one lindy hop adventure you won't want to miss! Dates: September 23 - October 7, 1999, includes Switzerland, Germany, and England. Cost: about $2,300 with myriad details.
To get these details, check out:
Mood Swings Valentine's Day Celebration
Join Mood Swings Big Band and Turf Valley Resort Hotel for a wonderful, romantic Valentine's Day Celebration. What a great way to show them that you love them! Both overnight and commuter packages are available.
For more information and reservations, please call Turf Valley Resort Hotel at 410-465-1500 or call Mood Swings Big Band at 410-252-4924.
Swing Enjoys a Worldwide Comeback
They love the music of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, they dance the lindy hop and their clothes also would not have looked out of place in a 1930s dance hall. They are fans of swing, the 30s jazz culture which is enjoying a worldwide comeback.
The swing renaissance began in the U.S. in the mid-1980s. At first it was restricted to San Francisco and Los Angeles, but now nearly every U.S. city has at least one swing club. And Europe is also falling for swing with its fast, insistent rhythms.
"Swing is my kind of music," said Harald Gaertner from Munich in southern Germany. The big band sounds are so full of life and energy that "you just have to join in," he said.
Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller are the icons of the swing scene which caused a musical revolution from the 1920s to the 1940s. And now they are filling the dance floors once again.
But alongside the classics, new bands are also developing their own swing style. The Brian Setzer Orchestra, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy all regularly feature in the American music charts.
"These bands don't have much to do with swing in the classic sense," said Godehard Paettker from Lippstadt, in Germany, who looks after the swing scene in the German Rock 'n' Roll and Boogie Woogie Association.
Oddly enough, many of these musicians come from the punk scene. This is why many of the songs sound so spiky and why they appeal to a younger audience.
The dancing style is just as unconventional as the music. The lindy hop is a racy step and figure formation which is believed to have originated in the Harlem district of New York in the 1920s.
Dancers need a good feel for rhythm and a high level of fitness. The daredevil overhead throw and breathtakingly fast dance steps cannot be learned in a weekend.
"With some intensive training, you can master one dance in a week. If you stick at it, you can build up a good repertoire within six months," said Frank Theede from Germany, who with his wife Isabell is one of the most successful dancers on the international Lindy Hop scene.
The pair used to be competitive ballroom dancers but felt restricted by the stress of the judging and the rules. "With the Lindy Hop you are much more free," said Frank.
The lindy hop also gives dancers a chance to flirt. "You dance with each other and it is important that you touch each other and and pay attention to each other," said Helmut Schaefer of the German Association of Dance Teachers in Hamburg.
"It is a whole way of life," said Frank. You don't just train once a week, you quickly become involved with the lifestyle behind the dance.
This includes the glamorous dress code on the swing scene. Zoot suits are a must for men - they are extremely long and wide-cut suits made from fine material. Women tend to wear glitzy, swirling dresses and pearl necklaces.
"It sometimes looks like a carnival to outsiders, but increasingly more people are coming to dance events in 30s and 40s clothing styles," said Paettker. "Some of them dig out old patterns to try to copy original styles."
The swing scene in Germany still has a long way to go. Swing clubs and bars are only slowly opening up. In the south, Munich recently opened a Sunday club with live music. And Hamburg in the north also puts on swing concerts.
But between north and south, Germany is a swing desert. If needs be, German swing kids have to travel to Sweden where lindy hop is a very popular movement.
Sweden even hosts a lindy hop summer camp. The camp began in 1989 with just a few dozen participants but last year attracted 1,200 people from 20 different countries.
Lovely Ladies of Lindy Hop
Hi Frank and Carole!
To obtain your own copy, send $15 check/money-order to:
Also, check out their website:
Bing Crosby Expert Guest of the MWOTRC
On Friday February 12, 1999, the Metropolitan Washington Old Time Radio Club is proud to have as its guest Wig Wiggins, the North American representative of the International Crosby Circle, an international Bing Crosby fan club. Mr. Wiggins will discuss Crosby's contributions to music and radio and will share information about his organization.
The meeting is free and open to the public and will be held at
the MWOTRC's new location:
The meeting begins at 7:30 pm and will end at approximately 10:00 pm. There is plenty of free parking and refreshments will be served. If you would like more information, please contact me at (301) 587-8976.
Getting into the Swing
Maybe you didn't know that the latest craze to explode in American culture has teen-agers and twenty-somethings hoppin' to some of the same tunes that their grandparents grew up on - before rock 'n' roll had a name.
Maybe you didn't realize that the dance that everyone wants to learn these days is the Lindy. That's right. Get off the floor and back in your La-Z-Boy. The Lindy, as in the Lindy Hop, the acrobatic dance named for Charles Lindbergh, who captivated the country by flying across the Atlantic Ocean.
Swing is back.
Call it retro-swing, neo-swing, a swing revolution.
Just call it big.
The movement has been building for nearly a decade since young bands on the West Coast rediscovered the magic of swing music and started dressing in zoot suits. Other large cities, including Charlotte, have opened clubs that cater to the swing set, fueled in part by the surprise hit movie "Swingers," which gave national exposure to the L.A. scene two years ago.
Now the rest of the country, including Charleston, is catching on. Bands like the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Cherry Poppin' Daddies busted up the charts this year while the revival of Louis Prima's hit, "Jump, Jive an' Wail" in a toe-tapping ad for The Gap kicked off a wave of swing-themed TV commercials.
To be sure, many of the new bands put their own spin on swing, drawing on their days of playing punk rock, rockabilly and jazz. But they've also sparked new interest in classic musicians from the '30s and '40s such as Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman.
"They were geniuses, and everybody recognizes that now," says Doc Reynolds, host of the local radio show "Swing Time." He also teaches a course in American jazz culture at the College of Charleston.
The swing renaissance also reminds us what a blast it can be to dance holding hands.
Several colleges in the Lowcountry started offering Lindy lessons to their students this year - which seems only fitting since the dance usually incorporates The Charleston.
At Charleston Southern University students can sign up for six weeks of swing lessons leading up to their April formal. Organizers are thinking about the theme "Party Like It's 1949." "If you look back in time at swing, that was really a unified time for America," says Charleston Southern junior Phillip McCart, who grew up listening to his grandparents' old records. McCart, 20, thinks his generation wants to hold on to that spirit. "It's really deep, but I think that has a lot to do with it," he says. "Plus, it's just fun."
LOCAL SWING SPOTS:
Today's dancers wear twirly-skirts much shorter than they did in the 1940s, though tastes differ across the country. On the West Coast, the look is more "hootchy kootchy momma" than on the East Coast, according to Gay Shepardson, of the Maryland-based retailer Dancestore.com. For women who want to be discreet even as they flip and fly through the air, her store offers full coverage undies.
If you're serious about swing, you might want to invest in some new shoes, since everyone will be looking at your fancy footwork. Besides, lindy-hopping can take a toll on those tootsies. Dancestore.com offers comfortable Bleyer swing shoes in several styles, including The Charleston.
They take to the dance floor dressed to the nines in clothes twice as old as they are -- baggy pants and suspenders for the men, dresses with fitted waists and full skirts for the women. A song their grandparents know by heart blares from the CD player. They bob in place for a few seconds to get the beat, then launch into a rollicking version of the Lindy Hop.
It's a typical Thursday night in the back parking lot at Mearle's Drive-In on Mooney Boulevard in Visalia.
While others their age are wearing baggy denim and tuning in to alternative music, the Visalia Swing Kids have jumped on a hot new dance trend that is 50 years old -- swing.
The group of about 30 high school and college students formed several months ago when Chalie Mac's Bar and Grill offered swing dance lessons.
"We thought it would be a fun thing to do," said Heather McNabb. Chalie Mac's fling with swing ended quickly, but Visalia's swing revival had just begun. "We still wanted to dance," McNabb said. "So we asked the owners of Mearle's if it would be OK to dance here, and they said yes."
Their dance floor is the poorly lighted asphalt parking lot behind the restaurant. They meet at 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday nights, pop a CD into a boom box and launch into what they call street swing.
"It's a mixture of old '40s Big Band style and a little bit of today," said Jenny Lewis, still catching her breath after a fast-paced number. "It's so aerobic and so wonderful," said Lewis, wearing a filmy vintage dress rescued from a thrift store. Though the Swing Kids dance in a parking lot, they look like they've walked out of a 1940s hotel ballroom. "There's always people who dress up," McNabb said. Several of the women wear polka-dot print dresses with full skirts that swirl and twirl when they dance. Their '90s hairstyles are pulled into ponytails or '40s-style coifs. The men sport high-waisted and baggy pants, wide ties, vests or suspenders and fedoras.
"When I wear my suit to school, (my friends) laugh at me," said Chris McGuire, 16, a Golden West student. Stephanie Sudduth, 16, likes the look of the swing era. "One of the fun things is going to thrift stores and buying clothes," she said, looking glamorous in a short-sleeved, polka-dot print dress she found on such an excursion. Their clothes aren't designed for the winter weather, but no one seems to care. "You don't get cold when you're dancing," Lewis said. It's no wonder, with routines as aerobic as a health-club workout. Dancing moves like the "pretzel," the "airplane," the "cuddle" and the "slide" with acrobatic aerial flips require both skill and courage.
Certain moves are too dangerous to do on the rough concrete.
"We're trying to get an indoor place," Lewis said. Roller Towne in Visalia reserves a small area for swing dancing on Saturday nights. The Swing Kids also went to Fresno recently for a swing bash at Hoover High School. "We tore up the floor," Lewis said. "We learned a lot. We trade ideas with other dancers." The Visalia group caught the eye of Fresnans Rick Lowan and Jenna Ardaiz, avid swing dancers and founders of the Central California Swing Association. "(Swing) seems to have gotten a foothold in Visalia," Ardaiz said. She and Lowan, her fiancee, had driven down from Fresno to dance with the Swing Kids.
"They just suck this in like you can't believe. And they've taught themselves with no formal dance lessons." Ardaiz and Lowan created a swing Web page (www.swingcentral.net) and are trying to maintain the interest in swing that surged this summer. The Web page gets about 200 hits a week. Part of swing's appeal is its wholesomeness. "It's a couples thing. It's not a 'meat-market' scene," Lowan said. "It's a good, clean atmosphere."
Swing also attracts several generations. The Visalia Swing Kids dance to music by new groups like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Royal Crown Revue. But they're also jammin' to music their grandparents loved, songs by Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller and the Louis trinity: Prima, Jordan and Armstrong. "We've had some older people dance with us," Lewis said. "The mixing of the generations is wonderful." The Swing Kids might even have a thing or two to teach their parents and grandparents. "My mom wants to come," Sudduth said. "She thinks it's neat. She wants to learn."
[Editor's Note: Mearle's College Drive-In is one of the last diners to offer curbside service. It is located in the town of Visalia, California, just opposite the College of the Sequoias. It was originally opened in 1940 as TAD's, the name stemming from the initials of three brothers who owned the place. Later, the restaurant was sold to a Mr. Heston, who simply took the letters "T" and "A" off the sign and ran it as "D's" until 1949. Mr. Heston was noted for playing checkers with the students and helping them with their homework. The Nielsen family bought the place in 1949; they used it as an outlet for Nielson's Creamery products and the menu focused on milk shakes and malts. Mearle Heitzman was hired as a new graduate of the Carnation soda fountain school in Los Angeles. Mearle managed the place until 1961, when he bought it and changed the name. Mearle's was the role model for the diner set constructed for the film American Graffitti ]
What Daddy-O Did in the War
Stand by your zoot suits, the big bands are back - and jumping. On the floor of New York's Hammerstein Ballroom zoot suits and flared skirts abound. Dances such as the lindy hop and the jitterbug, scarcely seen in half a century, are being executed with immaculate precision and flamboyant skill. On stage the Brian Setzer Orchestra, with its 13-piece brass section, all of them dressed in green suits behind matching orchestra desks, is blaring out a mixture of swing, jump and jive as if Cab Calloway and Louis Jordan had never gone away. At the bar the only drink to be seen sipping is a fruit-flavoured martini complete with umbrella. It may be 1999 but it seems that swing is the thing once again.
In an improbable pre-millennium trend, the big band craze is currently sweeping America, as a new generation discovers the excitement of a sound that was last in vogue at the end of the Second World War. Bands such as the Brian Setzer Orchestra, the Squirrel Nut Zippers and the Cherry Poppin' Daddies have sold millions of records in America over the past year. Last month Rolling Stone, still America's rock'n'roll bible, devoted a ten-page special to the swing revival. Later this month, another swing band, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, will be seen by hundreds of millions of television viewers around the world, when they perform at American football's Super Bowl.
In Britain, too, swing is tipped to be the next big thing. Although there has been little chart action to match America yet, clubs with names like Zoot Suit Riot are opening everywhere and there are now an estimated 40 dance nights a week around Britain, offering not only the best in swing music, but classes in the accompanying dance steps. There is a growing number of British swing bands, too, led by the Big Six from London, who have just signed a major deal with Mercury Records.
"It's a reaction to years of grunge," says Jason Moss of Cherry Poppin' Daddies from Oregon, who have sold a million albums in America and made a big impact on their first visit to Britain last year. "The prevailing sound has been very dark and introspective for a long time. People are tired of that and want something more exuberant."
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy were perhaps the first to draw attention to the swing revival when they appeared in Jon Favreau's 1996 hit movie, Swingers. "We're coming from a jump sound, from people like Louis Armstrong, who played music that was more raw, more rocking than traditional swing," says singer and guitarist Scotty Moore. "I've never thought of our music as retro. Swing was originally like punk rock, the early primitive stuff, that big band mambo with people dancing in the aisles before it became polished and clean and tame. What we do is wild and swinging Forties music with a Nineties twist."
All are agreed that the swing revival has no future if it just sets out to replicate the sound of the past. "If you copy what they did 50 years ago it's not going to be bad, but it is doing it just the same," says Setzer who, as the former leader of rockabilly revivalists the Stray Cats already had a reputation as an inventive musical archaeologist. "To make the music viable you have to make it new and you have to make it your own. That's why the Stray Cats were successful in the Eighties. Other rockabilly bands were stuck in 1956. We gave it a new lick of paint then and that's what we are doing now."
Like the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Setzer's album, The Dirty Boogie, went Top Ten in America. The sound is loaded with brass but is dirtier and funkier than the smooth mellifluousness of a Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman. "It's rockabilly, swing and rock'n'roll all put in that big band thing," Setzer says. "Everyone said: 'What are you doing taking big band music from the Forties and adding electric guitar?' They said it would never work. Now it's rolling. It's got style, a great vibe and great dances. It's on fire." Setzer, who has also played on albums with Bob Dylan, Robert Plant and Ricki Lee Jones, put the orchestra together in 1993. "They were basically jazz musicians and I couldn't explain how to rock to them so it was initially hard," he says. "But we went on the road for a 50-city North American tour and they soon learnt. It hasn't been easy from a business standpoint. The cost of touring with such a large band is enormous and at first there was no radio airplay or music video exposure. We built it up on word of mouth. Once people saw us they would talk about us and that's how it eventually took off." The orchestra is due in Britain in March.
Most of the new generation of swing musicians are not teenage hopefuls but thirtysomethings disillusioned with the banality of much modern rock music. Steve Perry, 34, of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, says: "Swing bands are the antithesis of all those tired rock cliches. It's less tortured. There is no reason why swing can't be a viable modern music. Does it all have to be angst? When Count Basie got out there and smiled and the band was all brassy, it felt like a warm day and everything was going to be all right. What's wrong with that? Swing is probably addressing some kind of need in people right now."
Robert Austin, Britain's leading promoter of swing and a former dance champion himself, agrees. His club nights attract huge crowds, many of them dressed in full Forties costume. "When the Cherry Poppin' Daddies came to play in London I thought it was the best thing I had seen since the Jam in 1979," he says. "Swing in Britain is really exciting. We've seen what has happened in America and I'm sure exactly the same is going to happen here. It's a wave and you can either ride it or get very wet."
The Dirty Boogie by the Brian Setzer Orchestra and Zoot Suit Riot by Cherry Poppin' Daddies are both released by Universal Records. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's album will be released in the spring
The much-promised pre-PoliTiki potlucks at the Engels are finally starting!
We're all unpacked (well, OK, mostly unpacked...unpacked enough...you all don't mind a few boxes sitting around, do you?) and ready to have some people over. So here are the details:
Bring some food to share. Elizabeth will make a main dish every week (be advised that the Engels are vegetarians). Sides, salads, appetizers, beverages, or desserts would all be equally well appreciated.
If you're coming, please call the Engels at 202.547.2344 or e-mail email@example.com by Thursday night so we have some idea how many people to expect. You'll also want to call/e-mail to make sure we will in fact be having a potluck that week (we do go out of town every once in a while you know) and in case you need more specific directions.
Specific location information: We live on 6th Street, SE between A and East Capitol. 6th Street is one way northbound, and we live on the left side of the street about the middle of the block, directly across from the elementary school and right next to the entrance to the alley. The house is white with grey trim and is entered by the gate on the alley side. We're in the house, not the basement apartment (that's our neighbor Jacqueline). There's a big brass plaque with the number 17 at the gate.
Alex Day is Teaching Lindy
I'll be teaching at Aeroflex Healthclub in Rockville, for 5 Fridays, starting the 12th of February. The manager tells me that the floor is thinly carpeted (so slippery shoes are appropriate), but that there's a nice give to it. There's a sound system and stuff, since I'm teaching in the aerobics room. They're not charging the members, but if you want to come on down, you just have to buy your way into the club, not into my class. If you'd like a nice workout, guest passes are $15 for the whole day and the class is nothing extra; so you could go in the afternoon and use their other facilities, and then drop in for the 7 o'clock hour-long class later. Really, this is the smart way to do it, as $15 is a lot to pay for one lesson and a little social dancing! Did all that make sense?
see u guys dancing!
Daryl Davis at Timpanos
News from Barbl Kauffer!
Steve and I went to Marcus and Barbl's dance camp in Munich last year. It was our chance to get top notch instruction, face time with Frankie, and more exposure to Erik and Sylvia (and their cool California buddies) plus get a nice vacation to boot.
Germany shuts down for the three-day Pentacost weekend (Pfingst, in German). What better time to boogie! The cost of plane fare thrown in, the whole thing actually worked out to be CHEAPER than going to Catalina (which had been our first choice).
Here are the details, straight from Barbl:
Hi all you fans of Boogie Woogie, Swing and Tango Argentino dancing! Registration time for the ever popular Boogie Baren Whitsun dance camp will begin mid February!
This is the 12th Boogie Baren Pfingstseminar (as we call it ... ) and, as usual, it will take place in Landsberg am Lech (west of Munich) from 22nd to 24th May 1999.
Three whole days of Boogie Woogie, Lindy Hop, Tango Argentino, Shag, Hollywood Style and loads of trial lessons like Balboa, Partner Charleston, 50s acrobatics, Lindy Hop airsteps, rhythm theory and practice, Tap, music theory, BW group formation, Blues, Jitterbug Stroll, Shim Sham, Hip Hop, special Boogie Woogie and Lindy Hop lessons, Flamenco etc. for just 220 DM.
[note, the Duetch mark is worth about 58 cents...making this roughly $126 U.S. They can also find you lodging in the most incredible walled seminary-type structure for about $10-15 a day! A bus takes you to camp each day. ]
Barbl also updates us on another piece of hot gossip circulating around last year. Apparently, Cathrine, from the Rhythm Hot Shots, denounced the "Hollywood Style" when she was visiting LA. Them's fightin' words to Sylvia. Looks like one of our Scandinavian Lindy Hoppers may be thinking differently....
Do you know already that Erik & Sylvia are teaching at the Herraeng Dance Camp in Sweden this year (4th week)? And also Jonathan Bixby and Sylvia Sykes. It seems that they will bring the Hollywood Style (Dean Collins!) to Herraeng. I remember that Erik and Sylvia told us last year that Cathrine from the Rhythm Hot Shots said at one workshop in L.A. that she don`t wanna teach anyone who is doing Dean Collins style. Now this is coming to Sweden. Great!
[One more editorial note...Americans invented this damn dance in the first place. It really amuses me that Europeans declare themselves instant experts. I, for one, can't get enough of any variation of the 6 and 8 count swing that crosses my path. Marcus and Barbl are the same way. Those of you who want to stick to one thing, be my guest. As for me, variety is the spice of life.]
Nicholas Brothers Biography
Would you please share the following information with your subscribers? On February 23rd, A&E's BIOGRAPHY series will air a new program profiling the Nicholas Brothers (I'm the producer/director). It features clips from all of their 20th Century Fox films, new interviews with Harold, Fayard and other dancers, and never-before-seen home movies shot by the Nicholas Brothers from the 1930s through the 1950s, including dance performance footage from the Cotton Club, and their tours across the U.S. and Europe.
Viewers should check their local listings for the exact air time.
Another Psychoboy Dance
Dear Frank and Carole,
Swing Workshop With Bill Borgida
Trillium Performing Arts is sponsoring a guest residency swing dance workshop with Bill Borgida ( in Lewisburg, West Virginia March 26-27, 1999. Borgida, from Ithaca, NY, was nominated for best teacher of Swing Dance award.
Friday evening, 7 pm at the Dance Studio, at 128 W. Washington St., Lewisburg, WV: History of Swing, $5, presented by Borgida's archive video collection (contra dance nearby from 8-11, $5)
Saturday registration 11am at the Longhorn Corral, on Route 60 in Caldwell, five miles east of Lewisburg: East Coast Swing and Savoy style Lindy Hop. Three consecutive 1 1/2 hour sessions which build upon each other, with ample breaks, Partner not necessary, as we will switch about, with all levels of experience welcome. $30 advance (by March 19),$40 after
Saturday night, Longhorn Corral, 8 til midnight: Open dance to the tunes of the sensational Big Blues Band from SW Virginia. just $6 TRILLIUM: 304-645-3003
Denver Swing Page Link From: Christopher Gellasch firstname.lastname@example.org
I really enjoy your web page and visit it frequently. Since moving to Baltimore from Denver, I have been getting connected with the local swing scene. My swing section of my web page is taking shape. I am adding links and reviews each week. Since I live in Bel Air, MD my focus is on events in the northern portion of Baltimore and downtown. I have yet to venture down to the D.C. area but plan to make it down there soon.
Keep up the good work and swing on!
American jazz god Louis Armstrong comes marching back in Satchmo must still be laughing. In 1964, the 63-year-old music innovator was considered past his prime, pushed aside in jazz circles by beboppers and in the pop world by rock 'n' roll. But "Pops" wouldn't go down easy. "Hello Dolly," a single he tossed off to promote a new Broadway show, shot to number one, displacing the Beatles and reviving his flagging career.
Louis Armstrong died in 1971, but that didn't stop him from staging another comeback in 1987. The movie Good Morning, Vietnam repopularized his wistful version of "What a Wonderful World," a song that has echoed through the public consciousness ever since. Armstrong's profile has recently gotten another boost, this time from neo-swing revivalists. Among today's jivin', jitterbuggin' set, many see Armstrong as a god*not for his immortal vocal hits of the '50s and '60s, but for his blazing innovation as a trumpeter and bandleader in the '20s and '30s.
"Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens are the shit," Scotty Morris of the swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy recently told an interviewer, referring to Armstrong's early small-group sessions. Few contemporary swing bands even attempt to tackle the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens tunes, whose skittering rhythms and dazzling polyphony are hard to duplicate. Any band that can do this music justice has truly earned its zoot suits.
So far, the rekindled interest in Armstrong hasn't translated into big sales, says John Jackson of Columbia Legacy. The recording label owns a good chunk of the Armstrong catalog and a few years ago released the landmark box set Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a sampler of Armstrong's fiery formative years.
"My sense is that people mostly want the new stuff, and aren't as interested in going back and exploring the roots of the music," says Jackson. Still, he adds, Armstrong has always been a consistent seller for the label, and the box set sold admirably when it was released in 1994.
In any case, Armstrong's new currency is less about moving units than about attracting new recognition as a jazz originator. Time magazine recently included Armstrong in its "Time 100" list of the century's most influential artists and entertainers, and Wynton Marsalis' school of "new traditionalist" jazz musicians often pays him homage.
It's hard to know where to start in rediscovering Louis Armstrong, whose vast recorded legacy has been packaged and repackaged over the years. But young swingers are onto something with their love of the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens: These groups, springing out of the New Orleans "hot jazz" movement, were the alternative bands of their day, breaking rules and tearing up dance floors with hellzapoppin' fervor.
Columbia's three volumes covering the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens are vital documents of this culturally explosive era. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man draws on a slightly broader period, sampling from Armstrong's early days with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band right up to the dawn of swing in the mid-'30s.
From that point on, Armstrong's approach gravitated toward larger bands and more vocal numbers, and for decades he played the part of America's arts ambassador with roly-poly gusto. His singing style was as influential as his playing, and hi gregarious manner endeared him to millions. Some powerful recordings from this period include the rollicking Rhythm Saved the World (Decca Jazz), which finds him tearing up in New York City and breathing new life into pop songs; The Great Chicago Concert, from 1956 (Columbia Legacy); and Armstrong/Ellington: Together for the First Time (Mobile Fidelity), in which the two geniuses meet and make sparks in 1961.
Armstrong's reinvention as a vocalist and big-band leader was so complete that by the '60s it often overshadowed his earlier work. People saw the smiling showman and sometimes forgot that he'd blown the lid off jazz earlier in the century. As Laurence Bergreen documents in his recent biography, Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life (Broadway, 1997), Armstrong not only shaped the formation of jazz and pop music, pioneered scat singing, and hit high trumpet notes that could travel straight down your spine, he was also a giddy, reckless jokester with a steady stream of wives and girlfriends, an unquenchable appetite for "gage" (marijuana), and numerous run-ins with gangsters, con men, and prostitutes. Strip away the tuxedo --- which Armstrong often did, wearing only his underwear backstage-and he was still as bawdy as the wide-open New Orleans that was his hometown.
"If it hadn't been for jazz," Armstrong once said, "there wouldn't be no rock 'n' roll." In this case, a man famous for hyperbole was probably right: Hot jazz and swing set in motion an attitude-aliveness, passion, abandon-that continues to rock our world. The neo-swing movement may fade, as all fads do, but Armstrong will endure, the grinning spirit of an American musical giant who'd rather play than sleep.
The Great Southwest Lindyfest
Hi Frank and Carole,
Added note from the proud sister - Tena and Carnell (for those of you new to Lindy. Tena and I were students of Tom and Debra two years ago and Tena moved out to Houston about 8 months ago where she met her partner Carnell. Tena and Carnell won the 1998 ALHC Classic division and since that time have been very active in giving Lindy Hop exhibitions throughout Texas. Their picture will be in this month's LIFE Magazine Year in Review. The latest news is that they are the topic of a feature article in the Houston Chronicle (similar to the Parade section of the Washington Post). The reporters are "shadowing" their every move for the next three weeks!
Thanks Frank and Carole, see you in the "jam at
There are only 38 days left till
THE GREAT SOUTHWEST
We've put together a super-fantastic line-up of world-class instructors to assist Frankie Manning (see December's GQ magazine!) in spreading the gospel of Swing! This exceptional group of professional Lindy Hop instructors from around the world will teach you TERRIFIC new moves, COOL Lindy Hop styling, PLAYFUL dancing to the music along with SUPER aerial moves. You would have to travel across the Atlantic to get instruction from all these teachers in one spot. This is an opportunity not to be missed by anyone who is deeply into the Lindy Hop and a must for anyone who is just learning the dance or wants to know about it. The Houston Swing Dance Society has brought to our part of the country only the very best in Lindy Hop dance instruction.
With this line-up the workshop will be filling up fast! Class sizes will be limited. Do not let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity slip by. Register NOW!
DATE: MARCH 19th, 20th & 21st LOCATION: Melody Club Complex 3027 Crossview, Houston, TX
CHECK THE HOUSTON SWING DANCE SOCIETY WEBSITE FOR DETAILS
Dear Frank and Carole:
[Editor's Note: We have dissassembled the infamous cigarette lighter and will have a photo spread on how it works on the website next week. This is definitely NOT for homes with children...]
Dance Forum-Retro Oscars
Madison Avenue and the Networks may want the 60s & 70s back, but the Oscars want the 40s. All five nominees for Best Picture are Historical dramas, but three are from the 1940s period.
Beantown Lindy Hop Summer Camp 1999
We are excited to be sending out information for our third Beantown Lindy Hop Summer Camp. Last year's camp was enjoyed by dancers from around the U.S. as well as Canada, England, France and Sweden. The camp sold out in 1998 and has been expanded to two separate weeks. Once again we feel we have a great line-up of instructors, bands and DJs. Class sizes will again be limited so please register early if you are planning to attend.
The latest details are available from the Hop to the Beat Website
Beantown Lindy Hop Camp-1999
World Class Instructors: Ivan & Elisabet Berggren, David Dalmo & Asa Rickardsson, Ryan Francois & Jenny Thomas, Mikael Johansson & Maria Weber, Steven Mitchell & Anna Sandesjo, Kenneth & Helena Norbelie, Tony & Aurelie Tye
The Bands: Peter Davis and Lindy Hop Heaven, George Gee's Jump, Jive & Wailers, The Love Dogs
Featured D.J.'s: Bill Borgida, Keith Hughes, Forrest "Big Daddy" Frazier
Join us this year for one or both fun-filled weeks of dancing, socializing and entertainment. Be inspired as you increase your skills and joy of the dance. Days will be filled by classes with top-notch teachers from Europe and the U.S. The focus will be Lindy Hop, the original style of swing which developed in the late 1920s in the ballrooms of Harlem with the hot big band sounds of the times.
That's not all! Lindy Hop tracks will include classes that focus on particular aspects of dancing such as technique, partnering, styling, musicality and presentation. Each week will also feature classes in Authentic Jazz, Shim Sham, Charleston, Aerials, Music Theory and more. Evening activities will include two live music dances, DJ dances, special events and surprises, as well as late-night dancing.
Location: Wheaton College, founded in 1834, is a picturesque campus situated on 385 acres in the rural New England town of Norton, Massachusetts. Its quaint buildings and peaceful surroundings provide a superb setting for a jam-packed week of energy, exhilaration and camaraderie. The campus is located 35 miles south of Boston, MA and 15 miles north of Providence, RI. It is accessible by car from Interstate 95 and 495, and by train or bus from Boston's Logan Airport. Cape Cod, Plymouth, MA and Newport, RI are all within an hour's drive.
Classes: Everyone will have the opportunity to take classes with all of the instructors throughout the week. You do not need to have a partner. The Lindy Hop classes will be run in five tracks. The tracks are not predetermined but will be based on questionnaires which each person registering will be required to complete. There will be a beginner track for those with little or no Lindy Hop experience. The division of the top two tracks will be determined by the instructors on the first day. Further information on the tracks is available on the questionnaire portion of the on-line registration form.
Each track will be limited in class size and balanced as best as possible for leaders and followers. Classes will be progressive throughout the week and no one will be permitted to take classes in other tracks. The other classes (Jazz, Charleston, etc.) will be open to everyone. The only exception is Aerials which is not open to beginners and requires a partner.
Tuition: The cost for one week is $300 per person. The price includes all classes, dances, events and activities.
Accommodation: On campus housing consists of mostly double-occupancy and some single-occupancy dorm rooms. The cost, which includes meals, is $245 per person. For an extra cost of $60 per person, there are a limited number of single and double rooms with air-conditioning in Gebbie dorm. Additional AC rooms are available in the new Keefe dorm for an extra $80 per person in Week 2 only. Bed linens and towels are included in all rooms. Requests for singles and/or AC will be filled on a first-come first-served basis. Participants may arrange their own off campus lodging.
Meals: There will be three meals a day at the campus cafeteria plus dinner on check-in day and breakfast on check-out day. Each meal will have several choices. The cost for meals only (without housing) is $160 per person.
Registration: See the Registr ation Page for full details
WGAY's Juke Box Saturday Night
Currently I'm doing a big band/swing/nostalgia show called "Juke Box Saturday Night" (JBSN) on WGAY 99.5 FM and thought you might be interested in spreading the word to your fans! The program is aired live from 8 PM to Midnight every Saturday evening. It premiered on January 16th of this year.
The show features the hits of the 30's and 40's by the big bands and personalities of the era using only original recordings. Also, the vocalists of the pre-rock 1950's are included in the show.
Highlights/features include the "Featured Band of the Week" (e.g., Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Benny Goodman, etc., with selections spread throughout the first three hours), "JBSN Goes to the Movies" (where I play a song from a soundtrack from a movie musical of the 30's or 40's, sometimes the early 50's), the "Singer's Showcase" (where three songs by a singer or singers from the 30's, 40's, or 50's are clustered together), the "Depression Era Song" (where a song from the pre-swing era [1930-1934] is played), the "Roaring 20's Song of the Week" (where a song from the Charleston era [1925-1929] is played), and the JBSN Weekly Top Ten Survey (done during the last hour of the show, where the songs from a week of a year from 1936-1955 are counted down "hit parade" style). And, of course, besides the features, a wide variety of music from the 30's, 40's and 50's is generously provided during the four hour program.
I appreciate your doing anything you can in getting the word out to the swing fans! Tell them that the music IS available on the radio every Saturday night on WGAY, 99.5 FM!
Kansas City Swing
Hey Frank and Carole,
We are doing our best to promote Lindy here. Your site is one of the best you know!
I miss you guys, but may see some of the crowd at ASDC if I can manage the trip. Check out KC's newest swing set Cats Corner and, of course, be our guest when you come through on your Route 66 tour. Charlie will be out here at the end of the month and I'll be back visiting the D.C. area mid-April. See you on the dance floor!
"Unusual travel suggestions are dancing lessons from
The Rachel Page
I am so glad y'all posted the notice of the Great Southwest Lindyfest in Houston March 19-21!! I am going to be SOOOO excited to see Tom and Debra again (it's been about a year for me), and of course the Guru, Frankie Manning. I would encourage everybody to come down for this incredible weekend. (How about it, you two?)
You'll never guess who else is going--besides me, of course. You know your University of the South correspondent, Robert White? After months and months of e-mailing every day, we're finally going to get to meet in Houston. I convinced him that this workshop was worth the plane ride. :)
So anyway, just wanted to fill you in on what's going on! I
hope all is well with my two favorite lindy hoppers....
Charlie Wyler Needs a Partner
Ocean City Swings!
Back to swing.... Right now our schedule is week to week: Feb. 18th (Thurs.), Feb 26th, Mar. 5 and 12th (all Fridays) Location: (Best dance floor- HUGE!! approx. 20'x100' - we could find) Bally's at Ocean Downs (Racetrack) 5 minutes from Ocean City, MD. Starts at 7-8 beginner lessons/ 8- 11ish for open dancing to DJ Wingtip Skip (us!) and our CDette's. We have a great selection of new and old swing .
Also --- very exciting--- Ocean City is planning a swing
weekend in June. The promoter is hoping to break the Guiness'
World's Record (?) and try to have the largest \swing dance on
the boardwalk here and lots of swing all weekend long. We will
try and let you know more as we find out.
Frankie Manning in Orlando
Legendary swing dancer Frankie Manning will shake things up at Disney's BET Soundstage and Atlantic Dance nightclubs today and Saturday.
Credited with creating the first airstep and ensemble lindy hop routine, Manning, 84, was "Stompin' at the Savoy" before most baby boomers were a twinkle in their parents' eyes.
Born in Jacksonville in 1914, he moved to Harlem at the age of 3. It was there he found his love for dancing and was discovered by Herbert "Whitey" White during a dance contest at the legendary Savoy Ballroom.
"Whitey was a bouncer at the Savoy, and he would walk around during contests and pick out dancers that he thought were pretty good," Manning said. "He would ask you if you wanted to join [his dance troupe). When he asked me, I was thrilled. It would be like if you were a high school basketball player today, and the coach from the Chicago Bulls asked you to play for them."
From there, Manning served as both dancer and chief choreographer for the dance troupe. He performed in such movies as Hellzapoppin' (1941) and Radio City Revels (1937). He toured the world with legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Count Basie and even danced for King George VI.
When World War II broke out, Whitey's Lindy Hoppers disbanded and Manning joined the Army. Upon his discharge in 1947, he started his own dance troupe called the Congaroo Dancers and continued performing with them until the 1950s, at which time he settled down with his family and began working for the postal service.
It wasn't until the resurgence of swing in the mid-1980s that he started dancing and teaching professionally again.
"I was reluctant at first because I really didn't think anyone was serious enough to dance or could inspire me to teach," he said.
"But when I started working with [dancers) Erin Stevens and Steven Mitchell, I saw they had potential, and I guess it was like when Whitey first saw me."
Since then, Manning has won a Tony Award in 1989 for best choreography in the Broadway musical Black and Blue and consulted and danced in Spike Lee's film Malcolm X. He currently serves on the board of directors of the New York Swing Dance Society.
A resident of Corona, N.Y., this longtime swinger has no plans to retire.
"Maybe when I can't put one foot in front of the other, but to me it's fun. I still love to do it."
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