Lindy Across the New England
You can swing out practically anywhere!
Choose a city from this list:
We have found plenty of good websites to supply you with information about this wonderful city:
Lindy in Boston
As some 400 dancers spun around the Watertown gymnasium to "Mack the Knife," a small group of friends stayed off to the side, practicing under-arm turns and six-point jitterbug moves. There's a learning curve, after all, when you're a teenager getting used to the Big Band sounds and partner dancing of the 1930s and 1940s.
"A lot of music today just isn't danceable, but this is happy music," said Meredith Gilbert, 17, of Winchester, explaining why she and her friends went to the Boston Swing Dance Network's monthly dance at St. James Armenian Church in Watertown.
"We saw swing dancing in 'Swing Kids' and 'The Object of My Affection,' and said, 'We can do that!' When I told my parents I was coming tonight, they started swing dancing around the house," Gilbert said.
Move over nose rings, mosh pits and crowded singles bars. Young dancers are beginning to croon Benny Goodman tunes and swarm to dance studios to learn the jitterbug, Lindy Hop and the Carolina Shag. Though the revival of swing dance started years ago, the scene is drawing a younger crowd these days, thanks partly to the surge of swing-related films, music and advertising.
The film "Swingers," which followed "Swing Kids," was a hit at the box office. The swing band, "Squirrel Nut Zippers," hit Billboard's charts, and the Gap's new commercial for khakis features the acrobatic Lindy style of swing.
"It's amazing; there's this whole 1930s and '40s retro-era thing going on with teens and people in their 20s," said Neil Klein, a dance studio director and Lesley College psychology professor who runs a monthly swing dance in Newton. "I'd love to say that it's because younger people have realized the joy of dancing with a partner, but I think it's because they've been seeing swing dancing on TV."
In Westborough, students from Westborough High School comprise half a 50-person class. And Ron Gursky, owner of a dance studio in Watertown, started a separate class just for the group of 20 Belmont High School students who recently went to him looking to learn the Lindy, the raucous flip-'em, dip-'em, slide-'em-through-the-legs swing style seen mostly in the movies.
"They're looking for the over-the-head, jitterbug, zip-zip-zip-type of dancing they saw in 'Swing Kids,' " Gursky said. "They're noisy and rambunctious and out of control, but the bottom line is these kids really want to learn how to do this. They're not just hackers out there."
Swing dancing started in Harlem in the 1920s, with the groundbreaking Lindy giving way to the jitterbug, boogie-woogie, jive and other styles. There are several types of swing, from the more energetic East Coast swing to the slower, rhythm-and-blues-based West Coast swing.
At the Watertown dance, dozens of novices from teenagers to silver-haired seniors, arrived early for an hourlong lesson on the basics of East Coast swing. Roger Weiss, a co-founder of the dance, and instructor Teri Calderone encouraged dancers to switch partners, but some couples who had come together chose to stay together.
"We have one control couple in the crowd - and I think Teri and I are thinking of the same couple - so we'll keep going over this move until they get it," Weiss cracked after teaching one an under-arm maneuver.
By 10 p.m., Johnny and the East Coast Rockers were playing to a dance floor that was packed with hundreds of people despite the torrential rains that day. Men wearing suspenders, hats and wing-tip shoes twirled partners in flowing short skirts and Mary Jane shoes. The newcomers could be spotted mouthing the steps ("slowww, slowww, quick, quick, slow") as they sashayed around the dance floor, trying not to tear each others' arms off in the moves that are the hallmark of swing - a quick pull-in, then send-your-partner-flying.
"We saw it on the Gap commercial and thought it looked cool," said novice Jennifer Fenuccio, 25, of Watertown, with her partner, Dameon Goode, 25, of South Boston. "When you go to a club, you just shake your head and jump around, but this takes some actual technique. Plus it's so nice to see people all dressed up."
Melissa Haines, 17, and Katy Masters and Jodi Nemser-Abrahams, both 16, wore A-line dresses and heels and practiced their moves on the side of the dance floor. They complained that there was a shortage of men and said some younger men don't know how to lead. "All the girls want to dance with the older guys because they can lead," Haines said.
But when the feet and beat of the music do work together, Masters explained dreamily, it's like "being back in the Roaring Twenties."
"The music is so incredible; it just lifts your spirits," she said, clasping her hands together on her chest. "The guy leads and just takes you wherever you want to go, and suddenly you're dancing like you never knew you could."
Some young people say the dances are a great alternative to bars. Swing-dance events tend to be smoke- and alcohol-free, and because the focus is on dancing, they do not have a pickup-joint atmosphere. Along with the event in Watertown, there are regular dances in several suburbs, including Newton, Shrewsbury, Waltham and Wayland.
"This is so much more appealing than the bar scene because you don't have the smoke and men trying to pick you up," said Holly Herndon, 28, a Newton resident who was trying swing dancing for the first time.
In the lobby of the Watertown dance, where patrons paid $ 12 for a live band and night of dancing, two women in their 20s said they had driven down from Salem, N.H., because they didn't want to spend another night in a bar. They stood at a table packed with fliers for dances, lessons and Web sites and put their name down on a mailing list for Boston Swing Dance Network's upcoming events.
Paul Surapine, a musician and dance organizer in Milford, said he thinks some younger people are craving a little sophistication, a night when they can feel as if they're going off to the Waldorf-Astoria or to Carnegie Hall to hear Benny Goodman. At a recent swing dance at Milford, there were several tables of young people who probably used to think of Tony Bennett as "some lounge lizard from their parents' generation," he said.
Milford is a town where dance halls once lined Main Street and where there is a statue in honor of Henry "Boots" Mussilli, a former resident who played the saxophone for the Stan Kenton Band.
"It's nice to see that this tradition hasn't died, that it's coming back," Surapine said. "It's nice to see young people 'putting on the dog' and going out for swanky nights out again."
Buck and Anna Take Boston by Storm
As many of you know, I have been traveling to Boston every week for work. This week, I was graced with the presence of our very own lindy-girl, Anna Duncan. Though I have been in Boston each of the past 5 weeks, my schedule has kept me from enjoying much of the Boston scene, dance or otherwise. Having a guest along however necessitated a much more active evening schedule and we made a visit to Dan Akroyd's House of Blues our top priority.
The House of Blues in Harvard Square is not just any old House of Blues, it is THE ORIGINAL. And man, what an original. Located in a large old Bostonian multi-level home, the House is not at all commercial like a Planet Hollywood or something of that style. It is a down home, Blues and Jazz mecca that caters to the hard-core music lover. The main and lower floors are essentially drink and eats areas but the upstairs is in a class by itself. Designed like a chapel, it has a vaulted ceiling embedded with large plaster masks of the greats of jazz and blues, the stage is an altar and all around are representations of the world's religious symbols with inspirational sayings everywhere in testament to coming together in music regardless of our differences. It is an awesome sight. Even more awesome though was being greeted by the sight of a completely empty, wonderful wooden dance floor while swingin' blues with a rockabilly beat blared from the band.
Anna and I arrived after an amazing Indian dinner at a nearby restaurant and all we could do was waddle to the bar, ask for water and sit in the packed bar area and watch the band. Sleepy La Beef was playing. He is known as the "Human Juke Box" and has a documented 6,000 song repetoire - much of which I am convinced he plays at over 200 beats per minute and always for 10 minutes or longer!! (he has been known to play at this pace non-stop for an entire set!) Of course, Anna and I didn't know this when we got there. (for more info on Sleepy, check out this month's GQ magazine)
When we arrived, Sleepy was playing a slower, very bluesy tune but soon after, he went into a rockin medley. Anna and I were dressed 20's gangster style and couldn't stop our feet from tapping - she finally looked at me with that "so, what do you say" look and said "lets dance." So we did. I don't remember the name of the song, all I know is that I happend to look at the clock as we headed onto the empty dance floor surrounded by band watchers and we didn't come off until the song ended nearly 8 minutes later - Sleepy played the entire song at full afterburner - Anna and I nearly died.
I am pleased to say that a weekend with the Norbelies definitely pumped up my confidence and repetoire and we gave the crowd a hell of a show. It was one of the funnest dances of my life - Anna wowed the crowd with attitude, style and flair and I just pulled every move I had and we didnt miss a beat. The crowd went nuts. They surrounded us, clapping, patting out backs, asking questions about where we are from, how did we learn all that, and even (this is really funny to me) where we perform and have we ever been in the movies! Some asked if the band hired us to make them look good, some asked if the House had hired us, many said we should have been getting paid to put on a show like that.
We did a second, equally long and fast song. About 3/4 of the way through, I was telling Anna that I thought I was going to pass out, and she dropped and hit the floor for a dramatic rest while I fanned her furiously for laughs for a couple of bars. We got back up and finished and the band thanked us for everything and so did another couple of dozen spectators. All in all an AMAZING time. This was the first time I ever did anything like this and I can probably say that had I not been egged on by Anna, I never would have. Watching her play to the crowd the whole time reminded me of why I got involved in this whole lifestyle to begin with - friends, it is all about FUN.
So, when in Boston, stop by the House, hope a band with some
swingin tunes is kickin it out, and show them what we Lindy
Hoppers are made of. And by the way, do yourself a favor and
don't chow down a huge Indian dinner before hand - the sound of
food sloshing around in your belly during a charleston can be
If you are going to be in the city, the best way to keep track of the rapidly changing scene is to go directly to Boston DanceNet
North of Boston
West of Boston
South of Boston
Way west of Boston
Before you read Jenn Larsen's article on Vintage in Greenwich, you might want to check out some of these Connecticut websites for information. Connecticut is not very big and you can easily drive to dances all over the state
Vintage in Greenwich, CT
All this vintage talk has made me homesick. So to add my two cents...
Sophia's Great Dames, 1 Liberty Way, Greenwich, CT
06830 (203-869-5990) began my vintage obsession as a teenager
with my very first purchase - a 1920s royal blue silk velvet
that had been pinned to the wall for years before I gained the
courage to beg Sophia to let me try it on. She did, and other
finds quickly followed - Victorian blouses as delicate as
gossamer, a purple lace bias-cut 30s gown (sadly
disintegrating), a taffeta 40s ball gown (I like to decade-jump)
.... Sigh. Sophia had, and still does I imagine, a large
selection of Victorian through 40s wedding gowns which would be
custom altered, and a theatrical costume section in the back with
some rather old pieces as well. Tuxedos and top hats as well,
costume jewelry, the works! A true vintage shop which I hope has
still kept its flavor - a strong showing of Victorian, Edwardian,
and lots of 40s and 50s from the Greenwich ladies-who-lunched.
Let me know if anyone has seen it recently - I'd love to go back
on my next trip up to see the parents. I truly owe my love of
costume design to Sophia!
Dancing in Rhode Island
Before you read Arnold Taylor's article on dancing or Jennifer Comar's article on vintage in Providence, check out some of these websites and places to dance. If you are going to be in Providence, you can easily drive to dances in Boston, Hartford and as far south as New Haven, Ct, with no trouble at all.
November 2, 1998
From: Arnold Taylor Ahnoldt@aol.com
During a week-long free-load on my family members in Rhode Island over the Hallowe'en period, Lilian and I slipped away after visiting tapered off and did some swing dancing that may be of interest to any of our devotees who travel in that direction.
The first was a return for me to a ballroom called RHODES-ON-THE- PATUXENT. Built before the turn of the century for elegant ballroom dancing and dining, it features dancing space equal to Glen Echo, with a large bandstand on the long side of the rectangular floor, a balcony five steps up on three sides opposite the bandstand, and another balcony one story higher. Each balcony has boxes that overlook the dance floor, behind which are tables and chairs, behind which is room to dance!
The place suffered neglect after the big bands died late in the 1940's and some years ago was slated for demolition. The nearby Masonic Temple purchased the building and grounds and restored it. What a beneficent move! The place has the charm of Forest Glen and the spaciousness of Glen Echo. Suspended wooden floor (although around the sides it was somewhat sticky) The rest rooms are new, inside, clean. The place is air conditioned.
The band was The Squirrel Nut Zippers. This was billed as a swing dance but these dudes put on a concert instead. Of the 1,400 persons there (that's right: 1,400 - at $20) 500 stood in front of the bandstand and yelled and shook. Another 250 beginning swing dancers flung themselves around the periphery of the crowd while 50 authentic swing dancers suffered abuse from the exuberance typical of so many beginners. The remaining 600 sat at tables in the balconies and watched - and drank and smoked.
The Zippers were atrocious. Few of the tunes were swing dance tunes. Some tunes were crafted to contain a change in the beat in order, I suppose, to appeal to the concert-goers - especially during the vocals. This did not seem to bother the beginners who didn't keep the beat during the few tunes that actually were swing rhythms. Nevertheless, Lil and I did our thing, chatted with some local folks and enjoyed ourselves in spite of the band.
Our second escapade was really that. My natal city, Providence, has changed dramatically. Lots of one-way streets. Having inadvertently taken a turn that put us on I-95 headed out of town, Lil noticed a gargantuan sign on what looked like an old warehouse and it said: SWINGERS. We knew it was not a haven for promiscuous couples because the accompanying heroic-size art work showed two swing dancers making a good move - uh, dance move.
On a whim, I turned off the highway at the first opportunity, and criss-crossed the area until we reached the place. It is called THE COMPLEX, on Richmond St. near Pine St., and it is like ZONES in that there are several rooms with different kinds of dancing featured. Each room is a lounge, sort of - bar, smoking. There is swing dancing every night but Sunday and Monday.
The dance floor appears to be B-grade plywood under a coating of clear epoxy. Interesting. Okay to dance on. The space is 1/4 Glen Echo size. Music was DJ and well done. I thought Mark B was doing the spinning! Most of the dancers were 30 to 40 until the 20 to 30 crowd began to move in at around 10pm. Cost was $4@ if I recall, and the drinks reasonable. When Lil tuckered out, I danced with a couple of the better dancers (still not able to use my right arm, but still able to use my feet) and also taught a couple of beginners.
On All Saint's Day we went to church, had a seafood dinner in a place on the Narragansett Bay called Galilee and after a long ride through the colorful countryside, approached exhaustion. However, that evening, with Lil and our host (my sister-in-law) ailing with a cold, I set out for THE FOXWOODS Casino on the Pequot Indian Reservation in Ledyard, Connecticut, some 45 minutes away from us. The ad said there was a live swing band. Wow!
This place is fabulous. Casinos of all sorts, opulence, shops with overpriced goods, inexpensive restaurants, and, of course, dancing in the Circadrome. My first happy surprise was that the parking in the building is free. Next, when I entered the Circadrome I found that to be free also. MY KIND OF PLACE. Then I heard the band. Socko. I do not know their name. Six or seven pieces and one tune right after the other in a variety of swing tempos. Wooden floor. Tables on a balcony two steps up from the dance floor. Drinks. Smoking. Older folks.
I stood just in side the entrance and noticed a petite gal just to my right, her back to me. I asked her to dance and she was with me on every move I made (which is not a significant challenge, since I still basically use only one arm!) She was 40-ish, like much of the dancing crowd. However, after three dances with her a slender 20-ish gal slipped her arms around me, kissed me on the cheek, and said: "You're the smoothest, most beautiful dancer I've ever seen." Setting down my glass of orange juice, I said to the gal I'd been dancing with (Angie), "You can understand why I am asking you to excuse me while I dance with..." (laughter)
As it turns out, the kid had never before danced jitterbug and tried to get out of my offer, but I hauled her out on the floor, labored with her through 3 minutes of six-count - and it worked! Later, I led her to doing some triple-step. I think she might have taught me some things, too, if I had gone home with her, but I turn into a pumpkin at 2am and I would not want to shock her.....
Meanwhile, back with Angie (the first encounter) and her female friends I had lots of good swing, and with some other older women who cut in. This was a fabulous experience. I recommend it. Oh, and there is a 180-degree TV screen overhead. On each end, a quarter of the screen is devoted to B&W pix of big bands playing and dancers getting with it. the center half is an overhead view of the dancers actually on the floor.
I gave your e-mail address to a manager at THE COMPLEX and learned that the folks at THE FOXWOODS already are on a web-site.
Finally, I learned that a daughter of a cousin of mine tends bar Friday nights at a place called BUMBLE BEES ON THE BOULEVARD, 1060 Hope Street, Providence (401-272-9599) and she says they do swing dancing there every Friday night. I do not know about the place but if she is any example, it is a pretty nice place!
It is good to be back home. We are looking forward to seeing
you soon. All the best.
Vintage and Swing in Providence, RI
Here is a very general overview of what's going on in Providence. To start off, I asked a bunch of people where I could go dancing and discovered that Providence, as of now, has no real place to dance. This is probably due to the fact that anyone who lives here and wants to dance can drive 40 minutes to Boston, or over to Southern Connecticut, where there are a lot more events geared towards the lindy crowd. (Tony and Aurelie Tye, of Hop To The Beat, usually schedule special workshops in the Mystic, CT area in addition to Boston). Maybe with the return of the college crowd this fall something will start, but I'm sure it will be more of a "scene" than anything else. I picked up the local paper, and one event that sounds interesting are The Squirrel Nut Zippers playing on October 1 at the Rhodes on the Pawtuxet Ballroom, a huge old Victorian dance hall.
In scale it rivals the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo, but it is set up with a balcony that overlooks the dance floor and circles the entire hall. I can't remember what shape the dance floor was in. (RISD, my alma mater, used to hold their annual President's Ball there until one infamous night in October '88 when a crowd of over 1000 festive students stormed the bar and people were literally swinging from the light fixtures. Needless to say, they kicked us out of there for good).
There are still places to go for vintage, but the selection of stores has dwindled in the last 6 years. Some shops, like Roxy Taylor (where I bought my favorite 1930s silk velvet gown) just couldn't stay open, and others, like Selby's downtown on Westminster St., (they used to let us upstairs to dig in their storerooms where they kept shoes dating back to the mid 1930s), and Sunny Days on Thayer St. were destroyed by fire.
I had no car this weekend, so I stayed mostly on the East Side of the city. There may be some stores on Federal Hill, or in the armory district, that I missed; but based on my two days of wandering, this is what I found:
There are also several nice antiques stores located on the East Side. Most of them are at the upper end of Wickenden St., and are open on the weekends. Here is a list of what I visited, but I highly recommend exploring some of the streets off Wickenden, because there are stores that I didn't explore because of time.
The first four stores were definitely priced for the serious collector. This and That was the exception, as they carried all kinds of items, from jewelry to furniture and almost everything in-between, at a wide price range, (they had an cabinet Victrola, with records, priced at $380 which was similar to one I had seen at Eastwick Antiques priced at $650).
If you have never been to Providence, it is a small city in the middle of a huge City Hall sponsored downtown and waterfront development. There are so many neat places to visit, and museums, but it is almost worth the trip just for the architecture alone. In the seventies, there was a push to save many of the older house on the East Side by turning it into a landmark zone. Consequently, almost every house has a plaque with its construction date and the name of the original owner.
If you do go, I highly recommend eating at Guido's,
(Hope St. near the corner of John St.), which I think is one of
the best Italian restaurants in the city, including the fancy
on Federal Hill. (But BYOB, because of the laws still on the
books, no alcohol can be sold within 100 yds of a church, and
Guido's is right across the street from one). Next door is
Alice's Ice Cream, (for dessert). If you spend the night,
you can't find anywhere to go dancing, (like me), go to the
Cablecar Cinema on North Main St.. They have big,
comfortable couches and armchairs to sit on, live music in lieu
coming attractions, and unlimited refills on the popcorn.
Dancing in Maine
Here is the comprehensive website for Maine swing dancing:
Don't forget Lewiston...
You can also phone the Mainiac Swing Dance Society, headquartered in Portland 207-828-1795.
Dancing in New Hampshire
Dancing in Vermont
Our Trip to Syracuse
There is --- surprise --- a lot to do in Syracuse, New York. There are several websites to consult for dancing if fate should take you there:
As part of a business venture, We set out for Western New York on February 9, 1997. Since the "Lake Effect" snow in that area is famous, we prudently took the train, a journey of about ten hours. We arranged for a two-hour layover in New York City so that we could walk around for a bit. We arrived at Syracuse at about ten in the evening and took a cab to the Marriott Hotel at Carrier Circle. The hotel has a small lounge and we were able to con the DJ into playing a few big band numbers, so we were able to get the kinks out of our backs from the train.
The next morning, I rented a car and we were able to see Syracuse in some detail. We made our way to the local "quaint-town", the all-too familiar warehouse district in the central city that has been abandoned to antique shops and night clubs because the work that was once done there has been exported to some far away country. I found a very nice Art Deco cocktail shaker. We spent the rest of the day looking at various stores and exploring the campus of Syracuse University. For some reason, it did not snow.
In the evening, we had dinner at the Dinosaur Barbecue which has spectacular food. This is truly a world-class barbecue place and they seem to have equal facility with beef, chicken, or pork. The sides are great, too. The Dinosaur offers live entertainment most nights, generally in the form of blues bands. The Love Dogs had played there on the previous weekend, so the acts are generally of very high quality. They have a very small dance area, and it is possible to find a space to dance, although we would not say that this is a "Dance Venue." After spending some time at the Dinosaur, we visited Awful Al's Cigar and Martini Bar. We were very plesantly surprised to find a cheese-tasting in progress and we got a very nice reception from the owner, who seemed to be genuinely interested in Swing and Lindy.
The next morning was taken up by my work (aack!) activity, but I finished in time for spending the late afternoon in search of antiques and vintage clothing. We found the Cafe Italia on Salina Street, a patisserie run by two Sicillian ladies. Their desserts and coffee were out of this world, including fichu, little fig tarts. We spent almost two hours talking to these ladies, in which I was able to brush up on my Italian. Specifically, they were not going to let me forget my heritage, and they insisted on making me read an account of the "O.J." trial in Italian.
After this, we visited the Syracuse Antique Exchange (1629 Salina St., 315-471-1841) and we found some treasures. My partner found an oil painting that she loves, while I found a WWII bank in the form of a sailor holding a duffle bag.
Upon the recommendation of the ladies at Cafe Italia, we had dinner at Santangelo's (673 Old Liverpool Rd, Liverpool, NY 315-457-4447) After that, we were encouraged to visit the local Weggeman's Super Market. I had no idea why people would want to send us to such a place until we got there. This is truly the most magnificent market that I have ever seen. They have bot depth AND breadth in every line. It is a massive place, and the prices are great. They have a VERY LARGE wood-burning oven and they make great bread and pizza. If we ever get back to Syracuse, we are going to head straight for the pizza at Weggeman's. We went back to the hotel and conned the DJ to play a few Lindy songs for us and then jumped in the pool for a late night swim.
We took the early train out that morning. We were glad that we had relied on Amtrak, because the countryside was blanketed with snow. On the leg going down the Hudson River, we marveled at the extent to which the river was choked with ice. We arranged a three-hour layover in New York and took in some of the sights, including the recently renovated Times Square. We were impressed.
We had lunch at Ben's (209 W. 38th St, 212-398-2367). This was a very nice, reasonably priced Kosher-style restaurant. The only problem was that my partner wanted to order a Matzoh Ball with cabbage soup. I objected to this, and the event became a subject of some discussion, with Ellen Werther and Debra Sternberg weighing in on both sides of the issue.
Our Trip to:
Several Local websites plus The New England websites, centered mainly around Boston provide quite a bit of information about swing dancing in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island:
Another work-related trip brought We to New England for four days. We began our trip on sunday with a train trip to New Haven, Connecticut where we rented a car and drove to Hartford, Connecticut. We stayed at the Marriott at Farmington, a very nice hotel with an atrium swimming pool. On the way, we stopped at Newport Blues in Avon, Connecticut. We had a very nice dinner and we got the manager to play some swing music so that we could dance. The staff was very nice.
The bulk of the next day was consumed by my work activity. We left the hotel at about 3:00 pm and made our way down the Connecticut River. We stopped at the Goodspeed Opera House, a very nicely restored turn-of-the century playhouse that is still active as a place to "try out" new Broadway shows. From there, we visited Gillette's Castle, a medieval fortress erected by William Gillette, an actor who made millions portraying Sherlock Holmes on Broadway.
Our destination was the Griswold Inn in Essex, Connecticut (860-767-1776). This may be the oldest inn in continuous operation in the United States. Started in Colonial times as a place for passengers from the river ferries to rest while they connected with boats for New York and beyond, the place just oozes with historicity. Lucius Beebe, the 1930s travel critic called the bar, "The most Perfect drinking establishment in the world." In fact, he may be right. This is a very comfortable place and it is very easy to relax here. Everything is first class.
After a wonderful dinner, we made our way to New Haven and a place called simply BAR (Church Street, opposite the original Moreys of Whiffenpoof fame). This is a cavernous place with a very large dance floor. Thanks to our contact, Vin Gulisano, we arrived in time for the Monday night swing session. Although most folks were doing West Coast Swing, they were very excited to see Lindy Hop. We had a very nice time.
The next morning, we enjoyed a complimentary breakfast and set off on a trip up the Atlantic Seaboard, with brief stops in New London, Groton, and Westbury. Our destination was newport, Rhode Island. We had lunch at Christies (Christie's Landing, 401-847-5400)a restaurant famous for both fine seafood and the display of original cartoon artwork. At one time or another, every major cartoonist has stopped by and left a sample of his/her work for a free lobster dinner. We were greatly impressed with originals from the Price Valiant and Dick Tracy comic strips. We also stopped at another famous Newport venus, the Black Pearl for coffee and dessert. We spent some time looking at the "cottages", which are in fact gigantic mansions built by the VERY rich for social activities in the summer.
From Newport, we drove to New Bedford, Massachusetts. This is a wonderful town, and you can feel the history in the air. I really enjoyed the Museum of Whaling. We had dinner at Freestones, 41 William St, 993-7477). This restaurant is situated in a restored 19th century bank building and we dined in a special room that had once been the office of the president of the bank. This is a very good place to eat. I noticed the following graffiti in the men's room:
Following our dinner, we drove back to the Griswold in time to hear the famous Griswold String Band play an evening of ragtime numbers. No dancing, but they were very entertaining.
The next morning, we drove to New Haven for our train. With about an hour to kill, we looked at a few thrift stores. At the Salvation Army Thrift, near the train station, we found a few ties and a penguin ice bucket at very reasonable prices.
Albany, New York
First, check out: Al bany Lindy Hop
Lindy Hop Hits Albany
Eighty-four-year-old Frankie Manning was about two-thirds of the way through his gig Sunday afternoon when the groove started to kick in.
"Looking good," he observed, as a few of his students worked their way through a tricky dance step at the Southgate Elementary School gymnasium. Hip gyrations that began as self-conscious little waggles evolved into unrestrained, exuberant wiggles. The Lindy Hop -- a Depression-era form of swing dance -- was taking hold.
Manning, a 1930s dance champion at New York's Savoy Ballroom and the man credited with originating many of the Lindy's most distinctive moves, was in town Saturday and Sunday for a series of Lindy Hop workshops sponsored by the Hudson-Mohawk Traditional Dancers.
"If you want to count to eight, that's fine," Manning advised those still struggling to get the steps down right. "That will keep you in the rhythm." And once they got the rhythm, the groove wasn't far behind.
"Many of us know the steps that were taught today, but it always helps to learn from a master like Frankie Manning," said Darren Scott of Albany, one of the Lindy-Hopping locals who soaked up Manning's advice. "I learned to put more groove in it. You have to kind of get down and dirty and lose your inhibitions."
The Lindy Hop is a type of swing dance that originated in Harlem, but it varies from ballroom-influenced forms, such as East Coast Swing, which uses six-beat patterns and has a more structured quality.
As a young competitive dancer, Manning developed the bent-knee, athlete's posture that helped give Lindy Hop it's versatile, rambunctious character -- a contrast with the traditional straight-back ballroom stance still used in some forms of swing dancing.
Later dances such as the Jitterbug, West Coast Swing and Boogie Woogie evolved from the Lindy.
After more than 70 years on the dance floor, Manning remains an inspired Lindy Hop performer and teacher.
"What I like to do is see people have fun while dancing, and I think this particular dance is a dance that brings joy to people while they're doing it," Manning said. Next week, he'll be offering another workshop in Baltimore.
Manning worked the class hard on Sunday, pushing ahead with a number of new steps until the students mastered a smooth series of moves. When it was over he treated them to a brief demonstration with his 15-year-old instructional partner, Ramona Staffeld of Ithaca, and signed a few autographs. About 100 people attended.
Mary Arnone, who organizes instructional programs for the dancers, said Manning was invited to help the area's novice Lindy Hoppers find their way back to the roots of the dance -- both with steps and style -- after years of exposure to more structured swing dance forms.
"He's really the most authoritative source we have right now," said Teresa Broadwell, vice president of the Traditional Dancers. "He's the original. That's really the miracle of having him be able to do these workshops."
For those interested in catching a glimpse of the authentic Lindy Hop in the movies, Manning recommends the 1941 flick "Hellzapoppin'," which he choreographed. Another one of Hollywood's best-known Lindy Hop scenes is the gymnasium dance contest with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in "It's a Wonderful Life," but Manning considers it less authentic.
While Manning offers a wide repertoire of steps outside of the modern swing tradition, his students said that just watching his dance attitude this weekend taught one of his most valuable lessons.
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