Lindy Across the Far West
You can swing out practically anywhere!
Choose a city from this list:
Report from Alaska
I am from Anchorage, Alaska. With all of the stories about Alaska, you could probably make up a story about GIs teaching Eskimos to dance and no one would care, although that is not true. Anchorage was only about 5 square blocks in W.W.II, and almost no women. I would not be an authoritative source for the history of Lindy in Alaska, but I might be able to connect you with someone who would be. Some information that I do know..........
Walter Dill's Seattle group, Living Traditions has come up here every year for about the last 10, and teaches basic to intermediate dance, mostly swing, East coast, some Lindy. Living Traditions has a week long workshop in State of Washington in December (called Wild Week), annually, and some Alaskan's attend. Many dance enthusiasts here regularly attend dance festivals in the Lower '48, and then teach their friends some of the "new moves" when they return. Alaskans are usually from some place else, so lots of dance has been taught from folks moved here from somewhere else. (I am originally from the East Coast, but did not do any partner dancing in those days.)
Quite a few Alaskans have been to Frankie Manning workshops in Seattle. (I was lucky to be one.) Leslie Coombs, from Baltimore has taught Lindy in Alaska in the past. Anchorage has a small and friendly dance community, where people often try many things, but master none...(Ballroom, East/West Coast Swing, Round, Contra, Square, Zydeco, Cajun, Latin, Country...) but we have a number of people who just LOVE to dance when they can...usually more recreational than competitive in nature. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to find the people and places to be dancing all the time here, as it is in other places.
About four years ago, when I was traveling East, I was lucky enough to stumble upon one of the Glen Echo monthly dances, with a fantastic Texas Swing style band. The dancers were friendly and enthusiastic. (We are starved for a variety of good, live dance bands.) The quality and variety of music available now in the D.C.--Baltimore area seems excellent. I am envious.
I am not envious of the East, though, when I look out my window at the Chugach Mountain range that surrounds Anchorage, or drive 5 minutes to get to work.
Hope that you stay healthy and continue you love of dance.
My wife, Rita, and I just returned from a trip to Honolulu where I was for work. However, we did find time to dance and I'd highly suggest that any of you lucky enough to make the trip out to hit the Pier Bar at the Aloha Tower Marketplace on Wednesday nights. They have a live band (although the dance floor is concrete) and there are plenty of savoy and hollywood style lindy hoppers to dance with. We introduced ourselves to a couple of the locals and were soon introduced to everyone else. All were very interested in where and who we had learned from, exchanging moves, and talking lindy in general. And if you're lucky enough to be there when Hula Joe and the Hutjumpers are playing, you'll really be in for a treat! You can also check the Aloha Tower Marketplace entertainment calendar.
The University of Hawaii Dance Club also has listings of other swing/lindy events they frequent.
By: Debra Sternberg
Dear Uncle Frankie-Wankie,
Next day, we're Catalina-bound. We hitch the ferry to the most beautiful island in the world, to the town of Avalon. Quaint, kinda European-looking, just adorable. Suzi Nonn meets us at the ferry and escorts us to the house we're sharing with Brian McGill, the ephemeral Diane Hudson-Wiley, Susan Lusi, and Bill Lehman. Our first entrance to the ballroom is absolutely breathtaking--the place is just stunning! It is the largest circular ballroom either in the country or in the world. High deco, immaculately maintained. I tell ya, the whole trip was worth being in that ballroom alone! What with all the LA kids completely into the hair, dress and look of the 40s, the Saturday night dinner-dance was like a step back in time. Overall review of the weekend--fabulous. We all must go next year. Great instruction ( we think we learned a lot but we can't remember), wonderful performances by the teachers, fun dancing every night in the ballroom, a charming island, all contributed to a fabulous dance vacation. Naturally, we're all talking about going back next year.
Love and kisses and undying affection from
Susan Lusi's Trip to Catalina
Our review of San Diego is under construction. In the meanwhile, check out the website of Swing-O-Rama
Seattle is a very hip city, very good for Lindy Hop. Check out the following websites before you go:
November 11, 1998
J.C. 's Coffeehouse is opening around the end of November and will have a big, brand new, wood dance floor, live bands, and some of the Northwest's hottest dancers and dance instructors.
June 10, 1998
Where to dance
Some places to buy zoot suits
Seattle, the Emerald City
Seattle, Washington may be half a world away from the Savoy, but the spirit of swing has definitely spread to the Jet City. I made the trek from New York, New York to visit family and do a bit of scouting this April (1998) and was very pleased with what I found.
Shopping the Jet City
Every Seattle tourist is required by law to check out the Pike Place Market, if only to see those famous guys who fling raw fish around, hear the street performers and pick up some smoked salmon. It's worth the trip! While you wander the market (all three levels) stop into YESTERDAZE vintage clothing store. I was overwhelmed by the "overstuffed attic" ambiance, but hard-core types are bound to find some sort of treasure here. (Sweet tooth gnawing? Grab a huge hunk of apple pandoughty from the bakery on the street level... yummm... my mouth really did say "Howdy!")
Amble up to First Avenue as you leave the market and visit two wonderful stores that make charming neighbors: OLD DUFFERS STUFF (1519 1st Ave) and ECLIPSE HAT SHOP (1517 1st Ave). Old Duffers tiny store is a virtual museum of 40's and 50's clothing, with a few older items intermixed. Don't forget to check out the spectacles and cigarette cases in the display case. Next door Eclipse offers not only millinery, haberdashery and renovations, but owner Sharon Hagerty will instruct the neophyte in hat etiquette. Before you give up that parking space, continue down First Avenue to JACK HAMMER LTD. (1909 1st Ave.) to stock up on those Hawaiian shirts. A few doors down ISADORA'S (1915 1st Ave.) is the place to go when you're looking for vintage formal wear and money is no object. Formal wear for fellas is towards the back.
Seattle is also the home of the University of Washington, with one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. University Way NE, also known as "The Ave." is the home of THE RED LIGHT (4560 Univ. Way NE) which buys, sells, and trades vintage clothing. The vast variety of items here is a bit overwhelming. With all it's pin-up-inspired artwork, it's hard to resist those vintage swimsuits.
Don't miss charming little Fremont, the corner of Seattle that considers itself "The Center of the Universe". Set your watch back five minutes so that you're on Fremont Standard Time, then visit my favorite intersection in the world, Fremont Place North and North 35th Street. It's home to three swell vintage shops and one fantastic restaurant. GUESS WHERE (615 N. 35th) features mostly menswear. FRITZI RITZ (3425 Fremont Pl. N) has a little of everything. PRIVATE SCREENING (3504 Fremont Pl. N)has by far the nicest sales staff in the universe, a selection of dresses that made me pinch myself, and prices so fair I had to double check to make sure that was in US dollars. And to top it all off, it's next door to LONG SHOREMAN'S DAUGHTER, which looks like a nothing little coffee shop, but serves the most inspired and delectable food. My taste buds were doing aerials over the sweet potato and goat cheese ravioli... downright killer-diller!!!
Dancing in Seattle
When I lived in Seattle during the summer of 1996, the ballroom in the Oddfellow's Hall building was run down and rather shabby. All chipped green paint and a worn out floor. No one wanted to dance in there for fear of ruining their shoes. That's certainly not the case anymore! Now it's the newly renovated CENTURY BALLROOM and it's companion cafe (915 East Pine, in Capitol Hill). Lovingly restored by Hallie Kuperman and crew, the 1908 ballroom has been returned to elegance with a 2,000 sq. foot dance floor, burgundy velvet curtains, chandeliers... the whole bit. Oh, and isn't it grand that the tables don't encroach on the dance floor? The cafe serves up pastries, soups, salads, sandwiches and of course espresso. Beer and wine is available at the bar and it's a non-smoking venue so leave the cigars in their humidor at home. Oddly enough, the swing kids don't seem to have discovered the Century Ballroom yet... the crowd on Saturday night was distinctly of the more mature-couples nature. (My mom got asked to dance more than I did!) The Century normally has at least one swing dance per weekend (live music). Their phone is 206-324-7263 and includes a listing of dances/events.
Where are Seattle's swing kids? They're at CLUB HI-DEE-HO at the Fenix Nightclub (315 2nd Ave in Pioneer Square). Monday nights they come out in droves to Swing and Lindy Hop to DJ Leslie $ (pronounced "Leslie Dollarsign") or DJ Hep Jen. Keith Hughes and Hillary Haselton teach a swing lesson from 8-9pm or thereabouts, with new moves every week. (Gee, I wish someone would get them a microphone!) Cover is $5, but only $4 if you're well-dressed... and though I didn't spot a single zoot-suiter in the place, a number of the ladies looked swell in their 40's and 50's frocks. The upstairs dance floor is small, but the club is swanky, with balcony seating. I understand that some nights are held on the downstairs dance floor (the Fenix Underground), but I didn't get a look at it. The number one nice thing about Club Hi-Dee-Ho? That'd be the serve-yourself water at the side of the bar!
Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to check out ZOOT SUIT SUNDAY at the Showbox (1426 1st Ave. across from the Pike Place Market) but you can bet I'll be there on my next visit west. Nothing makes this girl swoon like a Zoot-suiter who knows how to work his two-tone shoes! Check out www.daswingdance.com for more info.
Swing Instruction in Seattle
The SWING GIRLS offer swing and lindy instruction at the Century Ballroom expressly for lesbian, gay, bi and non-homophobic folks... couples or singles, lead or follow, skirt or trousers... all are welcome. For more info, their e-mail is email@example.com. Ask instructor Hallie Kuperman about her upcoming Shim Sham instructional video...
The SAVOY SWING CLUB practices every Friday evening at the "Dance on Capitol Hill" (340 15th Ave. E.) and opens their practices to non-members for a measly $3. The fun starts at 7:30 with a teaching session and then proceeds with taped music until 9:30. Savoy Swing Club members get a $2 discount at the Century Ballroom with their ID card. The club also offers classes on a regular basis (two nights a week). Phone is 206-547-7676.
Dave Atkinson teaches "Classic swing in a contemporary context". Check out his web site at www.daswingdance.com for more info.
That's about all I can tell you about the Seattle scene. Hope these tidbits are of help to you swingers headed for the Jet City.
See you on the dance floor!
. Here is the latest info (Winter, 2003):The Boise Swing Society has regular dances:
e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org and check their site for updates
This city is just begining to have a swing scene, but has several very attractive venues to check out. The Crystal Ballroom was mentioned in the Swing article, Newsweek had a couple of months ago. Berbatti's Pan has a classic feel to it and features a truely fantastic, local vocalist, Lily Wilde. The Highball Lounge is expanding from San Francisco. There will be a "Highball" in Portland before next summer. We, in Portland, can go 7 days a week now. The Highball will only add to that and will make it easier to get great bands from out of town to stay for longer than one or two shows.
San Luis Obispo, California
heading in the travel guide, and here is more:
I came to San Luis (as it's often called) to visit my granparents and other various relatives, but like any addicted Lindy Hopper, I came with ulterior motives of dancing. i couldn't find anywhere to dance in this small town, despite it's proximity (an hour north) to the mecca of Santa Barbara, home to the great Jonathan and Sylvia. But fortunately for me, San Luis is one of those wonderful quaint towns with a lot of history and a competitive amount of vintage shopping.
DECADES. 785 HIGUERA STREET, SAN LUIS OBISPO (805) 546-0901
the first, and in my opinion the best, vintage shop that I went to was Decades, located at the heart of their commercial district. it was an awesome shop with rows and rows of shoes (most Doc Martins, but many other finds in between, including one larger pair of women's shoes actually from the 40's) and racks of clothes, many of them men's. in
fact, about two thirds of the store was devoted to men's attire, and the other third to women's wear. the entire size of the store was probably about double of mood indigo in downtown dc or half of meep's. A lot of the women's dresses were from the 70s, but like any vintage shop, some digging was required to get what you were at. A few pieces fit my 40s tastes (and more importantly were my size), and they weren't outrageously priced. I paid about $20 for an early 50s (as far as i can tell) rayon dress. there was a whole rack of coats, nice ones, leather with fur trim. the men's side seemed abundant in suits, hawiian shirts, t-shirts, and a few coats. They had a couple of bowling shirts, but again, you have to dig. i found one *excellent* bowling shirt, a beautiful color and in great condition, but they were asking $45. So perhaps the pricing here is a bit spotty. The great thing about decades is it's ecclectic collection of household items and other knicknacks. Their phonebook ad boasts that they "specialize in...50's goods." I spied an old chrome blender and toaster there, apparently in great condition. unfortunatley i didn't check out the prices...but above all the racks of clothes is a display shelf of beautiful items, and the staff is very helpful and friendly if you inquire after these or any of the items in the store. Maybe not as good as meeps in terms of selection, but if you're in town, definatley worth a visit.
SECOND TIME AROUND. 577 MARSH STREET, SAN LUIS OBISPO. (805)-543-0997
Located a couple of blocks off San Luis's main drag, Second Time Around offers a wide variety of vintage clothes. chocked full with stuff, it most likely resembles Meep's in inventory size. It has a lot of 50s stuff, which to me is a lot better than decade's 70's bent. It has a lot of old stuff at reasonable prices, but none of it my size (which is pretty small and thus hard to find). There are a ton of shoes, but most could be used for ballroom dancing, not Lindy. Again, much digging needed, and a treasure could probably be found. A whole bin of scarves was by the door, and racks cascading with purses could be found in various spots in the store. there were a lot of ties, too many for me to look through. the men's section was considerably smaller in this store, but could hold some potential. in the window are a couple of beautiful wedding dresses, perhaps pre-WW2, but i'm not in that market. ;) if you go to second time around, make sure you look at the display wall behind the counter, there are a few really nice things back there that aren't too expensive. the ambiance and goods are not as nice as decades, but the saleslady was just as helpful.
GOODWILL. 712 MARSH STREET. (805) 544-4965
Unlike the huge goodwill that I went to in Falls Church, Virginia, this Goodwill is considerably smaller, about a third of the size. It was much more picked over, as well. it could have been the day that i went, but this store had absolutely nothing that perked my Lindy interests. Worth a peek if you're in San Luis, but don't expect much.
CONSIGNMENT SHOP. BROAD STREET.
I'm terribly sorry, but I don't exactly remember the name of this store, but it's the one on Broad Street with three fantastic suitcases in the window. unfortunatley, the vintage goods stop there. Inside the atmosphere is really wonderful and the woman who was working there was absolutely charming and helpful, but most of the goods were from the nineties, not what us Lindy hoppers are looking for. but if you're looking for unique contemporary jewlery, it's got some very nice trinkets and other things.
There are lot more stores in San Luis that could potentially have vintage clothes in it, but i just didn't get to them. certainly peruse the phone book, and you're bound to come up with a whole slew of other stores. as for dancing, I think most of the action is down in Santa Barbara, but I've heard that if you contact Jeffery Bloom of Pat Jackson's Academy of Dance in San Luis, you might be able to find a Lindy lesson or two in this fine town.
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 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 ]
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