Monday, January 30, 2012

Gotta Dance? Swing It Over

There are swinging parties in Manhattan nearly every night. The trick is in knowing where to find them. Take a recent Thursday: Sandwiched between a Blarney Stone and a liquor shop on Eight Avenue just south of Penn Station and up four flight of stairs was a scene invisible to most New Yorkers. Wild and sweaty, loud and crowded, it featured scores of smiling, ever-shifting couples energetically executing the kinetic choreography of the Lindy Hop, the Charleston, the Jitterbug, the Balboa, the Carolina Shag. They danced East Coast and West Coast styles and bluesy New Orleans freestyle.

This party, the Frim Fram Jam, is a weekly event organized by the local chapter of a national swing dance network called Yehoodi, after "Who's Yehoodi (Yehudi)?," a song popularized by Bob Colloway. Held at a studio called You Should Be Dancing and drawing more than 150 people a week, the Frim Fram Jam is a popular destination withing a throbbing, urban subculture: Manhattan's swing dance demimonde. The scene is the recent revival of a phenomenon that stated quietly in New York in the mid-1980s, waxed and then waned and then grew popular again in the decades that followed until the best swing dance spots were forced to close for lack of revenue in the new century.

Now enjoying a renaissance that began around three years ago, the current swing dance milieu consists of a network of clubs, events, instructors, dancers, DJs and bands. It is characterized by its own celebrities, etiquette and conventions, and enabled by social networking, particularly the New York City Swing Dance Group of and This scene is scored by composers whose names form the spine of the Great American Songbook: Duke Ellington, Count Basie, George Gershwin, Benny Goodman, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Isham Jones and of course, Cab Collaway. (NYT)

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