If you know the six words which complete that phrase and come straight from The Duke himself, you already know what this entry is about. In addition to a passion for design and fine art, friends who know me well can also affirm my love for jazz music from the 1930s and ’40s. For someone who can’t keep their feet still when the sounds of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Count Basie, or Cab Calloway fill the room, the Lindy Hop becomes a logical addiction. Because of unfortunate circumstances of a previous relationship with someone I met dancing, I’ve been suppressing a desire to return to Lindy as a physical outlet and source of fun.
I had my first dose of Lindy in mid-1996 soon after I moved to San Francisco. A small group of us committed to learning the dance we started seeing when going out to the local clubs and lounges. We took an abundance of lessons, got pretty good at Lindy, met lots of new friends, and danced until we dropped… literally. In the late 1990s, the San Francisco Bay Area was a hotbed not just for new technology, but also for the increasing number of clubs who opened their doors to swing kids and the bands who played for them. For those who wanted a taste of swing, there was usually a choice of three or four clubs every night of the week. At least two of them would have live bands.
The rebirth of swing enjoyed a rapid rise to popularity. Clubs and dance halls flourished with business, and the floors filled with people. Those people quickly amassed to a crowd, and the whole thing became a scene, popularized by the release of the movie, Swingers, in late 1996 and a growing familiarity of the movie throughout 1997. We loved that movie when it first came out, but hated what it did to our subculture. Swing dancing became a dangerous sport. Loyal dancers were often pushed off the floor by drunk bandwagoneers trying to imitate on a crowded floor the aerial moves they had seen in isolated Cat’s Corners, in Disney’s Swing Kids, and in the hot new Gap commercial with Louis Prima singing Jump, Jive, an’ Wail in the background. The popularity of the scene eventually caused its own remission back to a mostly underground activity of those in the know and who truly loved the music and the dance.
For the first time in four years, and thanks to some prodding of a few friends, I finally decided to renew that flame. As the couple who joined me last night could attest to, I was hesitant about stepping back onto the dance floor after having avoided it for several years. I didn’t know if it would be like jumping back on a bicycle or not.
Resistance pushed aside, we ventured over to an old haunt in North Beach, and ended up dropping in on a lesson from two of the original instructors who taught me my first swing out. Once the lesson was over, the house band, Swing Session, took to the stage, and the floor opened up to anyone and everyone who wanted to swing. The music, the dancing, the rhythm, the women, the style. It all came rushing back with a flood of memories from an activity we used to engage in three or four times a week at our most committed point. Despite the [hopefully temporarily] sticky floor, causing some very sore knees and ankles today, I’m looking forward to going out again very soon. In fact, the next potential outing looks to be tomorrow night at Paul and Sharon’s 920 Special in SF’s Russian Center.
If I get back into Lindy Hop as much as last night made me want to do so, expect to see a mention or two of dancing creep into this space now and then.