When I tell people I like to “swing,” the response I get is generally a raised eyebrow and a look of disgust. And before they completely form the wrong opinion about me, I quickly add, “No, not THAT kind of swing. I like to swing DANCE.”
Swing dancing has been part of my life for more than 10 years. I caught the tail end of what is now referred to as the “neo-swing” movement in 1999 when my high school sweetheart introduced me to swing dancing. I was immediately hooked. Brian Setzer Orchestra, Royal Crown Revue, Indigo Swing and Ella Fitzgerald CDs replaced my otherwise typical high school music collection of rock and pop. I started shopping at the Salvation Army for “twirly skirts” and scoured eBay for vintage dresses, shoes and even a pair of WWII-era wool sailor pants. I even saved up to buy a pair of Bleyers, shoes made in the UK specifically for swing.
Every Thursday night, I would get all dolled up to head to a local dive that allowed under-agers to dance to a swing DJ. We jitterbugged, Lindy Hopped and shagged the night away… well, until 9:45. I had a very strict 10 p.m. curfew, since it was a school night, after all.
In the years after high school, my interest in swing slowly began to fade. College came, and although a fellow classmate and I started up a swing club that lasted for a couple years, interest and funding slowly dwindled. By 2003, the neo-swing movement had moved back underground, and has stayed there.
Nowadays, I attend a swing dance here and there. Just this past Friday, I decided to head to Lakewood’s Masonic Temple for a “Get Hep Swing” dance to hear The Red Hot Rugcutters, a swing band from Erie, Pennsylvania — my hometown. Not only did the band sound amazing, I found myself having as good a time as I did in high school, and was able to dance the night away. This time, without a curfew.
If you’d like to learn how to jitterbug, Lindy Hop, Balboa, shag and Charleston, check out these sites for lessons and dances around the state.