Today, Sunday night (5 p.m.) is your last chance to “SW!NG OUT” at the Ahmanson. This two-part program begins inside the Ahmanson where you’ll see some high energy swing dancing from a diverse cast and, at intermission, takes you outside–just around the Mark Taper Forum at the Jerry Moss Plaza to a nice portable dance floor for dancing to live music.
It seems like I haven’t been dancing for ages, but for those who love dancing summer in Los Angeles used to be the time to dance under the stars to live bands in disparate places like Old Pas One Colorado, the Autry Museum of the American West, the Downtown Los Angeles Music Center and some local campuses. Changing interests as well as the pandemic closed those down, but Dance DTLA did return last summer for five Friday nights (Cumbia, Disco, Motown, Salsa and Bollywood).
“SW!NG OUT” takes that tradition for a hybrid concert dance party. Choreographer Caleb Teicher has a cast of Lindy Hop champions who dance to the live music by the Eyal Vilner Big Band. The show backed by the creative team, the Braintrust, which includes Evita Arco, LaTasha Barnes, Nathan Bugs, Macy Sulliva, Caleb Teicher and Eyal Vilner. The choreography and improvisation is by Teicher, the Braintrust in collaboration with the dancers, except for the “Big Apple Contest” which uses the choreography of Frankie Manning (as first seen in “Keep Punching”).
This is a casual affair compared to the Broadway production “Swing!” which came to the Ahmanson in 2000-2001. That show was more tightly choreographed piece that made me crave a certain yellow dress. But “SW!NG OUT” begins in a manner that might have you thinking, “I could do that,” and builds to impressive lifts that should be labeled “don’t try this at home or on tonight’s dance floor.” But improve and individualism seem to be a key to the stage performance. The stage show is not without some such as the jumble of colors in the costuming (costume design by Márion Talán) that can sometimes be distracting and some weak transitions.
Yet if this weekend long event is meant to get you primed to hit the dance floor, then it does just that. Swing is an umbrella term that covers a number of dances. The Lindy Hop reportedly came out of Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s. Swing was considered wild, spontaneous and often vulgar. The women kicked so high you could see their panties although now you should be wearing dancing briefs. And then there was the lift to a straddle.
The dance gets its name from Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974) who was nicknamed “Lucky Lindy,” and the “hop” is his historical non-stop flight from New York City to Paris 20-21 May 1927.
Swing is often divided into West Coast and East Coast. Besides the West Coast style, there’s also a more local dance style, the Balboa, that originated on Balboa Island. There is also country swing. East Coast swing, in its simplest form, is probably the easiest dance to learn and a good prep or gateway into other forms of social dancing. Most of my friends started here (or with Ceroc) before going on to Lindy or WCS.
Frankie Manning (1914-2009) was born in Florida, but raised in Harlem. While he was famous as part of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, that group disbanded during World War II as many of the male dancers, including Manning served in the military. While Manning did return briefly to dancing post-World War II, he eventually settled into a more stable life, working for the US Postal Service. The Pasadena-based Erin Stevens (co-owner of the Pasadena Ballroom Association) and her dance partner Steven Mitchell are credited for bringing Manning out of retirement to teach a new generation of Lindy Hop dancers. Manning won a Tony as co-choreographer of the Broadway musical “Black and Blue” (1989-1991) in 1989. Manning is also credited with the choreography for the 1992 Spike Lee film “Malcolm X.” He also choreographed “Stomping’ at the Savoy” (1992), and is a featured interview in Ken Burns’ 2000 “Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns.”
If you just want to see some great swing dancing, be inspired to dance or just watch people take to the floor and listen to the live music of Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five, get your tickets now. Swing came into being after the 1918 Influenza Pandemic and as safeguard for our current pandemic, everyone at the show have to pass a COVID-19 check (shots or recent testing). So this Sunday evening, swing into a summer. “SW!NG OUT” is a TMC Arts Program: Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center event. The performance in the Ahmanson begins at 5 p.m. and the public dance party on Jerry Moss Plaza begins at 6 p.m. For tickets or more information visit MusicCenter.org
Dance DTLA returns with the following schedule:
8 July: Hip Hop (Instructor: Brandon Juezan; DJ Monalisa)
15 July: Bollywood (Instructor: Aching McDaniel)
22 July: Colombian Cumbia (Instructor: Fransini Giraldo; DJ Pachanga)
29 July: Argentine Tango (Instructor: Ilona Glinarsky)
5 August: Voguing (Instructor: Jamari Balmain)
12 August: K-Pop (Instructor: Chuck Maa; DJ Boba Bear)
19 August: Disco (Instructor: Andy Vaca; DJ Dirty Dave)
26 August: Bachata (Instructor: Leslie Ferreira)
2 September: Samba (Instructor Francine Giraldo; DJ Yukicito)