Across The USA
by Terence Walker
Swedens famed Rhythm Hot Shots currently in the
middle of a West Coast tour and the producers of The Original
Broadway Swing! preparing to take their show on the road,
the American public has ample opportunity this winter
to enjoy Lindy Hop at its finest. But there is another
show coming to our countrys diverse hinterlands
that is not to be missed. In late January, the indefatigable
London-based troupe The Jivin Lindy Hoppers (JLH)
embark on a coast-to-coast tour, accompanied by a seasoned
group of jazz musicians headed by Warren Vaché, in a new
production called SWINGTIME!
Back in the 1930s, American Lindy Hoppers visited Europe
to demonstrate how the dance was done. But in recent years,
European Lindy teachers have been strutting their stuff
here in the States, and some of the best European dancers
have graced our stages. The JLH are among Europes
finest swing dance ensembles and have performed in more
New York Lincoln Center Festivals than any other Lindy
Hop company. This troupe of seasoned dancers have
been honing their skills for close to 15 years, and in
this respect, the Jivin' Lindy Hoppers brings something
special with them across the Atlantic.
The troupe was formed by Terry Monaghan, an enthusiastic
London dancer, after he saw a British television documentary
featuring Lindy Hop devotee Louise "Mama Lu"
Parks back in the early 1980s. Monaghan was struck
with the idea of re-establishing the Lindy in the UK,
and in June 1983, joined forces with Warren Heyes, who
was teaching rock n roll jive in central London.
They agreed to form an exemplary dance company that would
arouse a raging enthusiasm for this forgotten dance form.
A fortunate coincidence brought Mama Lu Parks to London
just over two months later, and plans rapidly began to
take shape. Terry rounded up potential dancers in an East
End youth club, including a young Ryan Francois (now starring
in Swing! on Broadway), who used to hang around the door
and watch Warren teach.
Unlike their counterparts in Stockholm, New York and L.A,
who concentrated initially on organising dance classes
and social dance events, the newly formed Jivin' Lindy
Hoppers aimed straight for professional performance company.
It was a risky strategy, since the finances were more
precarious than the income that could be accrued by holding
regular classes or sticking to ones day job and
keeping the troupe strictly amateur. But after several
years and more than a few disagreements, a committed core
of die-hard Lindy Hoppers emerged.
Since their inception, the Jivin Lindy Hoppers have
made several television appearances in England and the
U.S., performed throughout Europe and Japan, and recently
completed a one week East Coast tour with the Boston Pops
Orchestra. Now the JLH are preparing to bring their high-energy
swing prowess to the forthcoming SWINGTIME! tour.
The new stage production is perhaps most remarkable in
that it truly captures the plurality of jazz dance. In
addition to Mama Lu Parks, the Jivin Lindy Hoppers
count such notable figures as "Pepsi" Bethel,
Frankie Manning, Norma Miller, Bill Louther, Dickie Harris
(current artistic director of the Mama Lu Parks Dance
Company), and 1955 Harvest Moon Ball champions "Sugar"
and George Sullivan among their many influences. The troupe
has noted that the term "swing dance" is currently
used in the restricted sense of just "Lindy Hop"
styles of dancing. But true swing includes all the stage
and social dances that went with swing music. Whereas
the Jivin Lindy Hoppers do not attempt to include
the whole gamut of this genre in SWINGTIME!, they pack
in as many styles as it can, from the Lindy Hop and the
Big Apple to Rhythm Tap.
The dancing is heightened by the superb musicianship of
Warren Vachés 10-piece New York City All-Star Swing
Band. Each of the musicians has an impressive list of
credits, and the players have the skill to compose riffs
and harmonize on the spot, resulting in a unique and different
arrangement for each performance. This keeps the music
fresh and the dancers on their toes.
Combining delightful musicality and masterful dancing,
SWINGTIME! is not to be missed. For tour dates and further
information, visit www.savoystyle.com/jiving_tour.html.
To learn more about the Jivin' Lindy Hoppers, go to www.jivinglindyhoppers.com.