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SWINGTIME! Across The USA 
by Terence Walker

With Sweden’s 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 country’s 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 Europe’s 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 one’s 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 Vaché’s 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.


Behind in your reading?
Check out past ATOMIC features.

Cyber*Kool
Dear Dottie
1999 Article List
2000 Article List
2001 Article List
2002 Article List
2003 Article List
2004 Article List
SwingTime! Across The USA:
The Jivin' Lindy Hoppers
Breuker Breaks The Rules
Beatin' The Chops:
The Vegas Rockabilly Weekender
Paris (Combo) By Night
Sewing To the Oldies
Royal Crown Revue
Walks On Fire
Ode To An Ape:
The Legacy of King Kong
Karaoke Swings!


 


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