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Naptown Stomp Swings Past the Hype
By Tony Adams

I've always been fascinated with swing and the culture that surrounds it. It may have started when I was a kid, watching old movies where people danced in ways that looked humanly impossible but were also cool as hell. Or it could have taken hold of me through my grandma's old albums by Nat "King" Cole and too many big bands to name. Who knows the actual point of impact on my soul? To put it plainly: I love the music. I love the dancing. I love the fashion.

I hated the hype.

In 1996, when Vaughn and Favreau were saying "baby" this and "money" that and big band music burst on the scene, the media latched onto the movement like a pack of hungry wolves. Although the rebirth of swing culture was a great thing indeed—with the Cherry Poppin' Daddies zoot-suiting it up on MTV and The Gap selling chinos to a jump blues beat—the media whirlwind left many swing fans with vertigo.

As with any pop culture movement, when the hype gets to be too much, you just have to step back, bide your time and reassure yourself that this too will pass. The media doesn't stay on anything too long. Like vending machine bubble gum—when the flavor's gone, you spit it out.

Naptown Stomp's Marketing Director, Quinton Snodgrass

Swing's Still the Thing
But here in Indianapolis, Kathy and Aaron Altschul had a different idea. Last February, they decided to start a swing dance club called Naptown Stomp. It wasn't the easiest undertaking, since by 2001 the attention swing had received just a few years before was gone. That wasn't an entirely bad thing, though. Not everyone likes gum.

The group's main focus wasn't the media trappings that turned up in ads or boring exposť pieces in weekly magazines. It wasn't about modern-day zoots or chompin' on stogies or jumping on the bandwagon. As group member Roland Walker puts it simply, "It's about the dancing."

Reaching Out to a Broader Audience
"Naptown Stomp was organized to teach and educate the general public on swing dancing, specifically Lindy Hop, swing music and its history," says the group's marketing director, Quinton Snodgrass. "We conduct a series of classes to introduce beginners to the dance as well as perform private shows for groups or clubs who are interested in adding some flare to their functions."

Although the members of Naptown Stomp are trying to keep swing going in Indy, once the heat of the "Swing Craze" died down, it became hard for folks who enjoyed the scene to find a place to do their thing.

"Money is the main issue," says Quinton. "Some clubs that jumped on the swing wagon during the '90s, when it was more of a fad, have really fallen by the wayside. It is tough to keep a swing venue in the black. Most of the dancers aren't big drinkers, so they go to the bar and order water. But most of the places that did swing figured out that they could make more money catering to the college crowd, who were less interested in dancing and more interested in the drink specials. I think this has pretty much happened across the country, and is one of the things that has made swing more of an underground phenomenon again."

The Naptown core consists of only five officers, with an additional group of indispensable volunteers. These are the "Swing Geeks" who go to weeklong workshops in Chicago or travel cross-country because they heard about a cool place to dance.

And it's that kind of spirit that gives me hope that something I cherish and admire so much won't be forgotten after the media's eye has turned to The Next Big Thing. Naptown Stomp is not going to give up. Swing music and dance are too important for these people, who continue to celebrate this enduring cultural movement.

To view the Naptown Stomp calendar of swing events in Indianapolis, visit www.naptownstomp.org/calendar.html. Tony Adams can be reached via email at Hobgad95@aol.com.

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