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Thursday, July 28, 2011

WHEN SWING WAS KING

Last month my wife and I went to a local auditorium with another couple to swing dance. We are scheduled to attend some social functions in the near future where dancing will be available and, as such, we wanted to brush up on our steps, plus it sounded like a lot of fun for a Saturday night. As a rocker from the sixties, I primarily associated the Big Band era with my parents' generation. However, when I went off to college, I attended some parties where we played Big Band music as a departure from our usual Rock. Frankly, I was surprised by how the women reacted to it and we quickly learned how to cut a rug. I have been a devotee ever since.

There is something magical in Big Band music. Between the rhythm and orchestration, it makes for some of the best dance music around, particularly Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Gene Kruppa, and many others. My personal favorite is "Sing, Sing, Sing" by Bennie Goodman; a classic. True, I grew up with Rock and Roll, but there is something special about good swing music.

As part of our swing dancing on Saturday, the evening began with a one hour dance class for new initiates and for those needing a refresher course, such as yours truly. The instructor taught "east coast swing" which surprised me as I didn't realize there was a difference between east coast or west coast. It was actually a simple step consisting of a six count, left-to-right with a drop step, and a spin of the lady. The instructor lined the men up on the dance floor in a large circle. Women would rotate from one man to the next to practice the step and see the differences in style. It was only then that I realized the women present outnumbered the men by at least two to one, maybe more. Consequently, I had more than my share of women to dance with, ranging in age from 19 to late 70's. The young ones had a lot of energy but needed instruction. The older ones were more experienced, knew all the moves, thereby making dancing with them a pleasure. Sounds rather bawdy doesn't it? In the meantime, my wife danced with all the men and described their nuances to me afterwards. Some were smooth and experienced, others had two left feet, maybe three.

After the one hour of instruction, the dance floor was opened and a live band began to play a variety of Big Band era tunes. This is when I realized the room no longer had just a couple dozen people as what we had started with, but had blossomed into a couple hundred people. While the rookies practiced the steps they had just learned, the more seasoned veterans were swinging and swaying on the floor. Women would ask men to dance, and vice versa. What I found interesting was to see an older man take a young lady on to the floor, and swung her with great precision. I could tell by the expression on her face she was enjoying it immensely. Her boyfriend, who was sitting on the sideline, knew he was out of his league. Sensing this, an older women took him on the dance floor and taught him a few steps.

Although I had expected to see mostly an older crowd at the dance, I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of young people there from ages 19 through 30. When I asked one of the youngsters why they came, they said they were curious about swing dancing and wanted to learn. They also commented they never received any dance instruction when they were in school, and enjoyed this experience tremendously. Further, they discovered Big Band Music wasn't so bad after all and they enjoyed the beat, just as I had learned when I was in college.

True, there were a lot of women there looking for friendship and probably more, but they didn't hesitate to jump on the dance floor and shake their booty. Inhibitions disappeared, and everyone just wanted to dance. In a way, it seemed like the old high school dances I remembered from many years ago. The music may have been different, but the ambiance and energy wasn't. I realize ballroom dancing is the rage now, but as for me, Swing is King.

Note to singles: be sure to check out swing dancing. You may very well be surprised with who you will meet there.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

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