Sunday, June 14, 2015

Something, Old, Something New, Something Borrowed: Music & Dance of Harlem

“A violinist had a violin, a painter his palette.

All I had was myself. I was the instrument that I must care for”

 [Josephine Baker].


In the heart of the night of June 4th, 2015, minds were taken aback to days of old, when the Harlem Swing Dance Society lindy hopped across the Alhambra Ballroom.

It was the first annual Purple Passion gala where crowds of beautiful people filled the room situated on 127th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd in Harlem, New York to raise funds against domestic violence.

Swing sounds influenced movements of Harlem’s fantastic dancers, reigniting history before viewer’s eyes. Though a dance from the 1930s, the antiquated dance brought joy to the hearts of so many.   

The sharing of these rhythmic complexities are all a “part of a worldwide trend to get back to the dance floor” [Shona Smith]. Dancers Etta Dixon, Bernard Dove, Ronald Jones and Shana Weaver are all a part of the Harlem Swing Dance Society, now in their seventh year of operation, collaborating with established historical organizations in Harlem and making a valuable contribution to the vibrant arts, culture and health of the community.

I will never forget watching the Nicholas Brothers slide, hop and split down stairs in the movie, “Stormy Weather” which also featured the swinging diva, Lena Horne, crooning her beauty to the world as dancers let their fancy foot work speak for them. The only difference in the W.A.R.M. event at Alhambra Ball Room was that the jazz band, Alvin Rogers and Harlem Freedom Band featuring Stephanie Jeannot performed separately adding their genuine flavor
to the room. The music they played was kicking and had folks getting down, followed by the true seasoned kicks of the Harlem Swing Dance Society keeping the 90 year old dance within today’s culture. There was history parked in the midst of each couple and right there in Harlem where the lindy hop first started.

The vibe at the Savoy Ballroom in the thirties must have been amazing when these dances first appeared with Frankie “Meathead” Manning and Charles Lindbergh, and were igniting passions.  What a great idea to go back to our African roots to help in celebrating the joys of life. If you are interested in knowing more about the Harlem Swing Dance Society and about the historical dance, the lindy hop, please check out: