‘Sw!ng Out’ Brings Swing Scene to the Stage
Thanks largely to Jonathan & Sylvia, who taught lessons and hosted biweekly swing dances at the Carrillo Ballroom for decades before the pandemic paused presentations, Santa Barbara locals have a thriving swing dance scene that features several styles in the partnered dance, including the Lindy Hop. The pair even brought the late Lindy co-founder Frankie Manning to town several times in the 1990s, 60 years after he helped popularize the lively fast-paced style danced to big band jazz that got its name a few years after Charles Lindbergh “hopped” across the Atlantic.
But you don’t have to be part of Santa Barbara swing scene to enjoy Sw!ng Out, which goes far beyond how the dance has previously shown up in musicals as nostalgia or novelty. Instead, the show’s dozen swing-dance champions backed by live music from Eyal Vilner’s 10-piece band reverently celebrate the history of Lindy while simultaneously modernizing it in a production that serves as both a theatrical dance presentation and a touring version of a typical night in New York’s swing scene.
While some of the show is choreographed, Sw!ng Out also captures the spontaneity of the Lindy as an improvisatory space with the dancers making choices of steps depending on partner, music, and mood, often ignoring traditional gender roles, and even switching between lead and follow.
“We haven’t really altered the Lindy Hop for the stage… It’s a naturally sort of performative dance,” explained Caleb Teicher, the swing and tap dance specialist who conceived, choreographed, and directs the show. “It’s just representative of the contemporary scene, with a non-narrative arc that’s like a journey through the Lindy Hop these days. There are lots of shades and emotions, colors and feelings that we’re evoking. You experience something happening in a very palpable way.”
What Teicher, who remains deeply involved in New York’s Lindy scene, hopes is happening is an indoctrination into swing for the uninitiated that may prove infectious.
“We let them see just how good the dancing is and how it relates to the music so easily and effectively,” he said. “You see the types of relationships that develop and the connections that Lindy dancers build with each other, and get a sense of the way that people collect around the dance in a really natural way.”
But the audience isn’t just observing. After intermission at the Sw!ng Out event at the Granada on October 8, everyone is invited on stage to participate in the hour-long jam session with the performers and the band – no experience necessary.
“For people who already love swing dancing, our show is like a Mecca,” Teicher said. “Some in the swing scene have seen our show a dozen times. But we also want people who know nothing about swing dancing to feel the show, and suddenly get why people are so crazy about it.”
Sw!ng Out performs at the Granada at 8 pm on October 8th. Members of the cast will also lead free swing workshops at 7:30 pm on October 7th at the Carrillo Ballroom prior to the revived swing dance session with band Flattop Tom & His Jump Cats. Info at (805) 899-2222, granadasb.org or (805) 893-3535, ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.