The Track with Ryan Swift
Each month on The Track, join host Ryan Swift as he sits down for an in-depth & candid conversation with swing dancers, musicians, DJs, competitors, and instructors from the world of Lindy Hop.
info_outline The Track - E052 - Giselle Anguizola 11/17/2020
The Track - E052 - Giselle Anguizola In this episode, I am joined by dancer, instructor, and musician, . Giselle has been swing dancing for over 20 years, and is founder of , an organization honoring women in swing music and dance through weekend festivals around the globe. Widely renowned for her as a performer and instructor, Giselle spends most of her days singing and dancing with in New Orleans and San Diego. Giselle joined me by video chat from her home in San Diego to talk about finding swing dancing thanks to a middle school music teacher, the importance of recognizing followers in their own right, and what it means when she says she hears music in shapes. We also discussed her 10 years working as a performer in New Orleans, how both and influence her performances, and how the pandemic is affecting her dancing and her mental health.
info_outline The Track - E044 - Kim Clever & David Frutos 12/03/2019
The Track - E044 - Kim Clever & David Frutos In this episode, I am joined by dancers and instructors and . Kim and Dave met at a dance class at a bar in 1994, and by 1996 they were teaching swing dance together at the world famous . As competitors David and Kim have numerous titles together from the , the , and . They have many film and television credits to their name and have been inducted into the , both individually and as a couple. We sat down at 2019 to talk about the early days of the camp, how getting hired by Whoopi Goldberg launched their Hollywood careers, and their experience as dancers for the . They also break down dancing at and running some of LAs top swing dance spots, their experience traveling from the west coast to compete in the east at the height of the infamous style wars, and Kim’s experience as a woman in the swing dance scene.
info_outline The Track - E043 - Marge Takier 09/24/2019
The Track - E043 - Marge Takier In this episode, I am joined by Balboa legend, . Marge began dancing in Southern California in the 1950’s and soon after met her longtime husband and dance partner . Hal and Marge became a dance partnership that was looked up to by generations of dancers to follow, both in person to young , and around the world through . Marge and Hal were inducted into the in 2000. Marge joined me at to talk about learning to dance at the Lido Ballroom, dancing to big band greats like Count Basie and Benny Goodman at , the start of the now-legendary Big Band Sunday dances at , and unwittingly becoming a swing DJ icon. She also paid tribute to her late husband by sharing stories of his dance legacy, including meeting and dancing with him for the first time, his unique dance style, and his filmed work during the Swing Era in - the original music videos.
info_outline The Track - E042 - Ryan Francois 08/27/2019
The Track - E042 - Ryan Francois In this episode, I am joined by dancer, instructor, and choreographer . Following a chance encounter with a poster promoting “‘Thirties dancing with Judo throws” in the early 1980’s, Ryan has since become master of Lindy Hop, jazz, and tap. He is a two-time winner at the and American Swing Dance Championships, has taught and performed around the world, and his choreography and performances on stage and screen have inspired generations of modern Lindy Hoppers. Ryan joined me in New York City to talk about his discovery of Lindy Hop as a poor black teenager from East London, how profoundly the films and impacted his life, and how connecting with the dance and such legends as , , and shaped his sense of self and history. We also discussed the evolution of his career from traveling performer and competitor to choreographer on films like & and the Tony-nominated musical the that have carried the torch of Lindy Hop, and the thing he has yet to accomplish in a career that has touched nearly every aspect of show business.
info_outline The Track - E041 - Sing Lim 07/23/2019
The Track - E041 - Sing Lim In this episode, I am joined by dancer and instructor, . Sing has been part of the global swing dance community for over 30 years - learning in London under the tutelage of and and spreading Lindy Hop to Asia when she returned to her native Singapore in 1996. She was a member of the organizing committee and has been invited to teach, perform and judge at numerous events around the world, including , , and the in New Orleans. Sing joined me in New York City to talk about our memories of , learning from — and then — Ryan Francois in the early 90s, her friendship with Frankie Manning, and founding and , the first Lindy Hop weekend in Asia. We also discuss the early days of Herräng, how Lindy Hop has grown throughout Asia, both learning and teaching the history of Lindy Hop, and the importance of respecting the community of Harlem from which it came.
info_outline The Track - E040 - Alice Mei 06/25/2019
The Track - E040 - Alice Mei In this episode, I am joined by dancer and instructor, . Alice began dancing when she was four, and studied ballet and contemporary dance before falling in love with Lindy Hop and Solo Jazz. She very quickly became a highly sought-after international instructor and acclaimed competitor, teaching in more than 30 countries and winning titles at events such as , the and the . Alice joined me at to talk about the loneliness and difficulty she experienced at a dance conservatory program as a child, her struggle to understand rhythm at the start of her Lindy Hop career, and her experience finding her own voice in dance after an unhealthy partnership. We also discuss how switching partners multiple times has helped her dancing evolve, why fear is her greatest motivator for competing, and what she’s learned about successful group choreography as part of . A brief content warning -- we discuss Alice’s relationship with Max Pitruzzella about 42 minutes into the episode.
info_outline The Track - E039 - Nick Williams 05/28/2019
The Track - E039 - Nick Williams In this episode, I am joined by dancer, instructor, and choreographer, . Since his first swing dance lesson in LA in 1998, Nick has studied Lindy Hop, Balboa, and Collegiate Shag with its original dancers and spent countless hours studying vintage dance clips. He has won titles at virtually every top-tier event, including the World Lindy Hop Championships, , , , , , and . Nick’s choreography has been featured on , and he has been inducted into the . Nick and I sat down at to talk about his early years of dancing - where he experienced bullying in the late-90’s LA swing dance scene, his challenging first experience at ALHC, and how dancing with became a gateway for opportunity in the larger swing dance scene. We also discuss his obsession with loafers and how that shapes his dancing, finding opportunities to dance in film & television, and how he pushes his creativity through song & dance, like Gene Kelly’s iconic routine for a live audience.
info_outline The Track - E038 - Hilary Alexander 04/23/2019
The Track - E038 - Hilary Alexander In this episode, I am joined by singer, dancer, and event producer, . Hilary has been a vital part of the Los Angeles swing dance scene since she began dancing in the mid-90s - she founded and continues to run and the in LA, was inducted into in 2008, and later served on its board for 5 years. She has also been the co-leader and vocalist for and since 2002. Hilary sat down with me at the to talk about taking up to swing dancing to fight loneliness when she moved cross-country after high school, what compelled her to start Camp Hollywood with absolutely no experience as an event organizer, and what it was like being part of a cultural moment at some of the of the LA swing revival. We also discuss what it was like growing up with show business aspirations in New York City, her experience as a self-taught vocalist, and how her has shaped her own outlook on motherhood.
info_outline The Track - E037 - Sam Carroll 03/26/2019
The Track - E037 - Sam Carroll In this episode, I am joined by international swing DJ, . Sam started playing music for swing dancers in 2005 and has since DJed at events around the world. In addition to numerous events in her native Australia, she has DJed at Dance Camp and in Sweden, in South Korea, and in the United States. In her home scene, she is one of the organizers of and weekend. Sam sat down with me on New Years’ Day 2019 after a late night of DJing at Lindy Focus to talk about her observations about dance in the US, why being a DJ is about more than just playing good music, and how her experience in Australia was different from the American dancers riding the pop culture swing wave of the late 90’s. We also discussed what it’s like as a DJ and attendee at Herrang, what goes in to running her own successful events, her grad school work on women in media, and how that has shaped her approach and experience writing her blog, .
info_outline The Track - E036 - Tena Morales-Armstrong 03/06/2019
The Track - E036 - Tena Morales-Armstrong In this episode, I am thrilled to be joined by one of my most requested guests, . Tena is a renowned dancer, instructor, judge, choreographer, and organizer. She has been a guiding figure for the global swing scene for over twenty years - from winning the inaugural with her partner in 1998, to her roles as co-founder of the , co-organizer of and , and architect of the and . Tena and I sat down in Rochester, NY during and talked about teaching hip-hop as a single mom, how a glimpse of tandem Charleston at the inspired her to instantly dive headlong into the world of Lindy Hop, and how her eye for talent helped develop of some of today’s most recognized dancers. We also discussed what it means to her to on and off the dance floor, her role in the , the importance of black history and culture in Lindy Hop, and building a bridge between African-American partner dances like DFW Swingout and Chicago Stepping and the modern Lindy Hop scene.
info_outline The Track - E035 - Sommer Gentry 01/29/2019
The Track - E035 - Sommer Gentry My guest this month is dancer, competitor, and , . Sommer has won competitions at countless events, including , the Virginia State Open, and , and became a cornerstone of the Baltimore swing community as co-founder of . Off the dance floor, her research with her husband in organ transplant optimization has landed her profiles in and magazines. Sommer and I sat down a year ago at and talked about country two-stepping, the joy she finds in learning as many dances as possible, her experiences as a competitor and social dancer, and how she prefers . We also discussed her love of pop music, what it’s like both dancing and researching with her husband, performing , and how exactly one can embody on the dance floor.
info_outline The Track - E034 - Jenny Shirar 04/24/2018
The Track - E034 - Jenny Shirar My guest this month is the dynamic dancer, teacher, competitor, and performer, . Jenny discovered swing dance in 2008, learning from some of the legendary jitterbugs in St. Louis, MO. She has since won competitions at events like , , and , and has become an ambassador of St. Louis Shag, teaching around the world with her partner Christian Frommelt. Fiercely proud of her hometown, Jenny has also become a cornerstone of the St Louis swing dance community, having co-founded the and the . Jenny and I sat down in New York City to talk about her experiences learning how to dance on the social dance floor, why her main objective when competing is to be relentlessly herself, and the challenge of striving to innovate while still preserving the roots of vintage dances. We also discussed how she defines authenticity, how hearing stories of St. Louis’ dance history gave her a greater appreciation of individuals lived experiences, and why she considers St. Louis to be the City of Dreams.
info_outline The Track - E033 - Christian Frommelt 02/27/2018
The Track - E033 - Christian Frommelt My guest this month is swing dance instructor, performer and social dancer, . Christian is widely known as a devotee of St. Louis Shag, which he learned in his hometown from some of the original jitterbugs, and which has taught around the world with his partner . Together with Jenny, he was won competitions at 2014 & 2015, and at in 2015. Christian also does tremendous work as a scene leader in St. Louis, including organizing the and cultivating a strong community of dance through the . Christian and I sat down in New York City to talk about how learning swing and Shag from local legends like cemented his ties to St. Louis, how he adapts his teaching style to encourage individual expression, and what it takes to grow both a local scene and a large national event. We also discussed what motivates him to take on a leadership role in his local dance community, getting destroyed in head-to-head battles before winning the final two battles of ULHS, and how that event provided inspiration for making the a celebration of St. Louis.
info_outline The Track - E032 - Valerie Salstrom 01/30/2018
The Track - E032 - Valerie Salstrom My guest this month is instructor and founder of the , . Valerie has a long list of Lindy Hop and Balboa competition titles to her name, including from events like the and the , and is also well-known as the founder of the after-school swing dance program. Val and I sat down at to talk about what it was like learning her first Balboa steps directly from legends and , the thrill of competition, and the incredible impact the Junior Jitterbug program has on its participants and our scene. We also discussed her inspiration for the first weekend event dedicated solely to Balboa, what it took to build a scene from scratch in Cleveland, and both got a little choked up talking about how much we love the Juniors division at ILHC.
info_outline The Track - E031 - Noëlle Gray 12/31/2017
The Track - E031 - Noëlle Gray My guest this month is dancer, stand-up comedian, and my good friend, . Noëlle began dancing in 1999 and quickly became a fixture in the national Lindy Hop scene. She started teaching internationally in 2004, both as a leader and follower. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, and in 2010 stepped away from dancing to focus on stand-up comedy. She’s since returned to the world of Lindy Hop, and that community of friends continues to support her through her recent brain cancer diagnosis. We sat down during her recent visit to New York City to talk about what it was like teaching both lead and follow roles in a time when that wasn’t as common, why she gave up Lindy Hop for stand-up comedy, and how she came to terms with never quite reaching the level of dance or status she strove to achieve. We also discussed her impression of the modern swing dance scene after taking some time away, what she learned from Frankie Manning and , and how cancer has impacted her comedy, her memory, and her way of life.
info_outline The Track - E030 - Mikey Pedroza 11/28/2017
The Track - E030 - Mikey Pedroza My guest this month, , is one of the most versatile dancers in the modern swing dance scene, having competed, performed, and taught Lindy Hop, Charleston, Balboa, Blues, and Solo Jazz around the world. He is a fixture on the international swing dance scene and co-hosts the podcast Mikey and I sat down at to talk about his changing approach to choreography and competition, and his memories of dancing as a teenager in Southern California among old-timers like and . We also discussed his personal experience with an event’s safe space policy, the injury that took him out of this year's competitions, and how these events brought him to reflect on what the dance means to him and his place in the swing dance community.
info_outline The Track - E029 - Moe Sakan 09/28/2017
The Track - E029 - Moe Sakan This month, I am joined by . Moe discovered Lindy Hop as a teenager in her native Osaka, Japan, and continued social dancing after moving to London in 2000 to pursue a dream in the performing arts. Injury changed her path and Moe has since become an active competitive swing dancer and instructor. She has won several competition titles, including the title and at Camp Hollywood’s , and has taught swing dance around the world. Moe joined me at to talk about her early training and dreams of becoming a professional broadway dancer, swing dance and vintage culture in both Japan and England, and how video tapes of Southern California dancers drew her to to become a fixture at and a 2017 inductee into their . We also discussed the unique perspective of learning an American World War II-era dance in modern Japan, and some of her thoughts on what makes a rewarding experience in social swing dance contests like the .
info_outline The Track - E028 - Norma Miller 09/02/2017
The Track - E028 - Norma Miller This month, I am joined by the Queen of Swing herself, . Growing up behind the famous Savoy Ballroom, she joined as a young teenager and has spent over 80 years in show business as a dancer, choreographer, comedian, and writer. She competed in the inaugural in 1935, performed on Broadway, in films like and , and around the world as a dancer and leader of the Norma Miller Dancers and Norma Miller's Jazzmen. She has performed along side a who's who of music, dance, and comedy legends, including Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Bill Robinson, and Redd Foxx. Norma joined me at in Minneapolis to talk about dancing at the , the , and the in New York City, traveling to Europe and Brazil as one of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, and performing on stage and screen. We also discussed standup comedy, her thoughts on dance and music, and her experience in the swing revival spreading Lindy Hop around the world.
info_outline The Track - E027 - John Festa 07/26/2017
The Track - E027 - John Festa This month, I am joined by a living legend from the world of West Coast Swing, John Festa. Born into a family of original-era swing dancers that never stopped dancing, John is a renowned dancer, instructor, and DJ at Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, Carolina Shag, and Blues dance events across the country. He is co-founder of the Gotham Swing Club and Liberty Swing Dance Championships, and hosted NYC's longest-running weekly WCS party. He has also earned numerous awards and accolades, including induction into the Swing DJ and World Swing Dance Council Halls of Fame. At his home in New York City, John and I compared & contrasted the worlds of Lindy Hop & West Coast Swing, and spoke about how a broken ankle effectively ended his professional ballet career while simultaneously leading him to experience two white-hot periods of swing in NYC: Lindy Hop at The Cat Club in the 1980’s and West Coast Swing at North River Bar in the 1990's. We also discussed the many different sounds that we love to DJ and dance to, reminisced about our friend Dawn Hampton, uncovered John’s unabashed love of disco and the direct parallels he sees between the swing and disco eras, and delved into John’s professional advice for women for choosing the best bra for swing dancing.
info_outline The Track - E026 - Paul Cosentino 06/27/2017
The Track - E026 - Paul Cosentino This month, I am joined by one of the swing world’s most popular bandleaders and sought-after clarinetists, . Paul founded the in 1988 at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and quickly became a mainstay at traditional jazz and Dixieland festivals for over a decade. Then in 2001, the Boilermakers first played specifically for Lindy Hoppers at the first and have been a fixture in the swing dance scene ever since, playing around the world at countless exchanges and events like and . Paul and I got together at in Rochester NY, where we spoke about his extended family of musicians, his immersion in the Great American songbook at an early age, some of his early gigs playing clarinet with ’s Make Believe Ballroom Orchestra in the 80's, and the Boilermakers' transition from Trad Jazz festivals to Lindy Hop events. We also discussed the differences between being a sideman and a bandleader, touched on some of the great jazz clarinetists, explored the magic of improvisation both on the bandstand and the dance floor, and wondered if popular music will ever again see another Cole Porter.
info_outline The Track - E025 - Cynthia Millman 05/23/2017
The Track - E025 - Cynthia Millman This month is the 10th anniversary of the publication of the autobiography , and I am thrilled to be joined by its co-author, . A long-time Lindy Hopper in her own right, Cynthia first met in 1986. She performed with the for five years under his artistic direction, and later studied, taught, and partnered with Frankie. She is a librarian at The Town School in Manhattan, has contributed articles to and , and has served on the board of directors of the since its inception. I joined Cynthia at her home in New York City to talk about her own discovery of Lindy Hop, the NYC swing dance scene of the 1980s & 1990s, and how the modern Lindy Hop world compares to that period, commonly referred to as the “swing revival." We also discussed what it was like writing the book with Frankie, some of her favorite stories that did and didn’t make it into the book, and reflected on Frankie’s legacy, including the work done by the Frankie Manning Foundation.
info_outline The Track - E024 - Gordon Webster 04/25/2017
The Track - E024 - Gordon Webster This month, I am joined by pianist and bandleader . A piano player since age four, Gordon had his first gig playing for swing dancers in 2001 and he caught the Lindy Hop bug soon after. His passion, diversity, and musicianship have made him one of the most sought-after musicians in the Lindy hop world, becoming a fixture at events like , , , and . His seventh album, entitled “This.” was released this month, and he is currently wrapping up an ambitious supporting that album and an upcoming digital single-of-the-month club. Gordon and I sat down at his home in New Jersey to talk about his development as a musician, the moment at when he realized playing for dancers is what he was meant to do, and how his approach to band leading is different than some other swing bands today. We also discussed what goes into recording an album (be it live or in the studio), how has become the go-to late night destination for early jazz musicians in NYC, and why he finds the ever-changing tastes of the Lindy Hop scene the greatest inspiration for him as an artist today. Gordon also speaks candidly about Steven Mitchell, the allegations against him, and how that news impacted him personally and professionally.
info_outline The Track - E023 - Todd Yannacone 03/28/2017
The Track - E023 - Todd Yannacone This month, I am joined by international instructor and award-winning swing dancer, . Todd has been a traveling instructor since the age of 16 and has won numerous titles at major national and international events. Todd is a member of the and has taught, performed, or judged in 30 countries around the world. When at home in New Orleans, Todd can be found performing on guitar or piano with a number of different bands, including his own, . Todd and I sat down at 2017 to talk about being dragged to swing dance classes as a teen by his mom, how completely changed his perspective on swing dance, finding inspiration in drastically different dancers (and dances), and why he still considers himself a social dancer above all else. We also discussed what drew him to New Orleans, his custom guitar and clothing, and even though it sometimes gets lost among all of the posture, counterbalance, and footwork, at the end of the day it's the simple act of holding hands and connecting with a partner that really matters when dancing.