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 - E042 - Ryan Francois 08/27/2019
The Track - E042 - Ryan Francois In this episode, I am joined by dancer, instructor, and choreographer Ryan Francois. 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 US Open 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 “A Day at the Races” and “The Spirit Moves” impacted his life, and how connecting with the dance and such legends as Mama Lu Parks, Norma Miller, Pepsi Bethel and Frankie Manning 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 “Swing Kids” & “Malcolm X,” and the Tony-nominated musical “Swing!,” the legacies of the individuals 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 Lim. Sing has been part of the global swing dance community for over 30 years - learning in London under the tutelage of Ryan Francois and Frankie Manning and spreading Lindy Hop to Asia when she returned to her native Singapore in 1996. She was a member of the Frankie100 organizing committee and has been invited to teach, perform and judge at numerous events around the world, including Herräng Dance Camp, Swingtime Ball Beijing, and the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown in New Orleans. Sing joined me in New York City to talk about our memories of Norma Miller, learning from — and then competing alongside — Ryan Francois in the early 90s, her friendship with Frankie Manning, and founding Jitterbugs Swingapore and SEA Jam, 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 Mei. 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 Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, the International Lindy Hop Championships and the European Swing Dance Championships. Alice joined me at Lindyfest 2019 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 Brothers and Sisters in Rhythm. 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, Nick Williams. 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, US Open, ALHC, National Jitterbug Championships, ILHC, Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, and American Classic Balboa Championships. Nick’s choreography has been featured on So You Think You Can Dance, and he has been inducted into the California Swing Dance Hall of Fame. Nick and I sat down at Lindyfest 2019 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 Sylvia Sykes 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 recreating Gene Kelly’s iconic “Singin’ in the Rain” 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 Alexander. 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 Camp Hollywood and the National Jitterbug Championships in LA, was inducted into The California Swing Dance Hall of Fame in 2008, and later served on its board for 5 years. She has also been the co-leader and vocalist for Jonathan Stout and His Campus Five and The Jonathan Stout Orchestra since 2002. Hilary sat down with me at the 2019 California Balboa Classic 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 most well-recognized venues 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 complicated relationship with her mother 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 Carroll. 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 Herrang Dance Camp and Snowball in Sweden, Authentic Jazz Weekend in South Korea, and Lindy Focus in the United States. In her home scene, she is one of the organizers of Swing Dance Sydney and JazzBANG 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, Dogpossum.
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 Morales-Armstrong. 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 American Lindy Hop Championships with her partner Carnell Pipkin in 1998, to her roles as co-founder of the International Lindy Hop Championships, co-organizer of Lindyfest and Lone Star Championships, and architect of the International Swing Dance Championships and Houston Jazz Dance Festival. Tena and I sat down in Rochester, NY during Stompology 2018 and talked about teaching hip-hop as a single mom, how a glimpse of tandem Charleston at the Glen Echo Ballroom 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 work with kids on and off the dance floor, her role in the Frankie Manning Foundation, 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 U.S. Naval Academy professor of mathematics, Sommer Gentry. Sommer has won competitions at countless events, including Boston Tea Party, the Virginia State Open, and Swingin’ New England, and became a cornerstone of the Baltimore swing community as co-founder of Charm City Swing. Off the dance floor, her research with her husband Dorry Segev in organ transplant optimization has landed her profiles in Science and TIME magazines. Sommer and I sat down a year ago at Lindy Focus 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 learning by doing — in both dance and math. We also discussed her love of pop music, what it’s like both dancing and researching with her husband, performing superhuman feats of mathematics on television, and how exactly one can embody Zeno’s Paradox 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 Shirar. 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 Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, ILHC, and Midwest Lindy Fest, 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 Nevermore Jazz Ball and the St. Louis Jitterbugs. 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 Frommelt. 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 Jenny Shirar. Together with Jenny, he was won competitions at Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown 2014 & 2015, and at ILHC in 2015. Christian also does tremendous work as a scene leader in St. Louis, including organizing the Nevermore Jazz Ball and cultivating a strong community of dance through the St. Louis Jitterbugs. Christian and I sat down in New York City to talk about how learning swing and Shag from local legends like John Bedrosian 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 Nevermore Jazz Ball 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 All Balboa Weekend, Valerie Salstrom. Valerie has a long list of Lindy Hop and Balboa competition titles to her name, including from events like the National Jitterbug Championships and the American Lindy Hop Championships, and is also well-known as the founder of the Cleveland Junior Jitterbugs after-school swing dance program. Val and I sat down at ILHC 2017 to talk about what it was like learning her first Balboa steps directly from legends Maxie Dorf and Sylvia Sykes, 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 Gray. 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 Dawn Hampton, 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, Mikey Pedroza, 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 “The Brightside with Mikey and Rachel.” Mikey and I sat down at ILHC 2017 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 Maxie Dorf and Hal Takier. 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 Sakan. 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 2017 Open Classic Lindy title and four consecutive Jack & Jill titles at Camp Hollywood’s National Jitterbug Championships, and has taught swing dance around the world. Moe joined me at ILHC 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 Camp Hollywood and a 2017 inductee into their Hall of Fame. 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 Luck of the Draw.
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, Norma Miller. Growing up behind the famous Savoy Ballroom, she joined Whitey's Lindy Hoppers 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 Harvest Moon Ball in 1935, performed on Broadway, in films like Hellzapoppin' and A Day at the Races, 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 Uptown Swingout in Minneapolis to talk about dancing at the Savoy Ballroom, the Apollo Theater, and the 1939 World's Fair 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 Cosentino. Paul founded the Boilermaker Jazz Band 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 PittStop Lindy Hop and have been a fixture in the swing dance scene ever since, playing around the world at countless exchanges and events like ILHC and DCLX. Paul and I got together at Stompology 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 George Gee’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 Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop, and I am thrilled to be joined by its co-author, Cynthia Millman. A long-time Lindy Hopper in her own right, Cynthia first met Frankie Manning in 1986. She performed with the Big Apple Lindy Hoppers 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 Dance Magazine and The International Encyclopedia of Dance, and has served on the board of directors of the Frankie Manning Foundation 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 Gordon Webster. 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 The Snowball, Lindy Shock, Swing Camp Oz, and Beantown Dance Camp. His seventh album, entitled “This.” was released this month, and he is currently wrapping up an ambitious Indiegogo campaign 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 Swing Out New Hampshire 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 Mona’s Tuesday night jam session 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 Yannacone. 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 California Swing Dance Hall of Fame 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, Hot Toddy & His Fully Dressed Po' Boys. Todd and I sat down at Lindyfest 2017 to talk about being dragged to swing dance classes as a teen by his mom, how Hop the Millenium 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.
info_outline The Track - E022 - LaTasha Barnes 03/10/2017
The Track - E022 - LaTasha Barnes This month, I am thrilled to be joined by Juste Debout World House Dance champion, and relative newcomer to swing and solo jazz dance, LaTasha Barnes. Tasha and I sat down at Lindy Focus XV to talk about the many twists and turns of her life’s journey - from growing up as a young African-American in the capital of the Confederacy, to 10-year Army veteran, powerlifiting champion & fitness competitor, and an artistic director & educator with Urban Artistry dance company. We discussed her experience working at the White House under both the George W Bush and Barack Obama administrations, recovering from two debilitating injuries through dance therapy, performing at the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, how a chance encounter led to her introduction to Lindy Hop, and the complex topic of representation and appropriation in the largely-monochromatic modern swing dance community.
info_outline The Track - E021 - Josh Collazo 02/01/2017
The Track - E021 - Josh Collazo This month, I am joined by one of the top swing drummers in the world, and bonafide rock star, Josh Collazo. Josh is known to most swing dancers through his work behind the drum kit with bands such as Jonathan Stout’s Orchestra and Campus Five, Dave Stuckey & his Hot House Gang, or perhaps his first band, The Feetwarmers. But Josh may be better known to more mainstream music fans as the drummer for the Grammy-winning and platinum-selling band, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Josh and I sat down after Lindy Focus XV and talked about how he balances those two musical worlds, how his passion for swing dancing in the late 90s influenced his development as a drummer, and what it’s like to fill the shoes of drum legends like Gene Krupa and Chick Webb at the Lindy Focus tribute nights. We also discussed his early experiences as a bandleader, the technique and music theory of what provides an authentic swing era sound, and how he has gained enough confidence as a swing musician to take the torch and start creating original swing music with his new group, the Candy Jacket Jazz Band.
info_outline The Track - E020 - Nathan Bugh 01/11/2017
The Track - E020 - Nathan Bugh This month, I am joined by instructor, performer, and fellow New Yorker, Nathan Bugh. Most dancers I’ve talked to on the show are professional Lindy Hoppers in the sense that they make their living traveling from city to city as dance instructors. While that description definitely applies to Nathan - he has taught with partners Evita Arce and Gaby Cook around the world - he’s also a professional Lindy Hopper of a different type: one who is regularly hired to perform at corporate and commercial events. We sat down in New York City at the end of 2016 and talked about his experience performing at those commercial gigs, how his education in music composition at Juilliard does (or doesn’t) influence his approach to Lindy Hop, and weighed the relevance of vintage jazz dance in modern popular culture. Nathan also explained why his unconventional approach to class structure may not necessarily be the best business model, what he means when he refers to the "academic Lindy Hop community,” and how the hot trend of “Gastby” entertainment at commercial dance gigs is in some ways more “real” than what’s found in the dedicated Lindy Hop community.
info_outline The Track - E019 - Remy Kouakou Kouame 11/22/2016
The Track - E019 - Remy Kouakou Kouame I am joined this month by Remy Kouakou Kouame - Remy began dancing Boogie Woogie at age 6 in his hometown of Montpellier, France, and by 2006 he and his partner Sarrah Montalban became World Boogie Woogie Champions. Since then, he has become an acclaimed international Lindy Hop and solo jazz instructor who has also earned several titles at the International Lindy Hop Championships. Remy joined me after ILHC 2016, where he described the competitive world of Boogie Woogie, challenging his own personal fears and insecurities as a competitive swing dancer, his initial impression of Lindy Hop as a dance for losers, and how dancers Ryan Francois and Skye Humphries helped change his mind and discover the “Spirit of Lindy Hop.” We also discussed the music video “Two Cousins,” which put him on the radar of many Lindy Hoppers, what it’s like working with partners Ramona Staffeld and Alice Mei, why he thinks it’s important to “master the dance before mastering the art of selling yourself,” and why he feels dancers should focus on finding their own groove instead of recreating the past.
info_outline The Track - E018 - Nalla Kim 10/25/2016
The Track - E018 - Nalla Kim This month I’m joined by Nalla Kim. Nalla has traveled the world as a dancer, instructor, and competitor, and is a mainstay in the booming swing dance scene of Seoul, South Korea. He runs the swing teams Sweet Heart & Lindy Blossom and brings international instructors and musicians to the thousands of Lindy Hoppers in Seoul though events like Authentic Jazz Weekend, Lindy Blossom Weekend and SEOUL Lindyfest. Nalla made his first appearance at ILHC in 2011 with team Sweet Heart and now he's become one of the regular ILHC judges. He's known around the world for his enthusiasm and passion for Lindy Hop. Nalla sat down with me at ILHC 2016 to share how he discovered Lindy Hop, describe the incredible Seoul dance scene, and educate me on some of the history of Lindy Hop in South Korea. We also discussed his early dance inspirations and his difficulties moving past copying other dancers to develop his own style, his wife Jessica’s professional yodeling, the cultural differences between dancers of South Korea and the United States, and how the global scene may improve discourse when it comes to sensitive or controversial topics. Nalla asked that I remind listeners that English is not his first language, which I am, of course, happy to do.
info_outline The Track - Remembering Dawn Hampton 09/27/2016
The Track - Remembering Dawn Hampton Like many of us, I am still reeling from the news that one of the guiding lights of swing passed away this weekend. Dawn Hampton left us too soon at 88 years young - and I had the distinct privilege to call her my mentor and my friend. She had the sharpest wit, the wisest soul, the warmest heart, and was also the biggest ham, of anyone I have ever known. If I am being completely honest, the potential of talking with Dawn was one of the very reasons I started this podcast. So instead of my normally scheduled episode this month, I am re-releasing my conversation with Dawn, when we sat down in April 2015 not far from her East Village apartment in New York City. As I said on the original episode, it is no exaggeration to recognize Dawn as a National Treasure. Her amazing life began traveling from town to town of the American South in a carnival, singing and playing saxophone with the Hampton Family Band, followed by stints at Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, and the Savoy Ballroom in New York City. Dawn became a legend of the Greenwich Village Cabaret in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, coaching the likes of Bette Midler and singing alongside Barry Manilow at the infamous Continental Baths. Only decades later did Dawn become a legend of another kind to swing dancers the world over, sharing her story and wisdom from Sweden to South Korea. I am struggling to find the words to describe the incredible woman who was my friend, but I think this excerpt from the New York Times review of her 1982 cabaret show perfectly captures what made Dawn, ‘The Lady’ - “In superficial terms, she is a singer. “But her voice, a strong but seemingly uncertain instrument full of quavers, growls, husky descents and high, shimmering airiness, is simply one element in a projection that is built even more on emotional intensity, high good humor, dramatics taken to almost corny extremes, zest and exuberance, all kept in such sensitive balance that one aspect adds flavor to another as she builds her songs into brilliant vignettes. “A key factor in the way Miss Hampton does things is a marvelously mobile, warmly expressive face that projects her lines even more than her voice does. Her huge, vital eyes and an unusually agile mouth can suddenly change, underline or add unexpected shading that cuts into the mood of a song to change the emphasis briefly, to lighten what threatens to be overly heavy dramatics. “Miss Hampton has a deep well of emotional energy and spends it recklessly and joyously.” That was the Dawn Hampton I know. She was a singer, a dancer, and a diva, but was also so much more and the world is a better place for having had her in it. A memorial fund is being organized to support Dawn's last wishes, and I'll update the show's website with that information as it comes out. I am grateful that I once again have the opportunity to share our conversation. As Dawn would say, The Light is On.
info_outline The Track - E017 - Mike Thibault 08/23/2016
The Track - E017 - Mike Thibault I am joined this month by my long-time friend, Mike Thibault. Mike is a driving force in the swing dance scene of Rochester, NY, where he is a founding member of the teaching group Groove Juice Swing and helps organize events like Stompology & Slow Dance Soirée. Mike has been running Swing Out New Hampshire since 2014, and is also a sought-after DJ, serving as Head DJ for Frankie 100 and spinning at events such as ILHC, Lindy Focus, and numerous lindy exchanges. We sat down after Stompology 2016 to reminisce about our time as students at Rochester Institute of Technology, as we discovered swing music and learned dance steps from VHS copies of Swing Kids. Mike clarifies my memories of our early dance adventures, offers some advice for new DJs, and talks about how his passion for history has led him to collaborate with Andrew Nemr and the Tap Legacy Foundation on an archive of American vernacular jazz dance. We also discuss taking over Swing Out New Hampshire, what it requires to foster a welcoming swing dance community, his joy in hosting late night after-parties at the mythical Lindy Compound, and realizing that his contributions to the Lindy Hop community, and not his day job, are his true life’s work.
info_outline The Track - E016 - Laura Glaess 07/26/2016
The Track - E016 - Laura Glaess This month, I am joined by instructor & choreographer Laura Glaess. Laura was introduced to Lindy Hop in her small Texan hometown and helped grow the scene in San Antonio before making her way to Austin, TX, where she is now a vital part of the local scene. Her boundless energy & dedication have led her to become a highly-regarded international teacher and competitor. Laura is the co-owner of The Lindy Project in Austin and is well-known for her work choreographing performances like the Lindy Focus New Year’s Eve Show and her work with the ILHC-winning team, Lindy Hopper’s Dozen. We sat down at Lindyfest 2016 to talk about learning to dance at a restrictive Catholic school, what’s it’s like when your personal & professional identities are wrapped up in a romantic relationship, and what it's like when that ends. We also discuss learning an instrument later in life, the challenges & rewards of running a team, and making plans for a career after dancing.
info_outline The Track - E015 - Michael Gamble 06/28/2016
The Track - E015 - Michael Gamble This month, I am joined by DJ, Lindy Focus co-organizer, and Rhythm Serenaders bandleader, Michael Gamble. Michael has been swing dancing for more than 15 years and in that time his projects have become some of the most esteemed in the swing dance community. Michael has been head DJ for Beantown, Lindy Focus and the European Swing Dance Championships, and a featured DJ at Herrang Dance Camp, ILHC, and the Lone Star Championships, among others. His band, the Rhythm Serenaders, has performed at events including DCLX, Lindy on the Rocks, and the Nevermore Jazz Ball, and have just announced their first album, which comes out later this summer. Lindy Focus has become one of the largest and most popular swing dance events in the country, drawing more than one thousand attendees each year to his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. We sat down at LindyFest 2016 to talk about how his start in the world of electronic music, a bachelor’s degree in music and a father in the music industry all shaped his direction as a performer of authentic swing dance and music. We dive deep into what it takes to run one of the nation's premiere swing events, how DJs carry the responsibility for furthering jazz literacy in an era focused on live music, and the the challenges of transcribing a classic swing song.
info_outline The Track - E014 - Laura Windley 05/24/2016
The Track - E014 - Laura Windley This month, I am joined by vocalist, swing DJ, and Lindy Shopper - Laura Windley. Laura began DJing in her native North Carolina in 2001, spinning at major events across the country and her blog, Lindy Shopper, provides swing dancers with invaluable vintage fashion and shopping resources for finding dance clothing new and old. Laura got her start singing with the Atomic Rhythm All-Stars, and has since performed with bands such as the Jonathan Stout Orchestra and Michael Gamble's Rhythm Serenaders. In 2012, she and her husband, trombonist Lucien Cobb, founded the Mint Julep Jazz Band, which quickly became a mainstay in the Lindy Hop and Balboa scene, and will be making its New York City debut at Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing festival this June. We sat down at Lindy Focus 2015 to talk about getting started both as a vocalist and swing DJ, trading her childhood dream of dermatology for a career in Law, and her stint as a bassist in an all-girl law school rock band. We also discuss what goes into blogging for Lindy Shopper, getting the call for the Mint Julep Jazz Band to perform at Lincoln Center, and how she managed her stage fright to become one of the most popular vocalists in the swing dance scene today.