What’s the scoop? You’re thinking about attending a swing dance event (out-of-town or local) you’ve never attended before. So you go to the event web site or Facebook (FB) page and what do you read: the event is…..“awesome”, “amazing”, “fantastic”, “coolest ever”, “legendary”, “fabulous”, “incredible”, “super amazing”. But then when you attend, it turns out the event was just okay, or maybe not even okay, maybe the event just plain sucked.
The music was bad, the dance floor was carpet, or tile, or had nails sticking out of the floor, the venue was not air-conditioned, but of course, you wouldn’t read anything about that on FB. And you wasted your time and good money on an event everyone said was “awesome”. Of course, no event is perfect, but what you would have really liked was fact based information on the event so you could make an informed decision on whether or not to attend.
Let’s face it, everything and every event in life is not awesome and amazing – that’s life. What are some truly awesome and amazing things Mike & Mary have experienced in their life? The birth of our children, seeing Niagara Falls, our children’s weddings….yes, those were awesome events. And Mike & Mary have experienced their fair share of what we would describe as great swing dance events (perhaps more on that later).
For swing dance event promotion on FB and event web pages, hyperbole is rampant and commonplace these days. It can be a real challenge separating fact from fiction when it comes to swing dance event promotion. Is there anyplace you can get down-to-earth, fact based information on swing dance events? Yes, there is – from Mike & Mary Richardson.
A little background on why we are providing this info. On April 10th, 2018, there was a swing dance at the Music Hall Ballroom in Cincy featuring music by the Harry James Orchestra. Prior to the event, Mike & Mary had some questions from some new dancers on this event: what was the music like, the dance floor, the cost, etc. So in the Hepcats Email Newsletter before that April 10th event, we provided some info on the event (see below), and we received feedback that people found that info useful.
So Mike & Mary are going to provide info on (1) future swing dance events, and provide (2) a review of selected events we attended, called – – What’s the Scoop?
To get the most current What’s the Scoop? info please subscribe to the Hepcats Email Newsletter! At some point after the event, we’ll post the info for that specific event in a section below.
To subscribe to the Hepcats Email Newsletter, send an email to Mike Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you signed up.
There really is no debate - when it comes to a combination of high quality instruction, dancing and competitions - ABW is one of the best (if not the best for Balboa dancers), it's really that simple. For Balboa dancers, this is a must attend event!
Here's the scoop from Mike & Mary about the All Balboa Weekend (ABW): “We’ve been dancing Lindy Hop and Balboa for quite a few years, and over that time we’ve attended a lot of weekend workshop events, regionally and nationwide. There is one weekend workshop event that stands out for us, one we make plans to attend every year: ABW.
2019 will mark the 18th year for ABW, and we’ve attended for 14 of the past years. For Balboa enthusiasts, those wanting to learn Balboa, or those wanting to take their Balboa to the next level, ABW is a must attend event. Not to sound harsh, but you shouldn’t call yourself a serious Balboa dancer – and you shouldn’t attempt to teach Balboa – if you don’t attend ABW on a regular basis, it’s really that simple – ABW is that quality of an event. (This is especially true for those swing dancers that live in our neck of the woods/within a reasonable driving distance of the event, i.e. KY, Ohio, Indiana,…).
We know ABW is not “cheap” when compared to exchanges, a typical DJ dance, etc…but people, to include swing dancers, make choices all the time about how to spend their money and one of those choices for swing dancers should be to attend ABW! Don’t be a person that “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”. When you consider what you get at ABW – world class instruction, high quality music (both live and DJ), high level competitions, high quality social dancing with hundreds of other Balboa enthusiasts – ABW is a great value.
And if it wasn’t for ABW, the Balboa dance scene in the US and internationally would not be where it is today. The swing dance community owes a big thanks to Valerie and the ABW staff for their efforts in putting together a consistently first-rate event year after year. Hope to see you at ABW in June."
For the last few years, the Cincinnati Warbirds have sponsored a USO Swing Dance/Salute to Veterans dance at Coney Island on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. The music is provided by the Tom Daugherty Orch., and their re-creation of the Glenn Miller Army-Air Force World War II band.
Overall, it's a fun event to attend, with a patriotic theme, which you don't see very often these days. The colors are posted before the event starts (guys, make sure you take off your hat for the posting of the colors), and Cincinnati area veterans are recognized during the intermission.
The Tom Daugherty Orch. is a good band and overall they do a nice job. Of course, they play a lot of Glenn Miller Orch. songs - a lot of "mayonnaise and white bread" music at this event. You're going to hear very few (if any) hard swinging arrangements from the 1930's and 40's big band era. (BTW, the only place to hear the original 1930's/40's big band swing-era arrangements in this geographical area is events featuring the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra (KJRO) and the nightly dances at Lindy Focus.)
The cost of the event is $20 at the door, plus you have to pay $8 for parking at Coney Island. The venue is Moonlight Pavilion (outdoors but covered) and the floor is a tile type floor. Depending on the weather, the floor can be sticky, or also very slick, so plan for that.
Generally, Mike & Mary try to attend these events; and we recommend people attend (but keep the caveats above in mind when making your decision).
Cincinnati Museum Center 1940's day, usually the 2nd Saturday in August. An overall fun event to attend, but not as dance event. The music provided for dancing is not very good - Mike & Mary don't attend for the dancing; we usually dance very little, if at all (**see info below).
Depending on the location of the event (either at the Cincy Museum Center or Lunken Airport) there is a vintage airplane and car display on the tarmac, featuring vehicles from the 1920s, 1930s and the 1940s. There is also a vintage fashion show, historical presentations, vintage wares for sale from Casablanca Vintage, plus other activities.
Mike & Mary try to attend, a fun event. We recommend you attend, and wear your best 1930's/40's vintage clothing to get in the spirt of the event!
**Some info below about the music provided at the 2018 event.
From the event schedule it appears there are three musical groups providing music in the "Big Band Tent": Daniel Bennett and the Dirty Shirleys; the Queen City Sisters; and the P&G Big Band. I don't really know much about the first two groups, but I have heard the third group, the P&G Big Band perform a few times, so I'll provide some info on that group.
My understanding is that the band members are Proctor and Gamble (P&G) employees and they play at this event for free. Very nice of them to do that, and I'm sure the event organizers appreciate it. But when it comes to live music, you get what you pay for. In general, the music provided by the P&G Big Band is not good. The band really doesn't play any swingin' 1930's/40's arrangements; they mostly play a lot of jazzy, "mayonnaise and white bread" type music. The band often can't maintain the tempo of the songs they are playing, and some of the arrangements they play make no sense for a band that is playing at a "1940's day" event.
Maybe when the event moves back to the Cincy Museum Center (most likely for 2019) the event organizers will get a big band that will actually play some swingin' big band music.
What's the low down on the big band dances at the Music Hall Ballroom in Cincy?
Since about fall of 2013, WMKV Public Radio in Cincy has been sponsoring big band dances at the Music Hall Ballroom in Cincy, usually twice a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. The bands are normally "ghost band" orchestras from the swing era: Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Harry James, and Count Basie, to date. Mike & Mary have been to several such events featuring the aforementioned bands, so we have a pretty good idea what these events are like.
Before each of these events, one often sees some posts on FB describing this event as "a rare chance to hear authentic big band music"; "an opportunity of a lifetime"...
As evidenced by the above statements, hyperbole is rampant and commonplace these days, especially on FB, in swing dance event promotion, etc. Words and phrases like “awesome”, “amazing”, “fantastic”, “coolest ever”, “legendary”, “fabulous”, “incredible”, “super amazing”…… are so vastly overused those words have almost lost any real meaning.
It can be a real challenge separating fact from fiction in swing dance event promotion - - so what about these Big Band dances at the Music Hall Ballroom?
Here's the scoop. The WMKV big band dances are nice events to attend; the Music Hall Ballroom is a beautiful facility, with good acoustics. WMKV is a good organization to support.
The bands generally feature good musicianship, but.... the bands play a lot of "jazzy", slow ballads, and "mayonnaise and white bread" type music. You're going to hear very few (if any) hard swinging arrangements from the 1930's and 40's big band era. The music can get really old, really quick. (BTW, the only place to hear the original 1930's/40's big band swing-era arrangements in this geographical area is events featuring the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra (KJRO) and the nightly dances at Lindy Focus.)
The cost of the event, $30-$35 each (plus parking) is a little pricey, especially for the very average quality of music you get.
Generally, Mike & Mary try to attend these events; and we recommend people attend (but keep the caveats above in mind when making your decision).
What's the scoop on Swingin' on Short? Mike & Mary and the Hepcats have been involved with the Swingin' on Short event for a number of years. In spite of our involvement, we'll give you some straight scoop on the event.
Swingin' on Short is Lexington's annual street dance event, that usually takes place in early June. It's a Lexington Parks & Rec event, with support provided by the Hepcats and the Lexington Arthur Murray Dance Studio. It's a free, family friendly event.
The event takes place at the corner of Short & Limestone Streets, near the Courthouse Plaza. You are dancing on a street surface, so keep that in mind concerning shoes, and you should "pace" yourself. (And I would say no more that one spin for your partner!) Of course, it's an outdoor event so weather is always a factor. Note that an inclement weather decision is normally made by 3 pm on the day of the event; in case of inclement weather, the event location is moved to the Lexington Arthur Murray Dance Studio.
The event starts at 7 pm with a free beginner type lesson, with the live music starting at 8 pm. By 8:15-8:30 pm, the sun has gone down behind the buildings so even on a warmer than usual early June night, the temperature is normally pleasant. But still, dress for comfort and for warm/hot weather, and depending on how "energetic" you dance, bring an extra shirt or top (guys, bring an extra, or two, t-shirt!).
Mike coordinates the music for the event. Due to the limited budget, Mike books bands of 4-7 musicians that play energetic and swingin' music. (If you would like info on some of the past bands at Swingin' on Short, contact Mike.)
There is a dance contest during the band's break, c. 8:45 pm (you should enter!). Mike provides the music for the dance contest (and for any general dancing time).
There are usually 2-3 vendors selling soft drinks and snacks, plus you can always get a bite to eat at one of the downtown establishments before the event starts.
Overall, it's a fun, well attended community type event. Mike & Mary always get a lot of positive feedback from event attendees. Hope to see you there!
For this geographical area, it's not very often one gets a chance to dance to, or even listen to, the great, hard swingin' music of the big band swing-era. The only two exceptions I can think of are (1) the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra (KJRO), based right here in Lexington, KY; and (2) the big band dances at Lindy Focus (although Asheville, NC may or may not be considered "in this geographical area").
Friday night, June 29, 2018 was a great night for the hard swingin' music of the big band swing-era. The LA Swing Barons (from LA, CA) provided some great music at York St. Café in Cincy.
The band primarily played pre-WWII big band music of the Kansas City/Ct. Basie/Bennie Moten era. They did a great job, playing the songs at the right tempo and in the right style; their vocalist was also first-rate. Mary and I had a wonderful time; no mayonnaise and white bread live music at this event.
The band played a couple of Harlan Leonard arrangements: Hairy Joe Jump, and Skee. You don't hear the music of Harlan Leonard and His Rockets played very often (KJRO has three Harlan Leonard arrangements in their book.); great music by a relatively unknown and much underappreciated big band of the swing-era.
Of course, a lot of Count Basie songs were featured. Some of the Basie charts I remember were Jumpin' at the Woodside, Diggin' for Dex, Toby, Hollywood Jump, Taxi War Dance, Sent for You Yesterday, ……. Overall, the band was tight and swingin' hard.
I talked to a couple of the band members and they mentioned how much they respected the music, and enjoyed playing the music from that era. Really good stuff. It was good to see talented musicians embrace the music Mary and I enjoy dancing to and listening to so much. A great big thanks from Mike & Mary to the band for "Keepin' it Real"!
A word about the venue, York St. Cafe. Dance events are held on the second floor, an air-conditioned space. Being July, it was a bit warm, but not too bad. The dance floor area is wood, but uneven in some places, and not very big. There was a decent crowd at the event (c. 100 or so), but overall a disappointing turnout from Lindy Hoppers and Balboa dancers - what more could they have wanted as far as music? There was a lot of buzz on FB from different areas/scenes about this event, but when it came time to actually attend the event (both locals and those from out of town), it was a lot of talk, and little action.
Lastly, a big thanks to Eric James and the management at York St. Café for hosting/setting up this event. The band stated they would be back in Cincy next year for a tour - you should make it a point to attend!