More Resources

Below are additional information resources we hope you’ll find useful.

LHCouple2Need a gift for the person that has everything?  Give a gift that lasts – with a lifetime of fun and good health!  Swing dance lessons are the perfect gift for someone looking for a fun activity, wanting to meet new people, explore a new hobby or just stay in shape.

Gift certificates can be customized for a single class/lesson, or for a package of classes, and for single dancers or groups of dancers.

One call or email does it all!  Contact Mike Richardson at 859-420-2426 or [email protected] to arrange your purchase.

Let Mike & Mary put the swing in your step!

Mry,MR,aLooking for a fun activity, wanting to meet new people, explore a new hobby or just stay in shape – swing dancing is for you!

Why learn from Mike & Mary? Mike & Mary Richardson have been teaching swing dancing for over 21 years.  They don’t just “dabble” in swing dancing:  they love the dances and they study the dances.  They believe that learning to swing dance is a journey, not a destination.  They often travel to out of town swing dance workshop events such as the All Balboa Weekend, Camp Hollywood, the International Lindy Hop Championships, etc…. to take classes, private lessons and compete to further hone their skills.  They are the most knowledgeable swing dance instructors in the Lexington/central Kentucky area and are passionate about sharing all the great things about swing dancing, and swing music!

Mike & Mary have taught literally thousands of people to swing dance – and they can teach you – just give it a try!

Two ways to learn:

(1) Group classes.  The Hepcats normally offer a new series of group classes in the Sep./Oct./Nov. and Jan./Feb./Mar. time frames.  Keep an eye out on the Hepcats classes web page for info.

(2) Private Lessons.  Want to learn right away and at a much faster pace?  We also offer Private Lessons.  Private lessons are an excellent way to learn how to swing dance.  A big advantage of private lessons is that you get individual attention from working one-on-one with the instructors and you’ll progress at a much faster pace.  Private lessons may be arranged for individual dancers or couples.  Contact Mike Richardson at 859-420-2426 or [email protected] for more info.

What we teach:

Mike & Mary specialize in the original swing dances of the 1930’s and 40’s big band swing-era:  Lindy Hop and Balboa.

Lindy Hop is the original swing dance that developed in the Harlem district of New York City in the late 1920’s and early 30’s. SavoyBallroom

With influences that originated in the Charleston, traditional West African dance styles, and a variety of European social dances, the Lindy Hop included not only partner dancing, but also individual solos and line dancing.  Lindy Hop quickly spread all over the U.S. and overseas, influencing and reflecting the development of many regional styles of swing dance.  Lindy Hop is the grandfather of all swing dances, and eventually evolved into many other variations, to include West Coast Swing, Boogie Woogie, etc.  But like many things in life, the original is still the best!

Balboa.  What’s that cool dance where people shuffle their feet to fast (and even really fast!) swing music as they slide and glide on the dance floor?  Balboa is the dance!  To be a well-rounded and versatile swing-era swing dancer, you should learn – and embrace – Balboa!

BalCouple-150x150Tradition holds that Balboa was developed primarily in the Southern California/Los Angeles area in the 1930′s, as a result of very crowded dance floors in ballrooms.  The dance was named after Balboa Island in the Newport Beach area which was the location of the Rendezvous Ballroom.  The dance is known for its closeness, fast and fancy footwork and effortless looking flow and an overall look optimized for fast swing music.  By the mid 1930′s, it was not unusual for ballrooms to host dances for 3,000 or more people.  As ballrooms became more and more crowded, dances like the Charleston and the Lindy Hop became less practical; some ballrooms even instituted “no breakaways” policies to prevent injuries.

After a while some of the original Balboa dancers grew tired of doing just pure Balboa and started to introduce fancier variations which forced the close connection to be broken.  Today, this is sometimes called Bal-Swing.  In this form anything goes: spins, turns, dips, tricks, slides, etc.  Bal-Swing variations keep the overall style, feeling, and framework of the original dance with recognizable Balboa footwork.

One call or email does it all!  Contact Mike Richardson at 859-420-2426;or email:  info at luv2swingdance dot com for more info on how you can get started in swing dancing!

Note:  while Lindy Hop and Balboa are our specialties, we are also very adept in many other forms of dance, to include Collegiate Shag and 1920’s Charleston.

SavoyBallroomMike & Mary have been instrumental in establishing and developing the Lindy Hop and Balboa swing dance scene in Lexington and central Kentucky, and 2023 marks the 22nd year they’ve been promoting Lindy Hop and Balboa.  They consider it a privilege and an honor to contribute to the great tradition of the dances and music of the swing-era.

They strongly believe awareness of and an appreciation for the swing-era as a historical and cultural asset is important for the Lindy Hop and Balboa dancer.  In order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been!

Some of the highlights of the past 20 years that come to mind:

Teaching the original swing-era dances, Lindy Hop and Balboa, to literally thousands of people.  It’s a real joy to see the moment when the “light comes on” for a new student; or when a “step, step, rock step” swing dancer takes the challenge to become a Lindy Hopper; or when someone discovers the unique and dynamic nature of Balboa!

o  Providing swing dances in Lexington at venues where people can dance to the great music of the swing era.

UK Jazz Ensemble
UK Jazz Ensemble

o  Collaborating with the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra (KJRO) to provide music for big band swing dances, with the orchestras playing authentic swing-era arrangements.  One of two ensembles provide the music for these events:  (a) KJRO, consisting of the finest and most talented faculty, alumni and musicians from Kentucky area colleges and universities; or (b) the UK Jazz Ensemble (UKJE), consisting of the most talented students in the award winning and nationally recognized UK Jazz Studies Program.  The dancers obviously benefit from these events, but so do the musicians as they get a chance to see some authentic Lindy Hop and Balboa danced to the great music they play.  Not many (if any) communities the size of Lexington have swing dances with such talented big band orchestra’s providing authentic, swing-era music!

swing dance group

o  The establishment of Lindy Hop performance groups to elevate the level of swing dancing in Lexington and central Kentucky.  These performance groups have experienced success at regional and national level competitions and events.  And most of those dancers got their start with Mike & Mary and the Hepcats!

o  Collaborating with other organizations in Lexington/central Kentucky to bring high quality swing dance events to Lexington, i.e. Swingin’ on Main, Lexington’s annual street dance.  Mike & Mary have assisted with this event for the past 21 years.  Mike is responsible for selecting the band that provides the music, and Mike and Mary serve as judges for the dance contest.

o  Sponsoring one day and weekend workshops, some featuring high quality national and regional level Lindy Hop and Balboa instructors.

Once again, thank you for your support of Mike & Mary and the Hepcats, and see you on the dance floor!

Mike & Mary

Mike gets a lot of compliments on the music he plays at swing dances.  Of course, the real credit goes to the artists and musicians in the bands.  For those interested in Mike’s methods, ideas and philosophy on DJing for swing dances, see the info below.

The DJ and the swing dance scene – Keep it Real!

It goes without saying that the DJ has a tremendous influence on that particular swing dance scene…or is that statement as obvious as it seems?

Could a swing dance scene develop good Balboa dancers if the DJ didn’t play music appropriate for Balboa?  (Of course, if the DJ is not proficient at dancing Balboa, then that DJ probably doesn’t know much about good Balboa music.)  If the DJ(s) plays mostly slow music, how will the swing dancers in that scene develop?  How will the scene develop if the DJ plays mostly non-swing music?

All good questions, worthy of consideration and thought.

What makes a good Swing Dance DJ?

What makes a “good” DJ?  In some ways, it shouldn’t be that important.  Most people just want to go to a dance, have a good time, and dance to good music.  And that’s okay; when I go to a dance, that’s what I want to do!  It’s not surprising that few people appreciate the knowledge and expertise required to be a good DJ.

In fact, I’ve found that most swing dancers, from beginner to more experienced, and even those that “occasionally” DJ dances, have little or no idea on what it takes to be a “good” DJ:  i.e. how to incorporate variety, flow, and contrast into a dance event, how to keep dancers of all ability levels happy, etc, etc, …..For those interested in the methods to my madness on this subject (or for the hardy soul thinking about taking on DJ duties), this information is for you.

Note:  (1) This info is not intended to criticize any particular swing dancer, swing dance DJ or swing dance organization, but help bring more awareness to what should be the cornerstone of swing dancing:  the music!

(2) This info is also obviously intended for those dancers/DJs in the Swing Dance Community.  I’ve found that most “party”, “regular” or so called “professional” DJs have an appalling lack of knowledge about even the most basic elements of good swing music.  Just because you’ve got Jump, Jive & Wail and Zoot Suit Riot (along with the Electric Slide) doesn’t mean you got good swing music.  Sorry.

I believe a DJ at a Swing Dance should play….Swing Music!

I’ve traveled to lots of different swing dance scenes throughout the United States.  I’m just not a big fan of scenes that play a lot of “non” swing music.  I’m a swing-era Lindy Hopper and Balboa swing dancer and I like to dance to the great music of the swing-era for those great dances – it’s really that simple.

Play music that will make people want to get up and dance – you’re not playing for yourself!

Sounds simple. Seems obvious.  Most people would agree that a DJ’s primary purpose is to play music that will make people want to get up and dance.  But I can’t count the number of swing dances I’ve been to where the DJ was playing only one or maybe two type genres of swing music, most of it at the same tempo.  There was no energy among the dancers or in the crowd in general.  The people that were dancing were mostly going through the motions; or those not dancing were waiting for the next “same ole song”.  The DJ seemed to be in his/her own little world.  To the obliviously content DJ, everybody must be happy and having a good time, because the DJ was enjoying playing “his/her” music.  If the DJ is happy, shouldn’t everybody else be the same?  Ugh.

How to educate the scene about great swing music.  As previously noted, it goes without saying that the DJ has a tremendous influence on that particular swing dance scene.  So a good DJ can really educate the dancers about all the great music from the swing-era.  But be careful…I once attended a dance where the DJ had just “discovered” 1950’s Be Bop jazz and wanted to “educate” everyone about that genre of music.  Having to endure an entire set of 1950’s Be Bop jazz was not fun.  Generally speaking, have a variety of songs for your playlist, those that are tried and true, and a few new ones you want to try out.   If you want to discuss this topic more, feel free to contact me.

Good DJs are lifelong learners, always adding new songs to their collections.  Indeed, there are lots of great songs “out there”, with some real gems undoubtedly waiting to be discovered.  For a DJ, it’s a really good feeling to find a new song you were previously unaware of that turns out to be great for dancing.

Non-dancers in the crowd.  It should not be forgotten there are often some non-dancers (or brand new beginning dancers) in the crowd at swing dance events.  Great swing music played at events allows non-dancers to have a good time and perhaps spark their interest in swing music and swing dancing.  (Good swing music also helps “hook” the beginning dancer.)  A lot of people will start taking swing dance lessons because of the high energy swing music they hear at swing dance events.

“You’ve got to know the territory”

Knowledge about swing music genres.  A DJ needs to have a certain amount of knowledge of the many different types and genres of swing music, and of course, have the actual music on hand to play (although no DJ could possibly have every swing song ever recorded!).  A DJ must have a feel for swing music genres and specific songs in order to provide a good variety of tempo, flow and contrast in the music selection.  A DJ has to understand the differences and nuances of the many varieties of good swing music: 1920’s and 30’s “pre-swing” swing music; classic 1930’s and 40’s Big Band; 1940’s and early 50’s Big Band; Jump Blues, early Rhythm & Blues, etc, etc…

Music for both Lindy Hop and Balboa.  A good DJ will have a feel for and play music for both Lindy Hop and Balboa dancers.  Granted, if a DJ is not a proficient Balboa dancer, that DJ may not understand what is considered good Balboa songs.  Too many times I’ve asked a DJ to play a good Balboa song and what you get is something really fast, but not necessarily good for Balboa.  If you’re not proficient in Balboa, talk to a good Balboa dancer that also DJs and get some advice from them on good Balboa music.

Beats Per Minute (BPM).  A good DJ will know the beats per minute (bpm) of the songs they play in order to ensure they have a balance of tempos in the music selection.  (There is lots of free software on the web that calculates BPM.)  Let’s not get too technical:  we all know that tempo is the speed of music.  BPM is the unit used to measure the tempo or speed of music, i.e. how fast the song is played.  Ever to been to a dance where the DJ seem to play a bunch of fast songs all right in a row, followed by a bunch of slow songs, all right in a row.  Maybe you said to yourself, “Why couldn’t the DJ mix it up a little?”

I’ve known some DJ’s to say “I don’t need to know the actual BPM, I can get a feel or estimate for that from my knowledge of the song.”  In my experience, that doesn’t work real well.

On occasion, I’ve asked DJs (and experienced swing dancers) to estimate the BPM of some very well known songs often played at swing dances.  Their answers were almost always wrong, sometimes by as much as 25-100%!  The estimations were normally on the low side, i.e. a song that was actually 175 BPM was estimated to be 140 BPM, etc.

The bottom line is that as a DJ, if you don’t know the BPM of the songs you’re playing, you can’t do your job properly.

Plan, Prepare, Execute

No, it’s not a military operation, but a DJ needs to do a little planning and preparation before the dance.

Plan.  What will be the general audience for the dance?  What type of venue?  What will be the ability level of most of the dancers?  Regardless of the audience, a DJ should always keep the music upbeat and energetic.  As noted above, as Balboa becomes even more and more popular in the swing dance community, really good, hard swinging songs with faster tempos should be played for the Balboa dancers in the crowd.

In other words, know your audience; and keep in mind that the vast majority of people prefer variety.  As they say, variety is the spice of life.

Prepare-the Music.  I prepare a Playlist with specific songs already selected before each dance I DJ.  For every dance I’ve DJed, I’ve always varied from that model to some degree.  For example, I might choose not to play a certain song at that point in the dance, or I might want a song that’s faster, or slower, or a different genre, etc.

But having a model gives me a good starting point and ensures that variety, flow and contrast is built into the Playlist.  So rather than try to “wing it” at the dance, I think it’s best for a DJ to prepare a Playlist beforehand and then make adjustments as necessary.

Prepare-the Sound System.  Make sure you know how to operate the sound system, whether it’s the facility’s sound system or a system you set up.  I’ve been to some Swing Dances where the DJ shows up about 10 minutes before the dance is supposed to start, and then spends the next half hour trying to figure out how the sound system works.  That is un-good.

Execute-Punctuality is important.  Start playing the music when the dance is scheduled to start.  If there’s a pre-dance lesson that goes over it’s allotted time, there’s not much you can do (unless you were the instructor!).

Execute-Taking requests.  I generally try to play requests if I have the song and, most importantly, the song will fit into the overall flow of the playlist.

Keep variety, flow and contrast in mind

Perhaps the toughest job for a DJ is to ensure that, along with variety of tempos and genres, there is also the proper amount of flow and contrast in the Playlist.

A DJ should not want the entire Playlist, or even large portions of the Playlist, to sound similar.  If a lot of the songs in a Playlist tend to flow, i.e. the BPM is raised or lowered too gradual, songs are played together that have a common sound, theme or genre, then the DJ ends up creating one big long, “flowing” song.  Dancers end up thinking, “Didn’t I just dance to a song like that?”  Therefore, flow must be balanced with contrast.

Contrast is that feeling you get when you hear a song that’s different from the last song and you say, “Wow, I’ve got to dance to that one!”  By playing a variety of genres and keeping flow and contrast balanced, you can keep the dancers inspired and dancing song after song.  They end up leaving the dance happy, with a gentle feeling of fatigue, but ready and eager to come back for the next dance!

A note on specific song selections.  In general, I try to keep the songs I play under 4 minutes.  Dancing is a social activity.  If the songs are too long, that means the dancers will not be able to dance with as many people throughout the event.  In addition, the longer songs tend to be of a slower tempo and tend to have lots of instrumental solos, which can lead to the dancing becoming introverted and overcooked.  And that can sap the energy right out of a dance event.

Depth in the playlist/your music collection.  Keep in mind that it is possible to have a certain amount of variety, flow and contrast in your playlist, but your music selections could still lack depth.

Depth in a music collection is just what it implies.  For example, if the “variety” of the selections for your Big Band songs is from Glenn Miller, Les Brown and Tommy Dorsey, then you don’t have depth (and you’re probably not very knowledgeable about big band music).

It is almost impossible to obtain depth in your music collection if your primary source of music is “free” or shareware downloads from the internet.  If you want to be a good swing dance DJ with depth in your music, then you’re going to have to spend some bucks and purchase good music.  The vast majority of really good swing dance music cannot be obtained for free on the internet (for a variety of reasons).

My three basic guidelines

Of course, a DJ is just like any other person, with certain preferences and areas of emphasis in their music collection.  The information below is provided so you may get an idea about what factors I consider when developing a Playlist for a swing dance.  I have three basic guidelines I use when developing and choosing songs for a Playlist.

(1) Variety and balance is key.  That means variety in both musical tempos and musical genres/styles and balance in flow and contrast of the songs.

Unless one is DJing a special type swing dance (i.e. a Balboa event), the dominance of a narrow music tempo or of one music genre over another creates problems.

For example, some dancers like to dance to “slower”, “groovier” or “bluesey” type music (I’m not one of those dancers, by the way).  Since the music is so slow, it’s much easier for these dancers to display their dance moves, and cover up their bad technique.  However, if too much “groove” or “slow” or “bluesey” type music is played at a dance, the dance soon lacks energy and the dancing can quickly become introverted and overcooked and, quite frankly, the dance event becomes boring.  That kind of quiet, subdued “groovy” feeling can be a real turn-off to many dancers, especially new and less experienced dances.

On the other hand, playing too much “fast” music also quickly becomes monotonous, and leaves dancers feeling drained and tired, especially for dancers that are not proficient in Balboa (or fast Lindy Hop technique).

As previously noted (but it bears repeating), a good variety of music played at a swing dance event allows non-dancers to have a good time and perhaps spark their interest in swing music and swing dancing.  A lot of people will start taking swing dance lessons because of the high energy music they hear at swing dance events.

Indeed, when it comes to the music for swing dance events, it’s all about variety and balance!

(2) Does the song “swing”?  I admit the definition of what is “swing” may certainly differ among people.  For me, Swing is best described as the particular way a piece of music is played that gives it a certain vitality and energy.  Note that I don’t necessarily equate “energy” with tempo.  “Slow” songs can be energetic just as “fast” songs can be dull and boring.

Speaking of tempo, some people think that the tempo of the music is what basically defines whether it is good for dancing or not, i.e. that song is “too slow” or “too fast”, etc. I tend to disagree.  I believe it is the underlying rhythmic feeling of swing music — that rhythmic pulse, that differentiates swing music from music that just happens to be in 4/4 time. In fact, there is a lot of music played in 4/4 time that people “swing dance” to, but that doesn’t make it swing music.  (Go to a West Coast Swing, Ballroom, or a Bop Club event and you’ll see what I mean.)

Good swing music does not make you think, ponder, or scratch your head as you attempt to figure out how to interpret and dance to what you hear.  With good swing music, you just want to get up and dance!

(3) Will the song make people want to get up and dance?  As noted above, the energy from good swing music often comes from an underlying rhythmic pulse and feeling that makes you want to get up and dance.  For some of the truly great swing songs, it’s almost impossible not to get up and dance!

My music preferences

Dislikes.  I really don’t have any real dislikes.  I keep an open mind when it comes to music for swing dancing.  I’m willing to consider any type swing song(s) as long as it generally meets the three basic guidelines noted above.  I do have a couple of preferences that may make me not play a song at a swing dance.  As noted above, I’m generally not inclined to play songs that are over 4 minutes in length.  I also generally like songs that have a full and energetic feeling about them.  I’m not a big fan of songs that are “jazzy” and “smooth”, but don’t really swing (such as Trio type jazz songs, i.e. songs with only a Bass, Piano and Drums for instrumentation, etc).

Once again, I’m not saying I won’t play a song that’s over 4 minutes in length or one that’s really jazzy; it just has to be a really good song.

My Main Likes

My “likes” revolve around genres of swing music that I personally think should be genres of the majority of swing music played at swing dance venues.  These genres of swing music also have a rich history in the development of swing dancing and swing music:  (1) Swing-era Big Band (2) with a bit of Jump Blues and (3) a smattering of  early Rhythm & Blues and early Rock & Roll.

Big Band

I like swing-era Big Band music.  Most people have heard of the Big Band sound, a music style primarily from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Unfortunately, many people (even some swing dancers) associate the Big Band sound with the “champagne, mayonnaise and white bread” music of Lawrence Welk, the New Year’s Eve broadcasts of Guy Lombardo, or the commercially successful but stiff and bland music of Glenn Miller.

Simply put, the classic swing-era Big Band music is the music that was played as swing dancing, in the forms of Lindy Hop and Balboa, and big band jazz developed simultaneously in the U.S. in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Generally speaking, I think swing-era Big Band music should be well represented at swing dance venues.  It sometimes seems one hears the same few Big Band songs played at various swing dance venues.

I believe there are a couple of reasons for this.

First, good, high quality recordings of Big Band music are not as well known and marketed as heavily as “mainstream” swing music.  Of course, there are numerous Big Band recordings on the market; however a great many of these recordings have an inferior sound quality due to the recording technology (mono) of the 1930’s and 40’s.  These CDs are often released by lesser known record labels that buy up rights to various versions of older big band songs.  These record labels then release poor quality big band CDs or “collections” with no digital re-mastering and normally no liner notes.  So, how does one find good quality big band music?  There are two basic options:  digital re-mastered versions of the original 1930’s and 40’s recordings, and 1950’s and 60’s Hi-Fi re-recordings/re-creations.

Digital re-mastered versions.  Although it takes more searching and trail and error, there are some good songs out there from the 1930’s and 40’s that have been digitally re-mastered and have excellent sound.  I don’t like to play a “scratchy” sound recording unless it’s a great song and I can’t find it in a better re-mastered version.  The major music labels normally have the best re-mastered versions, although there are exceptions to that.  Once again, stay away from the low-priced budget collections of big band music.  They are almost always a waste of money.

Re-mastering tracks with your computer.  If you really get into DJing, you’ll need to learn some basic programs that will allow you to “re-master” tracks on your own.  It’s not hard to do, especially if I learned how to do it!  Just something as basic as removing the hiss from a recording will often make the track sound a lot better.

Big Band re-recordings.  With the advent of stereophonic Hi-Fi technology in the 1950’s and 60’s, many Big Bands re-recorded their standard numbers, primarily with Capital Records.  These recordings were big hits when released as LPs in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.  Beginning in the mid 1990’s, many CD versions of these Big Band hits in Hi-Fi have been re-released. Like any CD, some go out of print, although they can often be purchased used.  These CD recordings provide some good Big Band music for dancing (and listening!).

A second reason I believe more Big Band songs are not played at swing dance venues relates to music tempo.  Many people are only familiar with a few of the well known Big Band classics that are on the fast side, such as “Sing, Sing, Sing” or “Jumpin’ at the Woodside”.  While Big Band music is generally on the faster side, there are a lot of Big Band songs at a variety of tempos, both instrumentals and songs with vocals, that are really great for swing dancing.

Overall, I think Big Band music is the best genre of swing music that allows one to “transport” themselves back in time to the 1930’s and 40’s and get an appreciation for what it “may have been like” when dancing in that era.

One last note.  There are some very good contemporary bands playing great swing music in the big band genre, such as the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra, the Glenn Crytzer Orchestra, the Jonathan Stout Orchestra, just to name a few.

Jump Blues

I’m not sure why more Jump Blues music is not played at swing dance events; it’s the most often neglected genre at swing dances.  Jump Blues music is just a whole lot of fun to dance to!  It was the bridge between the big band swing and jazz sound of the 1930’s and 40’s and the later rhythm and blues (R&B), primarily in a small band context.

Usually featuring a vocalist in front of a large, horn-driven orchestra or medium sized combo with multiple horns, the style is earmarked by a driving rhythm, intensely shouted vocals, and honking tenor saxophone solos, all of those very elements a precursor to rock & roll.  The lyrics are almost always celebratory in nature, full of braggadocio and swagger. Lots of CDs by Jump Blues artists such as Louis Jordan, Big Joe Turner, Wynonie Harris, etc are readily available (man, if you don’t like to dance to music by Louis Jordan, Big Joe Turner, etc.:  Jack, You Dead!).  And Jump Blues is a genre that has lots of songs in a variety of tempos.

Late 1940’s/early 1950’s music

There is a lot of music from the late 1940’s and early 50’s that is great for swing dancing.  Just a brief mention of a few genres.

Early Rhythm & Blues.  Before it eventually metamorphosed into soul, early Rhythm & Blues music had a variety of artists that play some great music for swing dancing, such as Ray Charles and Ruth Brown.

Early Rock & Roll drew from a variety of sources, to include Jump Blues, Rhythm & Blues, country, gospel, traditional pop, and folk.  All of these influences combined in a simple, blues-based song structure that was catchy and danceable:  Bill Haley & the Comets and Chuck Berry immediately come to mind.

1950’s Rock & Roll music includes such artists as Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and even some early Elvis Presley.


A note on “history”.  I believe it’s impossible to separate Lindy Hop and Balboa from swing music, from both a historical perspective and from the contemporary perspective of how the dancing and a swing dance community continually evolves.

I further believe that an understanding of the historical development of swing dancing and swing music has an inherent artistic and educational value that allows the dancer to better understand the rich culture of swing dancing and swing music and understand the context for their particular swing dancing style.

So make sure the music you DJ takes into account and contributes to that rich historial culture.  If it was good enough for all those swing dancers of the swing-era, it should be good enough for us!

Misc. Info – DJing for a competition; sharing; compliments and complaints

DJing for a competition.  If you’re DJing for a competition, the best rule to follow is to keep it simple and don’t get creative.  Pick songs that really swing hard, but follow standard swing music phrasing.  Remember, the competition is about the dancers dancing with each other to great swing music, and not about trying to figure out what kind of music the DJ is playing.

Share your expertise and information.  Some people may be interested in particular songs you play, the name of the artist, etc.  I’m always willing to share information with those interested in the music.

Compliments and Complaints.  Be gracious when people compliment you on the music selection.  Of course, a good DJ knows the real credit goes to the original artist of the song.  Likewise, if someone has a complaint about the music and they offer constructive criticism, give it due consideration.

Click on the link for information on Lindy Hop and Balboa.

Click here for information on swing dance music.

Click here for info on some of my favorite musicians not listed on the Swing Dance Music Page.

These links are provided only as a service to web users.  Inclusion on this web page or on the Hepcats website Calendar Page does not constitute our approval or endorsement.  If you would a link added (or removed), contact Mike Richardson at 859-420-2426, [email protected].

These lists not intended to be all-inclusive, there may be others I’m not aware of (or just failed to list!).  Check out the Swing Planit web site for info on Lindy Hop and Balboa events all over the world (and even that web site is not all inclusive!).  If you search Google for Lindy Hop or Balboa workshops/events/dances, etc.., make sure you search “Lindy Hop” or “Balboa”, and not “swing dancing”.  If you search “swing dancing”, you’ll get some pretty strange results!

Note:  Caveat emptor!  Hyperbole is rampant and commonplace these days in swing dance event promotion on FB and event web sites:  words and phrases like “awesome”, “amazing”, “coolest ever”, “fabulous”, “incredible”, “super amazing”……are so vastly overused they’ve almost lost any real meaning.  It can be a challenge separating fact from fiction in swing dance event promotion – – so buyer beware!

National Level Weekend Workshops

These are some major national level weekend workshop events (in no particular order).

  • All Balboa Weekend (ABW), Cleveland, OH.   This is the premier Balboa event in the Lindy Hop/Balboa swing dance community for live music for dancing, workshop classes, and competitions.  This is one of the best weekend events for swing dancers that want to learn and improve their Balboa, and attend a fun event!  If you are serious about your Balboa, you should attend this annual event on a regular basis – it’s that good!  Normally the third weekend in June.
  • Lindy Focus, Asheville, NC.  Takes place the week between Christmas and New Year’s and often features one or more nights of big band music by artists such as Chick Webb, Jimmie Lunceford, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, et al.
  • Camp Hollywood, LA, CA.  One of the premier events in the Lindy Hop/Balboa swing dance community for competitions, workshop classes and dancing.  If you can make it to L.A., this is a great event to attend.  Normally over the Labor Day holiday weekend. 
  • International Lindy Hop Championships (ILHC), Washington, DC.  One of the premier events in the Lindy Hop/Balboa swing dance community for competitions, workshop classes and dancing.  
  • California Balboa Classic, Pasadena, CA.  A great event to attend if you can make it to So Cal.
  • Camp Jitterbug, Seattle, WA.
  • Beantown Camp, Boston, MA.
  • Swing Out New Hampshire.
  • Nevermore Jazz Festival.  A three day event in the St. Louis, MO area.
  • American Lindy Hop Championships (ALHC).

Regional Level Workshops

Other out-of-town swing dance scenes.  Mike and Mary have attended Lindy Hop and Balboa events all over the United States.  If you’re traveling and are looking for places to swing dance, feel free to ask Mike & Mary for more info on our experiences, recommendations, etc.

For info on vintage clothes, clothes and shoes for swing dancing, what to wear, where to get it, etc….. click this link.

It’s a well known fact that women like to dance more than men do.  But why don’t men like to dance?  Why won’t some men even give dancing a try?  Why do some men avoid dancing like the plague?

While there are exceptions to every generalization, here are some common misconceptions men have about dancing.

o “Dancing is for wimps“.  Some men associate dance as being effeminate or not a “manly” enough activity.  Some men may associate “dancing” with “Ballet” and other types of highly choreographed and formalized art forms.

But it’s the opposite.  Swing dancing is a partnered dance.  It’s a lot of fun and a great social activity for men and women.  On the dance floor, the man normally leads and the lady normally follows (although it’s fine for leaders to learn to follow, and followers to learn to lead).  And we’ve all heard (and it’s true) how women are attracted to men that can dance.

o “I will look silly/I don’t want to look stupid“.  I don’t blame you, I wouldn’t want to look silly or stupid either!  And I agree that men can look silly when they get on the dance floor and just “wiggle” around or stand there like a statue.

But learning to dance is not that hard when it’s broken down.  At Hepcats classes we break down steps and patterns and make it easy and fun to learn.

o “I need a two-drink minimum before I can dance.”  I guess that’s okay if you just want to maybe rock back and forth or go around in circles.  But if you want to learn how to partner dance to great music, then the Hepcats is the place for you!

o “I have two left feet, I have no sense of rhythm….” In our experience, if you can count to 8 and you know your left from your right foot, you can become a competent social dancer.  Think about it for a minute.  Even though women like to dance more than men, thousands and thousands of men have learned to dance; most of them just average Joe’s like you and me.  So it can’t be that hard!

o “I hear what you’re saying, but dancing would just be too hard for me to learn.”  The toughest thing about dancing is to sign up for classes and give it a try.  Once you try it, you’ll learn and get it just like everybody else does.


We’ve all been there and seen it before.  It’s a bar or a nightclub or some such place, with more men than women at these places, but more women than men on the dance floor.  Why aren’t the men on the dance floor?  Often they are lined along the wall or sitting at a table, watching and wondering, wishing they could dance and be a part of the action….

Anyone that has ever learned to dance had to start somewhere.  So give it a try – learn to swing dance with the Mike & Mary!

Before proceeding to the “10 Ways” below, one overall piece of advice – – learn the original swing dancesLindy Hop and Balboa.  In swing dancing, you can’t separate the dance from the music.  Learning and becoming proficient at Lindy Hop and Balboa will help you connect to the music and gain a much greater appreciation for the dance itself.

Yes, it’s true, at a lot of swing dance events the pre-dance lesson is often a “step, step, rock step” type of lesson.  But that lesson is designed to get those up on the dance floor that have never danced before or have little dance experience.  So as you progress, don’t settle for anything less than the original swing dances:  Lindy Hop and Balboa!

1 – Keep on learning, but be discerningLindy Hop and Balboa should be seen as a journey, not a destination.  Good Lindy Hop and Balboa dancers are life-long learners.

Workshops.  Attend national level Lindy Hop and Balboa workshops – it’s really that simple!  You’ll never reach your full potential if you don’t attend national level weekend workshop events on a regular basis.  How do you know if a workshop is a good Lindy Hop or Balboa national level event?  Check out the Hepcats calendar page for some national level weekend workshop events.

Classes.  Take classes from good Lindy Hop and Balboa instructors, plus you should take private lessons from those instructors.  (And it bears repeating, attend as many good national level Lindy Hop and Balboa workshops as possible.)

The discerning part…..How do you know what makes a good Lindy Hop and Balboa instructor?

(a)  Seek out instructors that have a proven record of accomplishments in Lindy Hop and Balboa.  Ask yourself these questions:  (1) Have the instructors competed in local, regional and/or national level Lindy Hop and Balboa competitions?  (2) Do you see the instructors participating in jam circles?  (3) Are they, or have they been, a member of a performance group?  Don’t be taken in by an “instructor” with a few “flash and trash” moves, but with little technical ability and understanding of the dance.

(b)  Also beware of dancers in your local scene that may try to “help” you.  As noted above, it’s easy for beginner swing dancers to be impressed by other dancers with little technical ability, but have a few “flash and trash” moves.  Beware of those that offer to “teach” you or “show you a new move”.  Be careful who you listen to, take advice from and let “teach” you.

Use the original swing dances as your primary framework.  A hallmark of Lindy Hop and Balboa is the ability to be creative and innovative on the dance floor, and of course, that’s great!  But always look to the original swing dances as your main point of reference, and as a framework for your dancing.

2 – Be patient, stick with it, and practice.

Sometimes dancers (of all ability levels) will find they seemed to have reached a “plateau”.  If you find yourself at a “plateau”, don’t give up.  View some vintage video of Lindy Hop and Balboa for ideas and inspiration.  Practice your basic steps and patterns and add something different.  Practice is important if you want to maximize your potential.

One note about practice.  Practice doesn’t make perfect – good practice makes perfect.  Make sure your technique is solid – technique is something you should continually work on and improve.  If you practice with bad technique, you’ll just continue to reinforce bad habits and bad technique.

3 – Go dancing.

Classes, workshops, and practice are really important.  But those should be combined with social dancing at venues with good swing music.  Take advantage of any Hepcats swing dance events, especially those with live music.  A swing dance event with good live music can be an exhilarating and inspiring dance experience.  Go swing dancing at other good out of town dance venues.  Experience different dance floors and dance venues.

Lindy exchanges are a good way to experience different types of venues and swing dance scenes.  But take note:  you should not attend Lindy exchanges in lieu of attending workshops.  A good rule of thumb is that you should attend 2-3 workshops (both weekend and one day workshops) for every Lindy exchange you attend.  Most people only have a certain amount of resources (i.e. time and/or money) available for swing dancing, so use a majority of those resources to attend workshops!

4 – Listen to and learn about great swing music.

Being able to hear and interpret the breaks and phrases of the music are essential if you want to be able to dance to the music, rather than just dance.  Note there is a lot of music played in 4/4 time that people “swing dance” to, but that doesn’t make it swing music. (Go to a West Coast Swing, Ballroom, or a Bop Club event to see what I mean.)  Many swing dancers say that the ability to physically express and interpret the music you are dancing to is what “ties it all together”.  For more info about swing music, click here.

5 – Participate in jam circles, enter competitions, join a performance group.

One of the best ways to take your swing dancing to the “next level” is to participate in “competition” type activities (of course, friendly and fun competitions).  Participating in competitions, be it a jam circle, a performance group, a couples contest, a Jack and Jill contest, etc…gets the competitive juices flowing and is often a catalyst for individual improvement.  Friendly and healthy dance competitions also bring excitement and enthusiasm to the swing dance scene, and often inspire other swing dancers to take their dancing to the next level!

6 – Honestly evaluate your dancing, get feedback.

On a regular basis, honestly evaluate your dancing.

(a) If you enter contests (which you should), are you getting good marks from the judges, are you making the finals (especially for local and regional level competitions)?  After the contest, ask the judges for feedback on your performance and use that information to improve your dancing.

(b) Seek out feedback/advice from your local area’s best dancers/instructors.  Once again, be careful who you ask for that feedback/advice.  Use the same criteria as you would in selecting an instructor for a group or private lesson:  (1) Has this person competed in local, regional and/or national level competitions?  (2) Do you see this person participating in jam circles?  (3) Is this person a member of a performance group?  (4) Are they really good Lindy Hoppers and Balboa dancers, or do they just have some “flash and trash” moves.

7 – Dress the part.

Yes, dressing nice will actually help you become a better dancer!  If you look good, you’ll feel good about yourself, and you’ll dance better.  And if you dress nice, other people will want to dance with you.

Remember:  dancing is a social activity and you’re interacting with other people, so try to look like you care!  Think about it…guys, do you think women will want to dance with you or be attracted to you if you’re wearing ratty looking blue jeans, cargo pants, sweatpants and a dingy looking, smelly t-shirt?  Ladies, do you think guys will want to dance with or be attracted to a lady that looks frumpy and dowdy?  It bears repeating, for both guys and girls – dress nice!

8 – Don’t be shy.

No matter your ability level, don’t be afraid to dance with different people.  Remember that the “beginner” dancer of today could someday in the future be an “intermediate” dancer.  Conversely, don’t be afraid to ask a more “experienced” dancer for a dance.  This applies to leaders and followers!  At swing dances, it’s quite acceptable for a woman to ask a man if he would like to dance.  (Of course, one always has the option to decline a dance, either ladies or gentlemen.)

9 – Stop doing steps and patterns.

Yes, at some point, you’ll want to move from being a “steps & patterns” dancer to becoming a dancer that dances to the music.  Sure, we all like to learn new steps and patterns.  But a huge part of swing dancing is about connecting to the music and your partner.  Take time to listen to good swing music; feel the beat; feel the pulse; become familiar with swing music phrasing, etc…. it’s really not that hard and will make a world of difference in your dancing!

10 – Stay humble.

As soon as you become a barely competent dancer, other people will start telling you how great you are.  Sure, compliments are nice, and we all like them, but take those with a grain of salt, especially from those dancers whose ability level is really not much better than yours.  And remember there are always better dancers out there, and there is always more you can learn.

What to Do (and not do)

o Take care of personal hygiene.  For your partner’s sake, avoid eating garlic, onions, or spicy foods before you go dancing.  Carry an extra shirt/t-shirt (or two) with you to the dance, in case you need a change.  This is especially true at outside dances or dances in facilities that lack air conditioning.

o No unsolicited teaching (on both the social dance floor and at workshops).  It is extremely rude to presume you know more than an event attendee or your partner does (even if you do).  Trying to “help” someone by offering unsolicited teaching advice can hurt feelings and turn off new dancers.  Men seem to violate this rule much more than ladies.  I’ve heard lots of stories from very experienced followers about how a beginning dancer offered them “advice” or wondered aloud why they could not pick up a particular “flashy” move they were performing (it was normally because it was badly led!).  In my experience, most of the people that “teach” on the social dance floor are the ones that really shouldn’t.

o If you’re an “instructor”, you also should not “teach” at another event venue.  Once again, unsolicited teaching is bad form.

o No solicitating for other dance organizations (i.e. handing out flyers, cards, verbal solicitations, etc.) unless you have permission from the event organizer.

o Aerials, drops, and slides are best left for jam sessions, competitions, and performances.

o Ask others to dance.  Hey, dancing is a social activity!

o Applaud the band.  If it’s a live music venue, give the band a hand at the end of a song (assuming it was a song worthy of applause).  The band just doesn’t play for the money!  The more you applaud, the better they will feel and play.

o Share the dance floor.  Avoid getting too close to other couples, especially less experienced ones.

o Never blame a partner.  Regardless of who is at fault when a dancing mishap occurs, both parties are supposed to smile and go on.  This applies to the better dancer in particular, who bears a greater responsibility.

o Be considerate of other couples on the floor.  If you step on someone’s toes, say “Excuse me” even when it may not be your fault.

What to Wear.  Most swing dances are somewhat informal in a nature.  Comfort and safety are the primary considerations.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind (click here for more info on this area):

o Dress nicely.  Remember:  dancing is a social activity and you’re interacting with other people, so try to look like you care!  Think about it…guys, do you think women will want to dance with you or be attracted to you if you’re wearing ratty looking blue jeans, cargo pants, sweatpants and a dingy looking t-shirt?  Ladies, do you think guys will want to dance with or be attraced to a lady that looks frumpy and dowdy?  It bears repeating, for both guys and girls – dress nice!

o Choose your shoes carefully.  Be careful of sneakers or other shoes with rubber or spongy soles that can stick to the floor during turns and spins and cause ankle and knee injuries.

o Avoid sleeveless shirts and tank tops.  It’s really not pleasant to have to touch the damp skin of a partner.

o Sleeves that are baggy can be a problem, because dancers need access to their partner’s back, and hands may get caught in baggy sleeves.

o Accessories like big rings, watches, brooches, loose/long necklaces, and big belt buckles can be hazardous on the dance floor.  They can catch in partner’s clothing, scratch and bruise, and are in general a nuisance.

o Gentlemen:  if you have no place to leave your keys and loose change, carry them in the LEFT pocket of your trousers.  This makes it less likely to bruise your partner. Ladies, use your right pocket.

o Long hair should be put up or tied in a ponytail.  It is difficult to get into closed dance position when the lady has long flowing hair (hair gets caught in the gentleman’s right hand).  It is also no fun to be hit in the face with flying hair during turns and spins, or for the guy to inhale the hair into his throat.

Why Social Dance Etiquette?  Dancing is one of the few social activities that can put you “in close contact” with a complete stranger.  Dance etiquette is a set of informal guidelines that help make social dance interaction enjoyable for everyone.  Dance etiquette is nothing more than polite consideration for others around you, as well as a concern for the safety of everyone involved and helps in the effort to avoid inadvertently offending or harming other dancers or people around you.

If in doubt about a specific point of etiquette, it is often enough to invoke the following rule:  be kind and considerate of others.

Etiquette on the Social Dance Floor – the Main Points

o Take Care of Your Personal Hygiene.  For your partner’s sake, avoid eating garlic, onions, or spicy foods before you go dancing.  Ensure you shower and brush your teeth before you go dancing.  Swing dancers have a tendency to sweat, so also take care of your personal hygiene during the dance, i.e. use baby powder and deodorant as required.  Leaders especially: bring extra shirts (both outer shirts and T-Shirts), change sweaty clothing, etc.

o No unsolicited teaching (on both the social dance floor and at workshops).

oo It is extremely rude to presume you know more than an event attendee or your partner does (even if you do).  Trying to “help” someone by offering unsolicited teaching advice can hurt feelings and turn off new dancers.  Men seem to violate this rule much more than ladies.  I’ve heard several stories from very experienced followers about how a beginning dancer offered them “advice” or wondered aloud why they could not pick up a particular “flashy” move they were performing (it was normally because it was badly led!).

oo If you are an “instructor”, you also should not “teach” at another event venue.  Once again, unsolicited teaching is bad form.

oo Aerials, drops, and slides are best left for jam sessions, competitions, and performances.  These type patterns are not appropriate for the social dance floor.

o Ask others to dance.  Hey, it’s a social dance!  A note for “experienced” dancers.  Asking others to dance is very important in perpetuating the local swing dance scene.  If the more experienced dancers spend all their time and energy focusing on their own enjoyment but overlook the aspects of promoting the scene to others, then that threatens the fabric that holds the “swing” community together over the long term.

o Applaud the band.  If it’s a live music venue, give the band a hand at the end of a song (assuming it was a song worthy of applause!) – the band just don’t play for money!  The more you applaud, the better they will feel and play.

o Dance in the space that you have.  Be careful not to “block the space” that dancers have established.  The “space” for swing dancers is normally a space about the length of outreached arms on both sides of the leader.  Lindy Hop dancers especially should be careful not to “short” the other dancers when they have established a space.  Respect their space and don’t cut it in half by dancing on either side of it.  This not only leads to accidents as the dancers try to go into the space they had been using but it also negatively affects their ability to dance.

o Line of Dance.  This doesn’t apply too much for Lindy Hop and Balboa swing dancers, but here is the general concept FYI.  Ballroom dances like the waltz or foxtrot are traveling dances.  These traveling dances move on the dance floor in a counter clock-wise direction.  This is called the line of dance.  Sometimes, for the same song, some couples will dance a traveling dance, i.e. like a foxtrot. In this case, the traveling dancers should travel along the periphery or outside of the dance floor.

o The dance floor is for dancing.  If you’re having a conversation, move of the dance floor.  At most dance venues, dance floor space is at a premium.

Other Guidelines

* Don’t play bad cop or try to be the dance “police”.  If you see something unsafe (e.g., broken glass, water on the dance floor, etc.) or someone doing something really unsafe, it’s best to alert the club manager, the event sponsor, etc. and let them handle the situation.

* Getting on to the dance floor.  The gentleman should escort the lady on to the dance floor.  It is the responsibility of the couple getting onto the dance floor to make sure that they stay out of the way of the couples already dancing.  If possible, walk around the edge of the dance floor, rather than trying to thread your way through the dancers.

* Leaving the dance floor.  When a song comes to an end, leave the dance floor as quickly as it is safely possible.  Traditionally, the gentleman escorts the lady back to her seat at the end of the dance.  While this is a nice touch, it may be impractical on a crowded dance floor or in certain swing dance venues.

* At the end of the dance, thank your partner.  When thanked, it is best to reply “Thank You” and not “Your welcome”, because the reply is not due to a favor, but to politeness.

* If you enjoyed the dance, let your partner know.  Compliment your partner on her/his dancing.  Be generous and kind, even if he/she is not the greatest of dancers.

* If the dance floor is very crowded, don’t take up excessive space or travel from area to area.  You may want to avoid Charleston patterns and kicking steps.  On any dance floor, but particularly a crowded one, it is certainly a good idea to look behind and around you so you don’t step on or kick others.  In addition, don’t try to dance every dance when the floor is crowded.  Take a break, socialize, visit friends, etc.

* If you must drink, do so as far from the dance floor as possible.  Never dance with a drink in your hand.

* Sharing the dance floor.  Avoid getting too close to other couples, especially less experienced ones.  Be prepared to change the directions of your patterns to avoid congested areas.  This requires thinking ahead and matching your patterns to the free areas on the floor (floor craft).  While this may sound complicated to the beginning dancer, it gradually becomes second nature.

Asking for a dance

* When asking for a dance, any of the traditional phrases such as “Would you like to dance?” or “Care to dance?” are fine.  To point at or make some other type of non-verbal communication when “asking” for a dance is bad form.

* At swing dances, it is considered perfectly acceptable for a lady to ask a gentleman for a dance.

* When asking someone to dance, step up to him/her and make eye contact when asking for a dance.  Do not ask from a distance as it can make for an awkward moment if a number of people think they have been asked to dance, and you have to tell them that they were not.

* If someone appears to be in a normal conversation with another, you can approach, standing close and interested.  When your intended partner makes eye contact, you may smile and ask “Dance?”

Declining a dance

* It’s always acceptable to decline a dance (male or female) – and no explanation is required.  This is normally reserved for dancers (once again, male or female) who consistently violate the rules of conduct, behave inappropriately on the dance floor, are rough and/or dangerous on the floor, have bad body odor, are sweating excessively, or are otherwise a serious problem.  This option should be used with restraint, and mostly in the case of repeat offenders.

Assuming the above situation does not apply, you should generally avoid declining a dance, except for the following reasons:

** You have promised the dance to someone else.

** You need to take a rest.

* When turned down for a dance, one should at first take it at face value.  When a dance can last for hours, there are not many people who can keep dancing non-stop and therefore will need to take a break from time to time.  Especially for beginners and shy individuals, asking for a dance and then being declined can be difficult and may discourage them from social dancing.  If one is turned down for a dance on an occasional basis, one should not read anything into such instances.  However, since swing dancers are generally nice people, being repeatedly declined can be a sign to examine one’s dancing and social interactions to see if anything is wrong with oneself.

Whom to ask

* A note for “experienced” dancers.  Asking others to dance is certainly important in perpetuating the local swing dance scene.  If the more experienced dancers spend all their time and energy focusing on their own enjoyment but overlook the aspects of promoting the scene to others, then that threatens the fabric that holds the “swing” community together over the long term.

* Generally, it is considered good social form to dance with other people as well one’s regular partner.  Indeed, one of the main points of going to a social dance event is to dance with others.

* Remember the “beginning” dancer of today could someday be an “intermediate” dancer.  Conversely, don’t be afraid to ask a more “experienced” dancer for a dance.  This applies to leaders and followers. Dance with everyone – don’t limit yourself.

No fault dancing

* Never blame a partner for a move that did not execute properly.  Regardless of who is at fault when a dancing mishap occurs, both parties are supposed to smile and go on.  This applies to the better dancer in particular, who bears a greater responsibility.

* Accepting the blame for a dancing mishap is an especially nice touch for the gentleman.  But at the same time, do not apologize profusely.

* Be considerate of other couples on the floor.  If you step on someone’s toes, say “Excuse me” even when it may not be your fault.

What to wear

For dances.  It’s “dressy” casual for most people at swing dance events, although some like to get dressed up, and that’s fine!  People also tend to get more dressed up for swing dance events with Live Music, such as the Hepcats/UK School of Music Big Band Swing Dances, the evening dances at All Balboa Weekend, Lindy Focus, etc.  Keep comfort in mind, and note that swing dancing keeps you movin’!  Be sure to wear comfortable shoes.  (To protect the dance floor, boots, “spiked” high heels or similar type shoes should not be worn.)

For classes.  Wear loose comfortable clothing and flat-soled shoes.  We don’t recommend blue jeans because they’re too restrictive.  We also don’t recommend high heels or open, strapped shoes or sandals or flip flops.

Vintage Style.  Some people prefer to dress vintage at swing dances; while this is never required, it is fun and adds to the overall atmosphere of the dance.  Where do you get vintage style clothes?  Generally speaking, here, there and everywhere.  Click here for more info on vintage clothing.

Dancing to the level of the partner

* It often happens that the two partners dancing are not at the same level.  It is important that the more experienced partner dances at the level of the less experienced partner.  When dancing with a new partner, start with the simple, and gradually work your way up to the more “complicated”.  Doing extra syncopations, footwork, free spins, turns, etc. can be distracting and even intimidating for a less experienced follower.  (Note the principles above apply to both leaders and followers, although leaders are often the biggest violators).


* Be personable and smile.  Try to project a warm and positive image on the dance floor, even if that is not your personal style.  Once one asks or accepts a dance, it is important to be outwardly positive, even if not feeling exactly enthusiastic.

* Maintain eye contact – you are dancing with this person, therefore it is respectful to pay attention to them.  Do not let your gaze wander to things or people around you.

Mike & Mary have worked with several couples concerning dancing for their wedding day, primarily swing dancing, which is of course our specialty (although we are also adept at other dances such as waltz, salsa, foxtrot, etc).

We’ve done everything from teaching the couples a few simple moves, to teaching a more elaborate routine, to DJing all the wedding music.  It’s a real pleasure to see a couple look really good during their wedding dance and hear other people ooh and aah and say things like “Don’t they look great on the dance floor!” and “I didn’t know they could dance like that!”  So what advice would Mike & Mary have for the couple wanting to look good on the dance floor for their wedding?

Just Dance!  Based on our experience working with couples preparing for a wedding, it’s much easier to learn to dance rather than try to and learn a choreographed routine.  At the weddings I’ve attended, the best looking newlywed couples on the dance floor are those that have learned to dance.  Their dance looked natural, spontaneous and fun — because it was!  The key is to learn the basic and a few easy, but cool looking variations for whatever dance fits your song choice.

Don’t Try to Choreograph a Routine.  It may seem that a choreographed routine to the song of your choice would be the way to go for your wedding dance.  But in reality, dance routines are difficult for experienced dancers, and learning a dance routine adds more stress during a hectic period of your life.  It’s a lot to expect of yourself to memorize a dance routine on what could be a stressful day.

Song Choice.  Song selection is key for that first wedding dance.  A song that’s not too fast, but not too slow usually works best.  You also want a song that has a very identifiable rhythm.

Don’t Wait.  Whether you learn to dance, or you want to learn a routine, it takes time.  Plan at least one-two months ahead.  Don’t wait until the last minute to contact an instructor and get the classes scheduled.  When planning a wedding, details and events have a way of slipping up on you, so allow yourself plenty of time.

Less Stress.  Learning to dance for your wedding can actually be enjoyable and act as a stress relief from the hectic nature of a wedding.  That first wedding dance doesn’t have to be overly complicated.  With a little turn here, and a dip there, you’ll be able to look at your wedding video later on and say “Hey, we looked pretty good!”

So what’s the next step? Either take the Hepcats group classes or take some private lessons from Mike & Mary, or use a combination of both.

Contact Mike Richardson, 859-420-2426 or [email protected] for more info!

Many complete issues of Life Magazine are now available on Google Books.  Here are a few of interest to Lindy Hop and Balboa dancers (in no particular order).

o The famous Lindy Hop Issue, Aug. 23, 1941 (pg 95-103) “The Lindy Hop:  A True National Folk Dance Has Been Born in U.S.A.”.  Article, and great pictures of Leon James and Willie Mae Ricker; and Stanley Catron and Kaye Popp.  Mike & Mary have a copy of this issue; if you want to see it at classes or at a dance, just let us know.

o Harvest Moon Ball, Sep. 15, 1941 (pg 9-11):  article about the Harvest Moon Ball dance competition at Madison Square Garden, NYC, on August 27, 1941.

o An article featuring Frankie Manning, June 16, 1941 (pg 49-50).

o Article on the Savoy Ballroom, Dec. 14, 1936 (pg 64-68):  Life Goes to a Party:  at the Savoy with the Boys and Girls of Harlem.

o Photo of Frankie Manning, July 8, 1940 (pg 84).

o Big Apple Dance Craze, Aug. 9, 1936 (pg 22).

o Article about Lindy Hoppers, Dec. 28, 1936 (pg 30-31).  Other dances are highlighted on pages 32-41.

o Article on the Big Apple, Collegiate Shag, Dec. 20, 1937 (pg 29-32).

o Article on Big Apple and Shag, Nov. 1, 1937 (pg 124).

o One-legged Jitterbug Dancer Jack Joyce, Oct. 7, 1940 (pg 10-11).

o Balboa Beach Dancing, Apr. 28, 1947 (pg 136-137).

o Ray Hirsch and Patty Lacey, Sep. 26, 1938 (pg 24).

o Article about the “Jitterbug”, Aug. 8, 1938 (pg 56-60).  On page 60 is an interesting list of “30 Good Hot Records”.

o Arthur Murray diagram “breakdown” of the Lindy Hop, Sep. 20, 1943 (pg 2).  Not sure what the diagram depicts, it really makes no sense.  It’s interesting to note that Mr. Murray himself states “This is only the rudimentary footwork.  The rhythm, which is more important, must be learned by listening and watching.”

As evidenced by the information below, Mike & Mary and the Hepcats love to collaborate with other organizations on events that help promote swing dancing/Lindy Hop and Balboa, and the great music of the swing-era!  The Hepcats have provided DJ music, swing dance demonstrations, swing dance classes, swing-era history and cultural programs, and other special programs to a variety of organizations.  The Hepcats are available to assist your school, organization or civic group – contact Mike at 859-420-2426 or [email protected] for more information on a possible collaboration!

Collaborations with Schools, Colleges, etc.

o Collaboration with the UK School of Music/Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra/UK Jazz Ensemble to bring authentic swing-era Big Band Swing Dances to the Lexington/central KY area on a regular basis.

o Collaboration with the UK Jazz Ensemble and UK Music Professor Miles Osland for a Big Band Swing Dance to support UKJE’s fundraising efforts for their Summer 2011 tour of European jazz festivals.
o Northern Elementary School, Lexington, KY:  Swing Dance lesson and demonstration for Cultural Arts Class.  Mary Richardson also taught over forty 4th and 5th graders the Shim Sham, which they performed for the school’s annual spring arts events.  The kids did great!
o Swing dance lesson for Fayette’s County School System School for the Creative and Performing Arts (SCAPA).
o P.L. Dunbar HS, Lex., KY:  Swing dance workshop for Cultural Arts Class.
o Tates Creek HS, Lex., KY:  Swing dance workshop for Cultural Arts Class.
o Swing dancing on stage at the UK Singletary Center for the Arts during the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra’s concert programs.
o UK Homecoming Gala:  Swing Dance Demonstration.
o Demo at the Singletary Center for the Delta Zeta Mr. UK Pageant fundraiser.
o Dance lesson and Demo at Memorial Coliseum for the Dance Blue fundraiser.
o Rhythm Cats demo and jam circle at the landmark Lyric Theater in Lexington as a part of the UK Cultural Diversity Festival.
o Swing dance lesson and DJ dance for Centre College, Danville, KY.
o Provided Lindy Hop and Balboa demo for the UK Medical Center Humanities Festival.
o DJ and swing dance lesson for Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY swing dance events.
 o Breckinridge Co. HS, Harned, KY:  Swing Dance workshop and swing dance in preparation for Senior Prom.
o Oldham County HS, Buckner, KY:  Swing Dance Demonstration for Cultural Arts Class.
o Dance program and demonstration for the cultural arts program at Rockcastle County HS, Mt. Vernon, KY.
 o Swing dance workshop for Pike County Central HS for their “In the Mood” marching band program.
 o Scott County HS, Georgetown, KY:  Swing Dance workshops for the High School swing dance club.
o Lexington Traditional Middle School:  Swing Dance demonstration and lessons for 8th graders.
o Swing Dance lesson at Lafayette High School Band Association Annual Jazz Band fundraiser dinner & dance.
o DJ and swing dance lesson for swing dances atTransylvania University, Lexington, KY.
o Workshop for Berea College students and the local community.
o East Jessamine Co. High School, Nicholasville, KY:  Swing Dance workshop for the High School swing dance club.
o Beaumont Middle School, Lexington, KY:  Swing Dance demonstration & lessons to 6th, 7th and 8th graders.
o DJ and swing dance demo for UK Alumni AssociationGolden Wildcat Reunion.
o DJ and Dance Lesson for the Univ. of KY United Way Campaign Swing Dance.
o UK Newman Center Swing Dance Lesson and Dance.
Collaborations with Government and Community Organizations

o Swingin’ on Main, Lexington’s annual street dance, downtown, Lexington, KY.  The Hepcats are one of the sponsors for this annual event with Lexington Parks & Rec.  We coordinate the live music, provide the pre-dance lesson, and help judge the dance competition.

o Swingin’ on Main, special swing dance event for the World Equestrian Games, part of the Spotlight Lexington Festival, in downtown Lexington, KY.

o Swingin’ at Moon Dance, special swing dance event for Lex. Parks & Rec. “Summer Nights in Suburbia” series.

o Provided swing dancers and music for Kentucky Educational Television’s (KET) summer 2011 “Swingin’ at KET” fundraising gala.
o Collaboration with Keeneland to bring swing dancers to the Opening Day, Fall Meet after-party event, Swinging at Sunset, which featured the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra.
o Pre-dance program and swing dance demos for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at a Lexington Philharmonic concert.
o DJ and swing dance lesson for Nicholasville-Jessamine County Parks & Rec swing dances at High Bridge Park, Outdoor Pavilion, High Bridge, KY. Coordinate the live music, provide pre-dance lesson, and judge the dance competition.
o Downtown Lexington 4th of July festivities:  Swing Dance demonstration.
o Provided DJ music and swing dance demos for the Autism Society of the Bluegrass annual “Bluegrass Autism Walk”.
o Frankfort, KY Area Arts Foundation, swing dance demonstration and lesson for fundraiser.
o Swing Dance workshops & dances for Laurel County Public Library Adult Activities program, London, KY.
o Studio Players production of “Swingtime Canteen“.  Provided costume and hair design support and provided dance entertainment at intermission.
o Provided dancers and character players for Lexington Philharmonic Ball, “Icons of Americana“.

o Swing dance demo for the Susan G. Komen fund raiser.

o Swing dance demo at High Bridge Festival, Wilmore, KY.

Other Collaborations

o Friday Night Flicks, Jacobson Park, pre-movie activities: Swing Dance lesson & demonstrations.

o DJ for the Hospice of the Bluegrass Holiday Party:  “1920’s Stork Club“; and “1940’s Copacabana Club” theme dances.
o DJ and Dance Lesson for Immanuel Baptist Church’s New Year’s eve singles party.
o DJ and Dance Lesson for Kidney Foundation of Central Kentucky Swing Dance and Fundraiser.
o DJ and Dance Lesson for Timmy Foundation Fundraiser event.
o Dance lesson and DJ for Bluegrass United Christmas Dance.
o Swing dance demos and music for several assisted living facilities in Lexington/central KY.
o Swing dance demos for the International Equestrian Festival convention during the World Equestrian Games.
o Coordinated the entertainment for the “Let Us Never Forget” annual fundraiser in Cincinnati, OH.  Let Us Never Forget provides scholarships in the name of military service members that have provided the greatest sacrifice in service to our country.

Every generation has its own slang, and the swing-era was no exception!  The info below is based on Cab Calloway’s “Jive Dictionary”. CCalloway,Jive

Want to hear some of Cab Calloway’s famous jive?  Click here for a video of Cab Calloway & His Orchestra performing Hep! Hep! The Jumpin’ Jive, with the famous Nicholas Brothers – and enjoy the Nicholas Brothers great dancing!


• Guitar: Git Box or Belly-Fiddle

• Bass: Doghouse

• Drums: Suitcase, Hides, or Skins

• Piano: Storehouse or Ivories

• Saxophone: Plumbing or Reeds

• Trombone: Tram or Slush-Pump

• Clarinet: Licorice Stick or Gob Stick

• Xylophone: Woodpile

• Vibraphone: Ironworks

• Violin: Squeak-Box

• Accordion: Squeeze-Box or Groan-Box

• Tuba: Foghorn

• Electric Organ: Spark Jiver

Jive Terminology

• A hummer (n.) — exceptionally good. Ex., “Man, that boy is a hummer.”

• Ain’t coming on that tab (v.) — won’t accept the proposition. Usually abbr. to “I ain’t coming.”

• Alligator (n.) — Lindy Hopper, swing dancer, jitterbug.

• Apple (n.) — the big town, the main stem, Harlem.

• Armstrongs (n.) — musical notes in the upper register, high trumpet notes.

• Barbecue (n.) — the girl friend, a beauty

• Barrelhouse (adj.) — free and easy.

• Battle (n.) — a very homely girl, a crone.

• Beat (adj.) — (1) tired, exhausted. Ex., “You look beat” or “I feel beat.” (2) lacking anything. Ex, “I am beat for my cash”, “I am beat to my socks” (lacking everything).

• Beat it out (v.) — play it hot, emphasize the rhythym.

• Beat up (adj.) — sad, uncomplimentary, tired.

• Beat up the chops (or the gums) (v.) — to talk, converse, be loquacious.

• Beef (v.) — to say, to state. Ex., “He beefed to me that, etc.”

• Black (n.) — night.

• Black and tan (n.) — dark and light colored folks. Not colored and white folks as erroneously assumed.

• Blew their wigs (adj.) — excited with enthusiasm, gone crazy.

• Blip (n.) — something very good. Ex., “That’s a blip”; “She’s a blip.”

• Blow the top (v.) — to be overcome with emotion (delight). Ex., “You’ll blow your top when you hear this one.”

• Boogie-woogie (n.) — harmony with accented bass.

• Boot (v.) — to give. Ex., “Boot me that glove.”

• Break it up (v.) — to win applause, to stop the show.

• Bree (n.) — girl.

• Bright (n.) — day.

• Brightnin’ (n.) — daybreak.

• Bring down ((1) n. (2) v.) — (1) something depressing. Ex., “That’s a bring down.” (2) Ex., “That brings me down.”

• Buddy ghee (n.) — fellow.

• Bust your conk (v.) — apply yourself diligently, break your neck.

• Canary (n.) — girl vocalist.

• Capped (v.) — outdone, surpassed.

• Cat (n.) — musician in swing band.

• Chick (n.) — girl.

• Chime (n.) — hour. Ex., “I got in at six chimes.”

• Clambake (n.) — ad lib session, every man for himself, a jam session not in the groove.

• Chirp (n.) — female singer.

• Cogs (n.) — sun glasses.

• Collar (v.) — to get, to obtain, to comprehend. Ex., “I gotta collar me some food”; “Do you collar this jive?”

• Come again (v.) — try it over, do better than you are doing, I don’t understand you.

• Comes on like gangbusters (or like test pilot) (v.) — plays, sings, or dances in a terrific manner, par excellence in any department. Sometimes abbr. to “That singer really comes on!”

• Cop (v.) — to get, to obtain (see collar; knock).

• Corny (adj.) — old-fashioned, stale.

• Creeps out like the shadow (v.) — “comes on,” but in smooth, suave, sophisticated manner.

• Crumb crushers (n.) — teeth.

• Cubby (n.) — room, flat, home.

• Cups (n.) — sleep. Ex., “I gotta catch some cups.”

• Cut out (v.) — to leave, to depart. Ex., “It’s time to cut out”; “I cut out from the joint in early bright.”

• Cut rate (n.) — a low, cheap person. Ex., “Don’t play me cut rate, Jack!”

• Dicty (adj.) — high-class, nifty, smart.

• Dig (v.) — (1) meet. Ex., “I’ll plant you now and dig you later.” (2) look, see. Ex., “Dig the chick on your left duke.” (3) comprehend, understand. Ex., “Do you dig this jive?”

• Dim (n.) — evening.

• Dime note (n.) — ten-dollar bill.

• Doghouse (n.) — bass fiddle.

• Domi (n.) — ordinary place to live in. Ex., “I live in a righteous dome.”

• Doss (n.) — sleep. Ex., “I’m a little beat for my doss.”

• Down with it (adj.) — through with it.

• Drape (n.) — suit of clothes, dress, costume.

• Dreamers (n.) — bed covers, blankets.

• Dry-goods (n.) — same as drape.

• Duke (n.) — hand, mitt.

• Dutchess (n.) — girl.

• Early black (n.) — evening

• Early bright (n.) — morning.

• Evil (adj.) — in ill humor, in a nasty temper.

• Fall out (v.) — to be overcome with emotion. Ex., “The cats fell out when he took that solo.”

• Fews and two (n.) — money or cash in small quantity.

• Final (v.) — to leave, to go home. Ex., “I finaled to my pad” (went to bed); “We copped a final” (went home).

• Fine dinner (n.) — a good-looking girl.

• Focus (v.) — to look, to see.

• Foxy (v.) — shrewd.

• Frame (n.) — the body.

• Fraughty issue (n.) — a very sad message, a deplorable state of affairs.

• Freeby (n.) — no charge, gratis. Ex., “The meal was a freeby.”

• Frisking the whiskers (v.) — what the cats do when they are warming up for a swing session.

• Frolic pad (n.) — place of entertainment, theater, nightclub.

• Fromby (adj.) — a frompy queen is a battle or faust.

• Front (n.) — a suit of clothes.

• Fruiting (v.) — fickle, fooling around with no particular object.

• Fry (v.) — to go to get hair straightened.

• Gabriels (n.) — trumpet players.

• Gammin’ (adj.) — showing off, flirtatious.

• Gasser (n, adj.) — sensational. Ex., “When it comes to dancing, she’s a gasser.”

• Gate (n.) — a male person (a salutation), abbr. for “gate-mouth.”

• Get in there (exclamation.) — go to work, get busy, make it hot, give all you’ve got.

• Gimme some skin (v.) — shake hands.

• Glims (n.) — the eyes.

• Got your boots on — you know what it is all about, you are a hep cat, you are wise.

• Got your glasses on — you are ritzy or snooty, you fail to recognize your friends, you are up-stage.

• Gravy (n.) — profits.

• Grease (v.) — to eat.

• Groovy (adj.) — fine. Ex., “I feel groovy.”

• Ground grippers (n.) — new shoes.

• Growl (n.) — vibrant notes from a trumpet.

• Gut-bucket (adj.) — low-down music.

• Guzzlin’ foam (v.) — drinking beer.

• Hard (adj.) — fine, good. Ex., “That’s a hard tie you’re wearing.”

• Hard spiel (n.) — interesting line of talk.

• Have a ball (v.) — to enjoy yourself, stage a celebration. Ex., “I had myself a ball last night.”

• Hep cat (n.) — a guy who knows all the answers, understands jive.

• Hide-beater (n.) — a drummer (see skin-beater).

• Hincty (adj.) — conceited, snooty.

• Hip (adj.) — wise, sophisticated, anyone with boots on. Ex., “She’s a hip chick.”

• Home-cooking (n.) — something very dinner (see fine dinner).

• Hot (adj.) — musically torrid; before swing, tunes were hot or bands were hot.

• Hype (n, v.) — build up for a loan, wooing a girl, persuasive talk.

• Icky (n.) — one who is not hip, a stupid person, can’t collar the jive.

• Igg (v.) — to ignore someone. Ex., “Don’t igg me!)

• In the groove (adj.) — perfect, no deviation, down the alley.

• Jack (n.) — name for all male friends (see gate; pops).

• Jam ((1)n, (2)v.) — (1) improvised swing music. Ex., “That’s swell jam.” (2) to play such music. Ex., “That cat surely can jam.”

• Jeff (n.) — a pest, a bore, an icky.

• Jelly (n.) — anything free, on the house.

• Jitterbug (n.) — a swing fan.

• Jive (n.) — Harlemese speech.

• Joint is jumping — the place is lively, the club is leaping with fun.

• Jumped in port (v.) — arrived in town.

• Kick (n.) — a pocket. Ex., “I’ve got five bucks in my kick.”

• Kill me (v.) — show me a good time, send me.

• Killer-diller (n.) — a great thrill.

• Knock (v.) — give. Ex., “Knock me a kiss.”

• Kopasetic (adj.) — absolutely okay, the tops.

• Lamp (v.) — to see, to look at.

• Land o’darkness (n.) — Harlem.

• Lane (n.) — a male, usually a nonprofessional.

• Latch on (v.) — grab, take hold, get wise to.

• Lay some iron (v.) — to tap dance. Ex., “Jack, you really laid some iron that last show!”

• Lay your racket (v.) — to jive, to sell an idea, to promote a proposition.

• Lead sheet (n.) — a topcoat.

• Left raise (n.) — left side. Ex., “Dig the chick on your left raise.”

• Licking the chops (v.) — see frisking the whiskers.

• Licks (n.) — hot musical phrases.

• Lily whites (n.) — bed sheets.

• Line (n.) — cost, price, money. Ex., “What is the line on this drape” (how much does this suit cost)? “Have you got the line in the mouse” (do you have the cash in your pocket)? Also, in replying, all figures are doubled. Ex., “This drape is line forty” (this suit costs twenty dollars).

• Lock up — to acquire something exclusively. Ex., “He’s got that chick locked up”; “I’m gonna lock up that deal.”

• Main kick (n.) — the stage.

• Main on the hitch (n.) — husband.

• Main queen (n.) — favorite girl friend, sweetheart.

• Man in gray (n.) — the postman.

• Mash me a fin (command.) — Give me $5.

• Mellow (adj.) — all right, fine. Ex., “That’s mellow, Jack.”

• Melted out (adj.) — broke.

• Mess (n.) — something good. Ex., “That last drink was a mess.”

• Meter (n.) — quarter, twenty-five cents.

• Mezz (n.) — anything supreme, genuine. Ex., “this is really the mezz.”

• Mitt pounding (n.) — applause.

• Moo juice (n.) — milk.

• Mouse (n.) — pocket. Ex., “I’ve got a meter in the mouse.”

• Muggin’ (v.) — making ‘em laugh, putting on the jive. “Muggin’ lightly,” light staccato swing; “muggin’ heavy,” heavy staccato swing.

• Murder (n.) — something excellent or terrific. Ex., “That’s solid murder, gate!”

• Neigho, pops — Nothing doing, pal.

• Nicklette (n.) — automatic phonograph, music box.

• Nickel note (n.) — five-dollar bill.

• Nix out (v.) — to eliminate, get rid of. Ex., “I nixed that chick out last week”; “I nixed my garments” (undressed).

• Nod (n.) — sleep. Ex., “I think I’l cop a nod.”

• Ofay (n.) — white person.

• Off the cob (adj.) — corny, out of date.

• Off-time jive (n.) — a sorry excuse, saying the wrong thing.

• Orchestration (n.) — an overcoat.

• Out of the world (adj.) — perfect rendition. Ex., “That sax chorus was out of the world.”

• Pad (n.) — bed.

• Pecking (n.) — a dance introduced at the Cotton Club in 1937.

• Peola (n.) — a light person, almost white.

• Pigeon (n.) — a young girl.

• Pops (n.) — salutation for all males (see gate; Jack).

• Pounders (n.) — policemen.

• Queen (n.) — a beautiful girl.

• Rank (v.) — to lower.

• Ready (adj.) — 100 per cent in every way. Ex., “That fried chicken was ready.”

• Ride (v.) — to swing, to keep perfect tempo in playing or singing.

• Riff (n.) — hot lick, musical phrase.

• Righteous (adj.) — splendid, okay. Ex., “That was a righteous queen I dug you with last black.”

• Rock me (v.) — send me, kill me, move me with rhythym.

• Ruff (n.) — quarter, twenty-five cents.

• Rug cutter (n.) — a very good dancer, an active jitterbug.

• Sad (adj.) — very bad. Ex., “That was the saddest meal I ever collared.”

• Sadder than a map (adj.) — terrible. Ex., “That man is sadder than a map.”

• Salty (adj.) — angry, ill-tempered.

• Sam got you — you’ve been drafted into the army.

• Send (v.) — to arouse the emotions. (joyful). Ex., “That sends me!”

• Set of seven brights (n.) — one week.

• Sharp (adj.) — neat, smart, tricky. Ex., “That hat is sharp as a tack.”

• Signify (v.) — to declare yourself, to brag, to boast.

• Skins (n.) — drums.

• Skin-beater (n.) — drummer (see hide-beater).

• Sky piece (n.) — hat.

• Slave (v.) — to work, whether arduous labor or not.

• Slide your jib (v.) — to talk freely.

• Snatcher (n.) — detective.

• So help me — it’s the truth, that’s a fact.

• Solid (adj.) — great, swell, okay.

• Sounded off (v.) — began a program or conversation.

• Spoutin’ (v.) — talking too much.

• Square (n.) — an unhep person (see icky; Jeff).

• Stache (v.) — to file, to hide away, to secrete.

• Stand one up (v.) — to play one cheap, to assume one is a cut-rate.

• To be stashed (v.) — to stand or remain.

• Susie-Q (n.) — a dance introduced at the Cotton Club in 1936.

• Take it slow (v.) — be careful.

• Take off (v.) — play a solo.

• The man (n.) — the law.

• Threads (n.) — suit, dress or costume (see drape; dry-goods).

• Tick (n.) — minute, moment. Ex., “I’ll dig you in a few ticks.” Also, ticks are doubled in accounting time, just as money isdoubled in giving “line.” Ex., “I finaled to the pad this early bright at tick twenty” (I got to bed this morning at ten o’clock).

• Timber (n.) — toothipick.

• To dribble (v.) — to stutter. Ex., “He talked in dribbles.”

• Togged to the bricks — dressed to kill, from head to toe.

• Too much (adj.) — term of highest praise. Ex., “You are too much!”

• Trickeration (n.) — struttin’ your stuff, muggin’ lightly and politely.

• Trilly (v.) — to leave, to depart. Ex., “Well, I guess I’ll trilly.”

• Truck (v.) — to go somewhere. Ex., “I think I’ll truck on down to the ginmill (bar).”

• Trucking (n.) — a dance introduced at the Cotton Club in 1933.

• Twister to the slammer (n.) — the key to the door.

• Two cents (n.) — two dollars.

• Unhep (adj.) — not wise to the jive, said of an icky, a Jeff, a square.

• Vine (n.) — a suit of clothes.

• V-8 (n.) — a chick who spurns company, is independent, is not amenable.

• What’s your story? — What do you want? What have you got to say for yourself? How are tricks? What excuse can you offer? Ex., “I don’t know what his story is.”

• Whipped up (adj.) — worn out, exhausted, beat for your everything.

• Wren (n.) — a chick, a queen.

• Wrong riff — the wrong thing said or done. Ex., “You’re coming up on the wrong riff.”

• Yarddog (n.) — uncouth, badly attired, unattractive male or female.

• Yeah, man — an exclamation of assent.

• Zoot (adj.) — exaggerated

• Zoot suit (n.) — the ultimate in clothes. The only totally and truly American civilian suit.

Getting good, live music into a swing dance scene can be a challenge, but worth the effort.  I think all swing dance scenes benefit from swing dance events with good, live music.  Good live music adds enthusiasm, excitement and energy!

Of course, the bigger metropolitan areas have (or should have) a huge advantage – size does matter in this instance.  For example, most swing dancers know that the Los Angeles, CA metro area (population about 12.9 million) and the Washington, DC metro area (population about 5.3 million) have regular opportunities for swing dancing to live music.  Of course, the larger size crowds that the event attracts helps pay for the bands at those venues.

But it’s possible for even smaller towns and areas to get good live music in their scene.  Mike & Mary live in Lexington, KY.  Lexington is the second-largest city in Kentucky, the 66th largest in the U.S., with a city population of about 279,000 and a metro area (basically Fayette and surrounding counties) population of about 447,000.  In spite of Lexington’s relatively small size, Mike & Mary/the Hepcats have been able to coordinate/assist with a good number of events with live music – good, high quality live music.  How do we manage that?

Below are some practical tips and some opinions based on our experiences.  A caveat:  none of these comments are meant to be critical of any particular scene or musical organization, but are intended to bring more awareness to what should be the cornerstone of swing dancing:  great music – both live and DJ!

1.  Get to know the bands in your area and their repertoire.  One of the challenges of getting good live music for a swing dance is that there are not a lot of bands “out there” that know how to play for swing dancers.  The genre of music the Hepcats prefer for most of our live music events, 1930’s/40’s big band swing, is not particularily easy for musicians to play (that’s what numerous musicians have told me).  Scout out your area, talk to other swing dance organizers that book live music, and talk to band leaders and gauge their interest in playing for swing dancers.  Without being overbearing, you’ll need to make sure the band understands your expectations (more on that later).  Remember that for a lot of bands, their only experience in playing for “dancers” may have been at bars, concerts and music festivals.

2.  Jazz music is not necessarily good swing music.  I’ve had a number of jazz musicians tell me that just because their band plays good “jazz” music, swing dancers (and by swing dancers I mean Lindy Hop and Balboa dancers) should welcome the oppoortunity to dance to their music.  Sorry, but a lot of bands that play modern/contemporary “jazz” music just don’t play good swing music for swing dancers.

A band playing jazz music (or a band playing any kind of music) is not a juke box, able to play any type of genre of music on request.  For instance, you wouldn’t expect a band playing post World War II be-bop, or a band playing modern jazz to be able to play 1920’s Dixieland, 1930’s big band swing, or 1950’s rockbilly, etc….  In the same vein, jazz musicians shouldn’t expect Lindy Hoppers and Balboa dancers that thrive on 1930’s and 40’s big band music to dance to modern jazz.  In both repescts, it’s two different things.

3.  Don’t settle for mediocritythis is really important.  I’ve heard statements to the effect of “Even not so good live music is better than DJ music….”  I beg to differ.  For events with live music, events have to charge more for admission (vice an event with DJ music) in order to help pay for the band.  People will expect a better “product” for that event, which is to be expected.  If you sponsor an event with low quality music (or a band that plays a lot of “non swing” music), you’re going to turn people off, and the next time you have live music, even if you’ve upgraded the quality of the band, people will be leary of attending based on their past experience.

4.  Don’t be cheap.  If you want to hire a quality 16-17 piece big band, then hire the entire band.  Don’t ask the band to only bring “9-10” musicians.

5.  You get what you pay for.  This is tied in with #4 above.  When it comes to live music, you basically get what you pay for.  If you want a high quality band to play for a swing dance, that’s not going to be cheap.  Think about it – you’re not going to get a 16-17 piece big band with high quality musicians for $500 for the gig.  Bands with talented, highly trained musicians that can play authentic swing-era genre type arrangements will want to be (and should be) paid accordingly.  And if you pay the band appropriately, they should be willing to work with you to ensure the event is a success.

6.  So you have a band in mind, how do you communicate your expectations and ensure the music will appeal to swing dancers?

a.  Coordinate the playlist with the band.  Assuming the band has enough good arrangements in their “book” (see info below), let the band know what songs you want them to play, how long the songs should be, and at what tempo.  In general you should ask the band to keep the songs at their original tempo and length (i.e. for length around 3 minutes or less).  Make sure they understand this is a swing dance!  I’ve done this for almost every band that has played for a Hepcats event and not a single band leader has objected to coordinating the playlist with me.  (And if a band leader did object to coordinating the playlist with me, then I wouldn’t hire that band.)

Quick story:  I once heard a 17 piece big band play “Zoot Suit Riot” and “Rock this Town” at an out-of-town Lindy Hop event (and they were not good songs to dance to).  I wondered why a 17 piece big band would even go to the trouble of obtaining those arrangements, take the time to rehearse them, etc.  So I asked the band leader, “Why did you play those arrangements?”  His answer was that he thought that’s what the dancers wanted; none of the event organizers had said anything to him about what to play, so he played what he thought people would want.  Ugh.

b.  Find out what is in the band’s “book”.  Of course, to coordinate the playlist you’ll have to know what songs the band is capable of playing.  Most bands will have list of the songs they play that is in their “book”.  Most bands will not have a problem sharing that list with you.

So that’s it in a nutshell (I may expand on this subject later when I have more time).  I won’t go into the all the other things it takes to sponsor a swing dance with live music:  facility set up, band arrival and set-up/rehearsal, acoustics, etc.  If you’re interested in my views/experiences in those areas (or about this subject in general), feel free to contact me.

Thanks, and hope to see you at a future Hepcats event!

The image below pretty much sums it up.  However, if you would like to read more, click here.