The educational model here is definitely of the “toss ‘em in the pool and see if they swim” variety.
The easily frustrated are advised to seek out a calm and patient teacher, willing to break the footwork down into a number of small, easily digestible lessons.
Or better yet, find someone to teach you in person. We’re about 20 years into a swing dance revival, and with a bit of Googling, you should be able to find an athletic young teacher who can school you in the dance popularized by Frankie “Musclehead” Manning and his partner Freda Washington at Harlem’s Savoy ballroom.
Speaking of teachers, you might recognize Arthur “King Cat” Walsh, the “top flight hep cat” star of Groovie Movie, as the fellow who was brought in to teach I Love Lucy‘s Lucy Ricardo how to boogie woogie.
He’s got more chemistry with his Groovie Movie partner, Jean Veloz. Backed by Lenny Smith, Kay Vaughn, Irene Thomas, Chuck Saggau, and several talented kiddies, they quickly achieve an astonishingly manic intensity as narrator Pete Smith barks out a host of jazzy lingo. (Herein, lays the truly solid instruction. The attitude!)
Smith also heps viewers to a few of the influences at work, including ballet, traditional Javanese dance, and even the “gay old waltz.” Sadly, he fails to mention the Harlem ballroom scene from whence it most directly sprung.
Okay, worms, let’s squirm.
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her play Zamboni Godot is opening in New York City in March 2017. Follow her @AyunHalliday.