Here in San Francisco we are about to celebrate our 17th year of dancing outdoors in Golden Gate Park on Sunday mornings. New Yorkers have us beat though. They are celebrating 25 years of Midsummer Night Swing, a 3 week annual tradition of nightly dancing to live music on a portable wooden dance floor. Despite the name, it’s not only swing, but also Salsa, Tango, and other dances as well. Many of the dancers make a point of dancing with as many different partners as possible over the three weeks. The fun is in meeting new people and sharing the remarkable experience of partner dancing with total strangers. For many people, myself included, that’s the big draw. Frankie Manning used to say each dance was like a little love affair. “For two and a half minutes,” he’d say, “you’re in love with this lady.” And it does often feel like that. Sometimes a dance connection feels so magical that you feel as if you’ve just spent an evening in the flow of a delightful conversation with someone who understands you perfectly. Then it’s over, and you’re on to the next partner.
So how does our local dance compare with New York’s tradition? Well, we don’t have live music for one. (That’s another blog, live music versus DJs.) We also don’t have the luxury of a wooden dance floor. We have to dance on the sidewalk, a definite challenge. Ours is a Lindy Hop event. We don’t include other dances for the most part. A little balboa, an occasional blues, but primarily Lindy. We do have two advantages over New York, however. We’re here every week all year round unless it’s raining really hard, and our event is free. It’s a different kind of event and a little like comparing apples and oranges. If you can make it to NY during their 3 week event, it would be worth a trip just for that. If you’re in SF on a Sunday, don’t miss Lindy in the Park. People visit from all over the world and we always have a visitor jam so everyone knows who’s visiting us from where. And everyone is welcome to join us for lunch afterwards, so whether you’re a regular or a visitor, you have an instant community and a unique experience.
There’s just something about dancing outdoors that creates a special experience. Wherever you are, if you have access to an outdoor dance event, try it! And let me know what your experience was like!
By LaurieAnn Lepoff
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