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Swing: The Starter Kit

An introduction to the swing set

The Bands
Swing bands play in jazz or rock clubs just about every night in San Francisco, and once a week or so in the South Bay. A few of the many local bands to look for in the listings: Wally's Swing World, Indigo Swing, The New Morty Show, Vise Grip and the Ambassadors of Swing, Royal Crown Revue, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Blue Plate Special, Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys.

The Lessons
The Starlite Ballroom has dubbed itself the largest dance studio in the country. It teaches individual and group East Coast Swing lessons at many levels. (It also teaches West Coast Swing, a slower, sexier and more difficult technique typically danced to country or rhythm and blues.) There are several other ballroom dance studios in the county that teach swing.

But the technique typically taught in ballrooms is quite different from what you'll see at the clubs (see main story). To learn from dancers with a more Lindy-like style, try Johnnie Swing at 415/954-3654. Richard Powers, a dance instructor at Stanford University, sometimes opens his classes, to the general public. His classes are much more accelerated and vigorous than at the ballrooms. Call 415/725-0739. Or go to San Francisco and learn from Mango and Dana, 415/664-6946, or Michael Marangio, 415/642-3750.

Many of these teachers offer beginning classes at clubs right before the band strikes up. Next time you go to a swinging club, ask the really good dancers where they learned to dance.

The Clothes
The dancing is more important than the clothes. But for men, suspenders, high-waisted pants and fedoras are key. Women wear all sorts of retro dresses, as long as they allow for vigorous dancing.

Thrift shops may have cheap gems, if you're willing to spend a lot of time rooting around. Vintage clothing stores are more expensive but carry a full line of period gear. Haight Street in San Francisco has the largest concentration of used and vintage clothing shops. In San Jose, it's West San Carlos Street or Lincoln Avenue. For stores in the South Bay, look in the phone book under "Clothes--Vintage."

You can also surf the web for vintage clothes. Retroactive is a web magazine for collectors and enthusiasts of pre-1970s pop culture, with Bay Area vintage store recommendations. And Rummaging Thru Northern California has tips, suggestions, resources and store listings for thrift shopping in Northern California.

The Web Site
The Northern California Lindy Society's Web site is a must. It contains descriptions of swing classes, swing bands and dance clubs, along with a complete monthly calendar of swing events.

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From the December 19-25, 1996 issue of Metro

This page was designed and created by the Boulevards team.
Copyright © 1996 Metro Publishing, Inc.

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