Oct 3, 201409:21 AMArt Beat
Swing Dance in Central Pa.
There is, of course, the dance. The seeming weightlessness of a couple, partnered in movement, in push and pull and twirl, while feet jitter, twitch and settle into the deep swing of a 1940s Big Band groove. Limber limbs move to the horns, hips shift with the drums, Benny Goodman’s orchestra builds and propels the dancers in a slick glide, partners follow a loose and meandering line on the floor and, for each couple, no other soul exists.
Who wouldn’t want to be a part of something like this?
This is happening, weekly, at the Green Door dance studio in Carlisle, although it almost wasn’t. We can thank Central PA Swing Dance Club (CPSDC) and its vibrant and energetic cadre of volunteers for their passionate and inexhaustible efforts to bring the gift of swing to the masses. And judging by attendance, those both young and old love it.
Swing music erupted as the unruly and rebellious offspring of jazz music in the 1920s, and it fast became a staple at underground clubs serving bootlegged liquor. Throughout the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, the stylistic leaps and creative improvisation inherent in swing dancing led to the formation of a variety of styles – East Coast, West Coast, the Lindy Hop and many more. CPSDC’s efforts to preserve and pass on the dance began years ago in Harrisburg, but with Ivan Kern’s involvement in 2004, the group as we know it today began to take shape.
A spry 83-year-old, Kern is an engaging leader who keeps himself busy fervently pursuing hobbies while supporting a litany of philanthropic efforts. Kern’s involvement may very well have saved the organization from extinction, and now serving as the board’s president, he reflects on his history with CPSDC.
A member of Kern’s Ping Pong Club introduced him to the dance group, unaware that Kern had taught dance in the 1950s at the prestigious Arthur Murray school. Because of his love for the dance and his natural knack for teaching it, Kern Lindy hopped his way into the organization and never looked back.
When his feet are rocking and tapping the floor and his arms expertly leading his dance partner, we are teased with a glimpse of Kern in his younger years. His partner in the dance, Krystal Dove, came to the organization eight years ago as a high school student, and over that time, she has proven herself a worthy protégé.
Her first dance lesson ever was with CPSDC, and over the years, she has grown from a novice to a learned and able instructor herself. Her passion for swing dancing, its culture, the music and the movement led her to opt out of years of college parties and other events, choosing instead to learn the new skill. Watching her settle into the song’s pacing, her languid and graceful drift, the jolt of a sudden twirl and seeing her lost in the calculated effortlessness of it all is certainly an inspiration.
Now in her early 20s, she remains a testament to the group’s efficacy and the camaraderie of its ever-revolving cast of dancers. As secretary of CPSDC’s board, Dove often instructs the group’s weekly classes, and in practice sessions, she guides dancers as they fine-tune their own moves.
“It’s about keeping history alive by bringing it to people from Kern’s age down to high school students,” Dove says. “It’s about learning something new.”
The organization counts as its members anybody willing to stop by the Green Door and shell out a meager $6 for lessons or a practice session. It has seen attendance swell to over 100 dancers, though an average session at the Green Door draws between 20 and 30.
Not only is this a cheap ticket for a fun night out, but CPSDC doesn’t even require that you have a partner to attend. This familiar and friendly group will see to it that you get partnered up, but don’t get too comfy because, in the interest of training with various dance personalities, all are encouraged to switch dance partners throughout the evening.
And after all of this, if you still need another reason to bone up on your rusty dance moves, Kern has got one for you: “It’s like aerobics, but much more fun.”
Central PA Swing Dance Club
The Green Door Dance Studio
14 E. North St.
Carlisle, PA 17013
Ongoing Dance Events
Tuesdays and Saturdays
Beginner Lesson: 7:30–8:30
Open dancing: 8:30–11:00
Cover charge: Admission $6 ($4 if you arrive by 7:30 to take the lesson with us)
Practice, Practice: 7:30–9:30
Cover charge: Admission $6
October 25th (Saturday)
Halloween Costume Dance
December 27th (Saturday)
Holiday Dance featuring the Gerry Brenner Duo (band)
Appropriate footwear required
(No flip flops, please)