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August 2017 - Now Showing: Alive & Kicking

Nothing gets me more excited than a dance film. Swing legend Dawn Hampton says, “How can you listen to that music and not tap your foot?” Alive and Kicking takes a look inside the history of the high-energy swing community and its resurgence in this modern-era. Swing was created during The Great Depression with the music of Count Bessie, Louie Armstrong, and Duke Ellington used as the backdrop. Performed in the 1920s streets of Harlem in the Black community, Swing and Lindy Hop were dances of the American pastime. Watching the high-speed turns, flips, and kicks make you think that folks might fly across the room if that connection between dancers was lost, but somehow the partners stay connected, continuously in-sync and never missing a beat. Alive and Kicking interviews those who are lovers of the dance and keep it alive around the world. Legendary performers like the late Frankie Manning, the Godfather of Lindy Hop, shared his experience of performing in such amazing movies like Hellzapoppin and talked about how, when he was ready to retire, the country came a-calling for his expertise. The documentary also includes the Queen of Swing, Norma Miller, who doesn’t mess around when it comes to what she expects when it comes to Swing.

The documentary shows that Swing, like dance itself, is universal, finding homes in such countries like Korea, Sweden, England, and the United States. This form of dance has been a release for dancers like Steve and Chanzie, who see it as an escape from their full-time jobs, to Augie, a U.S. Marine, who credits dance for saving his life after coming out of the service. “Everyone’s gone through their dark times. Everyone’s always been in a position they’re really finding a reason to go on,” says Augie, “For me, it was the dance—it was Lindy Hop.” The film includes commentary from Director Susan Glatzer and Director of Photography John W. MacDonald. It also features archival footage, giving the viewer the opportunity to literally see where the history of swing began.

The film also address a visually obvious fact, which is that this dance craze that was created by the Black community in the streets of Harlem seems, more recently, to be limited of African-Americans. “There’s somehow a disconnect happening,” shared Allison of The Harlem Swing Dance Society. “When we talk to the children, ‘Where did this dance start?’ they say Europe, they say almost anything but Harlem.” I love that the movie emphasizes that it’s the responsibility of the Black community to keep Black youth educated on what the community has created, in this case, swing.

Swing is the pursuit of happiness. Watching this documentary, you can’t but smile, groove, sway, and get swept away by these individuals who have found an outlet of expression and relief. It’s a whole other world that you easily get caught up in, and it’s a world that I wouldn’t mind being a part of.

tWitch Cover Story
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