In our present day culture when our eyes are more likely to be glued to our cellphone screens rather than each other, it’s particularly refreshing to come across new-found excitement for a craze that is sweeping the globe which demands that we are set aside our personal tech gadgets and get fully immersed with our partners. Susan Glatzer’s wonderfully upbeat documentary is one glorious celebration about the craze of swing-dancing which is the phenomenon that has not just got people interacting socially, that on one level is almost as important as the dancing itself.
The original swing dance era was in the 1920’s and 30’s and heavily rooted in jazz with many different styles that were mainly derivative of the classic Lindy Hop. In those early days nearly all of the dancers were African/American, which as Glatzer points out, is only odd in the fact that in its present day re-incarnation most of the participants are mainly white, although it also has an enormous amount of followers in Korea.
For a few decades, swing as a dance form was all but forgotten, and then in the 1980’s VHS boom introduced old movies to a whole new generation in which they discovered all the wonderful exponents of swing. Soon they were seeking out some of the best all-timers such as Frankie Manning who had forsaken it years ago when he no longer could earn a living from it and so swapped his dance shoes for carrying a Mail bag for the Post Office.
He wasn’t the only veteran brought out of retirement, as there were others in the late 80’s and early 90’s like Norma Miller who were both pleased and totally bemused to be re-discovered and feted again.
The documentary however is not rooted in the past as it is about all the new devotees who follow the dance craze with nothing less than religious zeal. Glatzer opts to follow a few of the more talented fanatics who are also trying to do this for a living. However as the growing number of competitions that they love to participate in and literally show off, pay very little, they make up their income by teaching others of which luckily, there seems to be a non-ending flow of willing pupils.
The movie is as exuberant and joyous as the dancers themselves who all exude this infectious energy and such passionate elation. Each one of them relates that the power of this intimate dance form means forming these instant but fleeting connections with strangers, that some were even trying to imply was better than sex.
Each of the semi-pro dancers are happy globe-trotters as the crave for lindy-hopping just continues to spread and now there are people throwing their partners over their heads and right across the floor with these big happy smiles on their faces. It’s how you come out of the movie too, skipping away and desperately trying not to turn you phone on. If only.