International swing dance teachers, great cabaret and live music in West London.
The Priory Community Centre in Acton was swinging to The London Lindy Hop Festival on the weekend of October 20 to 22. Organiser Terry Monaghan assembled a stellar cast of teaching staff that included Harvest Moon Ball winner Sugar Sullivan, Dickie Harris, The Jiving Lindyhoppers and Simon Selmon. Special guest teachers from Los Angeles were Peter Loggins and Lisa Ferguson, who proved to be the hit of the Festival with their dynamic brand of Dean Collins style Lindy Hop.
The Festival opened on Friday night with introductions and short party pieces from the teachers. Sophie Garner and Her Swing Kings were on stage for the dance.
Between the classes and the dances, talks were arranged, with the obligatory dance clips. On Saturday, the subject was "A Closer Look At Hellzapoppin' - Is it the best clip?" You would think a quick 'Yes' would suffice before moving on to other business, but Peter Loggins and Warren Heyes managed to debate the point constructively, and bring out some interesting points. Warren said that it was originally choreographed and danced to Jumpin' At The Woodside, before the sequence was edited and a new band was brought in to play another backing track.
Saturday night was cabaret night. As well as the teachers, there were a number of guest appearances from troupes such as The Chestnut Grove Lindy Hoppers and Swingland. Sadly missing from the line-up were Peter Loggins and Lisa Ferguson. The Swing Dance Orchestra from Germany provided the night's live music, and very good they were too. Sounding like our own Vile Bodies, they faithfully reproduced the gentle swing of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey.
The Sunday night talk focused on the Texas Tommy. Peter Loggins showed a dance clip from 1914 as he explained how Danny Peters brought the style to California at the turn of the last century. It was a dance step, rather than a style at that time. The scene was centred on a club called Purcells on the Barbary Coast, where they danced the Turkey Trot. The new step was put into the Turkey Trot, and it became the Texas Tommy Swing, actually making the cover of the San Francisco Chronicle. The club had many famous visitors. Al Jolson saw the California Poppies dancers there, and took them back to New York.
The last night of the Festival got underway with some speeches and presentations. The Mayor of Ealing was there to make a special award to the artistic director of the Mama Lou Parks Dance Company, Dickie Harris. Terry Monaghan explained this was in recognition of his contribution in this, Black History Month in the UK. Later, Russell Sargeant of the JLH even managed to get the Mayor up for a dance!
There were some additional cabaret moments to keep the evening moving along. Peter and Lisa finally got a chance to shine, and showed off the Dean Collins Shim Sham that they had taught in Herrang this Summer. The show finished with The JLH taking us from the fifties through to the nineties in dance. Rock 'n' roll, jive, disco and street dance were all given the JLH treatment.
The show ended with a huge jam session, with all involved doing their star turn. As a hip hop beat energised Justin Saunders street dance, Warren Heyes appeared and put in a dynamic Lindy Hop routine to the same music. The Sugar Ray Ford Orchestra saw out the evening and closed the festival on high note. Congratulations and bouquets to all concerned on an enjoyable swing dance weekend.
© 2000 Andrew Winton.
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