The Jiving LindyHoppers at The Lilian Baylis Theatre islington London 7 April 2000
The Jiving LindyHoppers returned to London in April following a 51-date tour that covered 24 of the United States of America. The six dancers took to the stage without founder member Warren Heyes, who was still Stateside on teaching duties. But with the MC duties being shared between artistic director Carolene Hinds, Russell Sargent and Theresa Jackson, the show had plenty of humour and audience participation, as well as jazz dancing.
With no introduction, the troupe launched into The Big Apple as Flying Home filled the air. The girls wore sparkly dresses with pelmet-sized tassles attached, while the boys went for a more traditional black-strides-with-waistcoats outfit. As well as the familiar Big Apple moves, there was a slow motion and lesser-known steps in the routine. Then Carolene Hinds came out to talk to the audience in her reassuring relaxed style, saying that there would be song, dance and a few stories from the road. She was then joined by Justin Saunders, husband Russell and Gita Joseph for the Charleston, a style Carolene herself was born to dance. She revels in this style, and added some sexy Josephine Baker moments.
Next up it was Theresa's turn to regale the crowd with stories and general chit-chat. She introduced the Soft Shoe as "the graceful side of jazz dance. Modesty prevents me from telling you how good I am at this" she added. And she was, giving a stylish display incorporating both jazz and tap steps to Count Basie's Swinging The Blues. The generous applause was interrupted when Russell took to the stage to introduce the Norma Miller choreography that accompanied Benny Goodman's Wrappin' It Up (aka The Lindy Glide). "Those of you who have met Norma know that sometimes she's not the easiest person to get along with" Russell told us, without elaborating further. The full company took the stage to show some Savoy-style Lindy Hop.
Now came the comedy. The diminutive Theresa started off proceedings with a call-and-response routine, attempting to get the audience to respond to her taps with handclaps. This was not entirely successful, especially when one member of the audience tried to complete the rhythm she had started. "There's always one, isn't there?" she laughed. Then it was time to recount how on their travels the JLH had met up with Face Roberts, last surviving member of a dance troupe that performed The One Man Dance in a 1933 Soundie. Thus acquainted with the final pieces of the jigsaw, the troupe excluding Carolene performed an excellent version of the routine. The syncopation and synchronisation were exceptional, as Theresa began and was then joined by Russell, Gita and Alexis. In retaliation for her exclusion, Carolene organised a One Man Dance with a dozen audience members, before rejoining the troupe for Chorus Tap - better known as The Shim Sham.
The start of the second half of the programme was a joke. Literally. Dressed in body warmers and sweatpants, the JLH went street-dance crazy for a few minutes. A perspiring Russell then returned breathless to the stage to say that this was the 'Gap' between the two halves of the show. Very droll. "We spent three weeks in a room in Miami learning this routine while it was hot outside" he explained, before introducing the girls, who appeared in swirly 1950's dresses to dance to Tequila. Carolene continued the theme by introducing the rock 'n' roll number to the strains of Bill Haley's Rock Around The Clock. Justin and Russell, dressed in drapes (but jazz shoes instead of brothel creepers) ably demonstrated the style still around today, while Carolene hand-jived away in the background.
More introductions, and this time it was Ballin' The Jack, as Carolene introduced Russell with Theresa and Alexis with Gita who performed Ballin' and Truckin' from the US show where the backing came from Warren Vachet and The New York City Orchestra. Russell, Theresa and Gita returned with chairs for a seated tap routine to the sounds of Ellington's Perdido. Once again, Carolene displayed mock annoyance at being excluded from a routine, and got the audience up for a session of Ballin' The Jack - and very good they were too. There was time for their Lindy Hop piece to Jumpin' At The Woodside and a Shim Sham Shimmy before the house lights went up to end a highly enjoyable evening.
There's no doubt that the US tour had sharpened up their performing skills and tightened the choreography to great effect. Throughout the evening, all the dancers looked assured and confident in their steps, allowing them to bring out their personalities. After all, if the audience is looking at your feet when you're dancing, you're doing something wrong. This was a show to put a smile on your face, and was entertaining and educational. Russell Sargent's sign-off was to wish thank everyone for coming along, and an invitation to see them again at The London Lindy Hop Festival in October. Let's hope they give UK audiences the opportunity to see them on stage again before then.
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