Once upon a time, the whole country was wild for swing dancing. Today, seventy-five years after swing’s heyday, there are young people who are keeping the tradition alive. All the same, the more accomplished swing dancers out there are from an older generation.
Swing music came together in the 1920s, a time when dance music orchestras were becoming larger and started using new rhythms pioneered by totemic jazz artists like Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines. The age of radio had just begun and swing had no problem sweeping the nation, reaching its peak in the late ’30s and early ’40s. Later in the 1940s, big band music went off in different directions and swing went into decline. Nevertheless, swing had a major influence on later pop music. Such was the power of swing that it had a revival later in the 1950s and into the ’60s, appearing in the work of Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole, to name just a few luminaries.
Swing dance went hand in hand with the music. Numerous different styles emerged, notably the Charleston, Carolina Shag, East Coast, West Coast, and most importantly, the Lindy Hop. The jitterbug came to be an all-encompassing term, perhaps thanks to iconic band leader Cab Calloway who observed that the dancers “look like a bunch of jitterbugs out there on the floor due to their fast, often bouncy movements.”
Check out the video posted below to see an older couple put on a memorable swing dance performance. At first, they don’t look very promising: he’s apparently helpless without his cane and she’s walking with a severe stoop. But that was just an act. Pete and Beulah Mae are indeed getting on in years, but they’re obviously young at heart. They put on a humorous tour de force.
Did these hyperactive seniors convince you that you’re only as old as you feel? What did you think of their swing routine? Let us know in the comments at Facebook and don’t forget to like and share!