People just love to dance, whether their dancing is good, bad, or indifferent. Swing dancers Gary and Charlotte Chaney of St. Louis definitely belong in the “good” class.
Swing music was born in the 1920s, a time when dance music orchestras were becoming larger and started making good use of the innovative rhythms that had been pioneered by jazz greats like Earl Hines and Louis Armstrong. By this time, millions of Americans had access to radios and swing was therefore able to quickly sweep the nation, reaching its peak popularity in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Soon thereafter, big band music fragmented and went in several different directions, sending swing into decline. Nevertheless, swing had quite a bit of influence on later pop music. In fact, by the late 1950s, it was even having a bit of a revival thanks to Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington and Nat King Cole.
Along with the music, there was dancing. Numerous types of swing dancing were invented, notably the Charleston, Carolina Shag, East and West Coast swing, and most famously, the Lindy Hop. Swing style dancing became known generically as the “jitterbug.” Legendary band leader Cab Calloway has been credited with coining the term when he remarked that swing dancers “look like a bunch of jitterbugs out there on the floor due to their fast, often bouncy movements.”
In the video posted below, you’ll see an exhibition that Gary and Charlotte gave at Chicago’s Windy City Jitterbug Club in 2010. To the unlikely, but effective, accompaniment of Rhonda McDaniel’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee,” the couple busted out an impressive repertoire of swing moves. But they had a fun surprise in store for the audience. In the middle of the routine, their friend Debbie Wheelis ran out on stage wearing an outfit identical to Charlotte’s. The three of them put on quite a show!
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