I had the pleasure of being at the final night of the 2010 Midsummer Night Swing festival at Lincoln Center last night. I and several hundred happy dancers were treated to one the finest swing orchestras in the land, the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra under the helm of Ron Allen. I've seen and enjoyed HRO for years, and they were in rare form tonight.
A big highlight of the evening was the "Ambassador's Prize" dance contest, honoring legendary lindy hopper Frankie Manning. Twenty couples went out there and jammed to "Dukes Place" by Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, and then to the Illinois Jaquet classic "Flying Home." I and my lovely partner Nina Galicheva were among the competitors and had a great time doing our thing before the appreciative crowd! The video above is from the final heat.
Congrats to Sid
Maria Chaklai, the lovely older couple who won the 1st prize, and to everyone else who competed! It's apropos that for a contest to honor a man who danced well into his 80s that we should give the prize to our elders. Good times, good times.
The end of the evening was bittersweet, as the final night of the festival. We don't get to see enough of HRO in New York City unfortunately. So thanks to Lincoln Center for booking one of our favorite swing bands.
And special thanks to Bill, Jill and all of the MSNS organizers for putting together another fantastic celebration of music and dance under the stars. They clearly were attentive to the wishes and needs of the dancers, big and small — from the bands and DJs they hired, to setting up tables so we could bring in water bottles, and even putting down powder on the dance floor when we complained about how sticky it was.
Midsummer Night Swing is one of the best parts of a swinging summer in New York City!
UPDATE 7/18: Bill Bragin informs me that the winning couple's names are Sid and
Maria Chaklai. According to Bill: "Maria is a
former ballerina, who used to tour the world in various companies. She
and Sid are the first on the dancefloor almost every night at MSNS, and
go out ballroom dancing 2-3 times a week, 52 weeks a year. " Congrats, Sid and Maria!
UPDATE 7/19: Jerry recounts the awesome story of how Sid and Maria got into the final heat:
What should be mentioned is that Sid and Maria were not selected by the
judges at the end of the first round to be one of the the six couples in
the final round. I was there and heard a commotion by the audience and
all of a sudden Margaret announced something like by popular demand and
applause and shoutouts by the audience, the couple in the print flower
skirt and gentleman (Sid and Maria) will now be included as the 7th
couple. That was a hint of things to come. 🙂
The winners were judged at the end of the final round by applause.
Thankfully, Larry Kang had a computer applause meter that objectively
read the audience response. Voila! Sid and Maria win the Ambassador's
cup for lindyhop.
In my mind, sort of poetic justice. Thank goodness, the audience forced
a 7th couple to be included in the finals.
Such a cool story!