I had a really wonderful afternoon today on Governor’s Island, a tiny morsel of land just off of lower Manhattan that has only recently been opened for limited public access. Today on Governor’s Island, Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra performed 1920s-era "hot" and "sweet" jazz in a picturesque park for a friendly and all-ages crowd of several hundred. Folks came over in droves by ferry boat, laying out picnic spreads, letting their kids tear around, and hitting the dance floor.
The conditions were nearly perfect for an outdoor swing party: the air was cool, the sun was shining, the dance floor was full but not packed, and the band was in fine form. I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon.
Here’s Roddy, Joanna, Mike and Jamie doing a super cute Charleston routine backed by Arenella’s orchestra:
Lots of my friends (and many others) did their best to come in vintage dress of some sort. From flapper dresses to men in suspenders and boater hats, folks looked awfully dapper and dashing. I was decked out in a linen suit with an art-deco tie and my bromberg hat. I know, not very 1920s, but close enough. Bill Cunningham, a renowned photographer for the New York Times, was there taking pictures of everyone he could catch. Maybe this is my chance to be in the Times?!?
Now to the music. Truth be told, Michael Arenella’s era of jazz is not my usual cup of tea. I just don’t feel as moved by 1920s jazz the way I do to big band, jump blues, and "groovy" jazz. And my repertoire of 1920s charleston moves is about three different steps. So I wasn’t expecting this concert to be the most amazing dancing opportunity.
That said, I actually danced a lot more than I expected — doing lots of silly charleston, fake peabody, and
even some lindy hop. I realized that lots of the people there knew almost nothing about dancing to music of that era and were having a great time. So why should I feel self-conscious, when I have so much more of a foundation in swing dance?
All in all, a fabulous afternoon. Michael Arenella is performing again tomorrow, Sunday, September 14, for those of you who can make it out. You won’t regret it.