Bringing out the dancers with a swing
By ASA HESS-MATSUMOTO / Towns Correspondent
They say it takes two to tango, but if you go the way of the Lindy Hop, you are certain to find partners by the dozen.
The dance was born out of Harlem, was revived in San Francisco and now has snaked its way into the heart of Sonoma County. The Lindy Hop, one of the earliest styles of swing dancing from the 1920s, is regaining visibility in Santa Rosa thanks in part to an upcoming series of weekend “Lindy Bombs” hosted by enthusiast Alexis Estrada, 25.
“I love swing dancing,” Estrada said. “The people, the energy, the music — it’s something everybody can learn and get into. People of all ages can do it. It just attracts a lot of different people and energies.”
Estrada envisions the Saturday Lindy Bombs as free, public, outdoor dances. Anyone, from the experienced dancers at Ellington and Monroe Halls, to the curious passerby is welcome and encouraged to join in the dance.
The first Lindy Bomb took place March 30 in Santa Rosa’s downtown Courthouse Square. It was all hips, kicks, whirls, pops, despite the threat of being rained out. Lugging about a recently purchased boombox for some neo-soul on the go, Estrada came ready to move the group in any case.
The loosely structured and joyous candor of the event had all the qualities of an Internet flash mob, sans pre-planned choreography.
“Pretty much we’ll start off in one place, and if we get kicked out, we move onto somewhere else,” Estrada told the group. “We’re offering something nice for people to do Saturday mornings and afternoons, just having fun dancing.”
Having picked up swing dancing 10 years ago at Ellington Hall while still a junior at Montgomery High School, Estrada is no stranger to the city or the dance. Short and spry, he was a blur of motion on Saturday: taking photographs, changing music, teaching new steps and dances, as well as sneaking in a few himself.
Modeling itself after San Francisco’s recurring outdoor “Lindy in the Park,” a dance event Estrada and many of his swing dancing friends regularly attend, Santa Rosa’s own Lindy Bomb looks to tap into Sonoma County’s dance spirit. Eventually, Estrada said, he would like to host one every other week, if not every Saturday.
Dennis Shufflin, 60, a regular dancer at both Ellington and Monroe Halls, attended the first one and said he believes these Lindy Bombs have the potential to draw in more dancers.
“Our community is getting big enough here to warrant these,” Shufflin said. “I mean, what you see here is only a fraction of the county’s swing dancing community. It’ll also bring in more people. I’m sure it will because it’s so much fun. Those of us who can dance everyday do so.”
Though not affiliated or sponsored by either Ellington or Monroe Hall, many of those found swinging to the circular eight-count Lindy Hop or the easier triple step Jitterbug are identifiable regulars at either of the popular dance halls. Still, dancers like Shufflin are quick to offer an outstretched hand to any would-be-wallflowers.
“There’s a perception that it’s hard to learn how to dance, and that’s totally erroneous,” he said. “A person who knows nothing could come take a mini lesson here and have fun. We know how to take care of newcomers. They have a great time.”
The horns and whistles of 1920s classics still filled the air as the first few raindrops fell, heralds of a storm and a welcome break for those who had danced nonstop for several hours. Estrada had one more dance before the group broke for lunch and a brew at nearby Aleworks.
“Dancing is life,” he said. “Dancing is something that’s fun, something that everyone enjoys. After 10 years, I still love it.”