Harlem on Parade: Whyte’s Hopping Maniacs in Dublin

This post was originally published as a guest post on the Frankie Manning Foundation site (by Karen Campos McCormack).

This might not be a widely known fact among the Irish Lindy Hopping community, but Frankie Manning was in Dublin in 1937. He was performing with Whyte’s Hopping Maniacs, as Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers were billed on this European tour with the Cotton Club Revue. They landed in Dublin following a successful ten weeks run at the Moulin Rouge in Paris and six weeks at the London Palladium. In his memoir, Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop (see notes below), after describing their tour of Paris and London, Frankie mentions briefly that they also performed in Dublin and Manchester. I was intrigued by this single line, and decided to do some research last summer when I was in Ireland. I was amazed at what I discovered in just a few days at the library and trawling through online Irish newspaper archives. Since I first fell in love with Lindy Hop in Dublin, knowing that Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers actually danced here and walked the streets of Dublin is especially meaningful for me.

CWhyte’s Hopping Maniacs –presenting something new in dance creations–in “Harlem on Parade” which comes to the Theatre Royal, to-day.’ (The Irish Press, Monday 30 August 1937). From left to right: Naomi Waller, Frankie Manning, Lucille Middleton, Jerome Willliams, Mildred Cruse and Billy Williams.


Advert in The Irish Press, 31 August 1937 (Source: Irish News Archive).


The Cotton Club Revue was billed as ‘Harlem on Parade’ in its visit to Dublin. It opened at the Theatre Royal on Monday 30 August 1937 and ran that week, closing on Saturday 4 September.

 ‘Everyone should go and see the Cotton Club Revue’

The Cotton Club Revue set sail from New York on 25 May 1937 and showcased the best African American musical and dance talent. It was spectacular in all senses, with a travelling cast of sixty artists including the Teddy Hill Orchestra, the Three Berry Brothers dance act, singers Rollin’ Smith and Alberta Hunter, Harlem dancers Freddy and Ginger, tap dancer Bill Bailey, Whyte’s Hopping Maniacs, the Tramp Band (a novel musical act), and a chorus line of ‘25 copper coloured gals’, as they were advertised. The Revue performed in full in Paris and London, but the chorus line was dropped for their shows in Dublin and Manchester. For the European tour Teddy Hill was replacing the Cab Calloway band from the original New York show, and similarly, Bill Bailey replaced tap star Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson. Frankie said about Teddy Hill’s orchestra, which at the time included a young Dizzie Gillespie, ‘I always loved dancing to that band. They knew how to improvise on the spot.’ (Frankie Manning, Ambassador of Lindy Hop, p135). The Cotton Club was the epitome of show business, and performing there was a turning point in his career.

The show gathered enthusiastic reviews in its European tour. Playing at the Moulin Rouge in Paris it attracted Django Rheinhardt and Hugues Panassié, the famous French jazz critic, (the former went to see them perform every night according to Frankie, and Panassié went to see them fifteen or twenty times). For Panassié, ‘The biggest event of the 1937 season in Paris was the arrival of the Cotton Club Revue’, and ‘Everyone should go to see the Cotton Club Revue.’ (Quotes from Paris Blues, p77).

London Palladium Cotton Club Revue programme, 1937 (Source Flashbak)

It was advertised in British papers as ‘The fastest entertainment in the world and given by Harlem’s foremost entertainers.’

Swing comes to town

It was late August 1937 when Harlem on Parade came to Dublin. These were dark times in European history, the Irish newspapers are full of news about the Spanish Civil War (refugees fleeing from Franco’s troupes in Santander) and thousands gathering at the Nazi Annual Congress in Nuremberg, on the same pages that Harlem on Parade is advertised. In the face of the Depression and increasing world conflict, Harlem was spreading its message of swing and joy across Europe, a ‘riot of music, dancing, song and rollicking fun’, as described by the Irish paper the Saturday Herald (28 August).

Down with Jazz

Ireland might not have seemed like the most swingin’ location. Just a few years earlier, leading religious figures and politicians, including President Eamon De Valera, had supported a ‘Down with Jazz’ campaign (1934). Jazz music, and dancing in particular, were seen as a pagan threat to Catholic morality and Ireland’s newly independent national identity, claiming that jazz dancing was ‘suggestive and demoralizing’, ‘a menace to their very civilization as well as religion’. To give foreign readers an idea of the sway of the Catholic Church at the time, just about a quarter of Ireland’s population (i.e. one million people) had gathered at the 1932 Eucharistic Congress High Mass in Phoenix Park (Dublin). Despite this campaign and the severe restrictions of the 1935 Dance Hall Act, jazz music and dancing were hugely popular—Swing music was the music of the moment worldwide, and American film and music were pervasive, as much in Ireland as in Franco’s Spain and even Germany. Dubliners who wished to evade the dark news coming from Europe had no end of jazzy entertainment options from cinemas to theatres or dances.

Harlem on Parade at the Theatre Royal

Image of the Theatre Royal from its opening programme in 1935 (source arthurlloyd.co.uk)

Harlem on Parade opened on Monday 30 August 1937 in Dublin’s top venue, the (third) Theatre Royal, located on Hawkins Street. An ambitious modernist entertainment venue opened in 1935, it was the largest theatre in Ireland, and one of the largest in Europe, with seating for 3,850 people. It included the luxury Regal Rooms (dining room and ballroom) and a cinema. Harlem on Parade was at the Theatre Royal in a cine-variety format, including local artists and two short films; the Theatre Royal had been especially designed for this type of entertainment, which was very popular before the advent of TV. Unfortunately, nothing remains on its former site to give us an idea of the splendour of the Theatre Royal, as it was demolished in 1962 (and replaced by probably the ugliest government buildings in Dublin).  The only surviving element is the grand marble staircase from the Theatre Royal’s Regal Rooms, now located in the Marks and Spencer’s store on Grafton Street, which is open to the public if you wish to literally follow in Frankie’s steps.

Whyte’s Hopping Maniacs

Whyte’s Hopping Maniacs were Whitey’s top group and comprised three teams on the European tour: Naomi Waller and Frankie Manning, Lucille Middleton and Jerome Williams, Mildred Cruse and Billy Williams. They had started performing at the Cotton Club in 1936. Whitey had several dance groups going at that time under different names, such as the group dancing in the Marx Brothers movie. Frankie suggested the name of Whyte’s Hopping Maniacs because they were crazy, but over the years all the groups came to be referred to under the umbrella of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers (Frankie Manning, Ambassador of Lindy Hop, p125).

Harlem Celebrations in Dublin

The entirely African American cast of Harlem on Parade would have attracted quite some attention in Dublin, which was not as racially diverse then as nowadays. Although Irish audiences would have been familiar with African American performers from films and touring shows. I was excited to find several photographs of the cast around Dublin, including some of Frankie and other members of Whitey’s Hopping Maniacs, published in the Irish newspapers.

The big news story that week (aside from the Spanish civil war and the Nazi congress) was the heavyweight world championship fight between Joe Louis and Welshman Farr (the ‘white hope’ to regain the championship from ‘negro’ Joe Louis, Evening Herald 31 August) which was taking place in New York. The fight was given full-page round-by-round coverage, and there are two related photos of the Harlem on Parade cast, one of them reading the latest news scoop, and another celebrating Joe Louis’ victory. As Norma Miller explains in her memoirs, Joe Louis was an important hero for the African American community (Swingin’ at the Savoy). The Evening Herald photo of the Harlem cast celebrations (31 August), provides us with the first identifiable image of Frankie in Dublin.

‘Members of the “Harlem on Parade” cast are appearing at the Theatre Royal, Dublin, this week, reading The Irish Presss “scoop” poster -Louis To Cover Fight for Us.’ (The Irish Press, 31 August 1937. Source: Irish News Archive). Unidentified cast members.
‘Harlem celebrations in Dublin: Enthusiastic members fo the “Harlem on Parade” cast who are appearing at the Theatre Royal, rejoice at the result of the big fight. Picture taken early this morning.’ (Evening Herald, Tuesday 31 August 1937). (Source: Irish News Archive). Frankie Manning, easily recognizable sitting centre-left looking at the camera, with Dizzy Gillespie just in front of him waving his hat, and other unidentified cast members, possibly including, left to right, Naomi, Mildred and Lucille, to be confirmed.

The hottest thing in town

There is also a photo of the Harlem on Parade cast looking at the Gas Company Building window display. Cynthia Millman helped me identify this photo where we can see Lucille Middleton and Naomi Waller (possibly even Frankie and Billy, but this is more uncertain due to the grainy image). This is an image of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers walking Dublin’s streets in a recognizable location. The Gas Company on D’Olier Street, now the Trinity College Dublin School of Midwifery, is one of the few well preserved examples of Art Deco in Dublin, and is open to the public. The association between the Gas Company and the Harlem on Parade show seems to have gone even further, judging by the Gas Company advert that ran in the Evening Herald; also note the interesting jazz-inspired window display.

‘Members of the “Harlem on Parade” company are interested in the Gas Company’s novel window display.’ (Saturday Herald, 4 September 1937), (source: Irish News Archive). Female figures left to right: Lucille Middleton and Naomi Waller, closest to the window. Male figures possibly include Frankie Manning, Billy Williams and Jerome, but the image is insufficiently clear to confirm.
Gas Company advert, (Evening Herald, 30 August 1937). (Source: Irish News Archive).

A Day at the Races

Harlem on Parade provided Dublin audiences with the first opportunity to see the Lindy Hop live but, interestingly, they might have already seen Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers on screen, only shortly after American audiences. The Marx Brothers’ film A Day at the Races, which featured a dance scene with a different Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers group, was released in June 1937 in the US and had a pre-London release in early August in Dublin at the Savoy Cinema (still Dublin’s foremost cinema today). The Harlem on Parade show arrived hot on its heels, and it is fun to imagine that it might even have been possible for Frankie to have seen the first Hollywood Lindy Hop performance while in Dublin, although there is no evidence to back this. A Day at the Races continued to tour Irish cinemas well into 1938.

A Day at the Races advert (Evening Herald, 7 August 1937), (source: Irish News Archive).

From Dublin the Cotton Club Revue went on to Manchester before returning to the US in September 1937.

In the press:

The Evening Herald:

 “Harlem on Parade”, the show which comes to the Theatre Royal on August 30, has been acclaimed as the greatest cavalcade of coloured artists in the world. Following a sensational ten weeks’ appearance at the French capital, they were engaged for six weeks at the London Palladium, where they broke all box-office records.’’ (Evening Herald, 26 August 1937).

The Irish Independent:

Royal’s Outstanding Show: At the top of the bill is “Harlem on Parade”…This feature is well worth seeing. The fine singing of Rollin’ Smith in “Ole Man River”, and “Poor Old Joe,” and the dancing of Bill Bailey, are notable in the performance. Several new dances are presented. There is the “Lindy Hop” by Whyte’s Hopping Maniacs. Then there is the music of Teddy Hill and his orchestra from New York. (Irish Independent, 31 August 1937).

The Manchester Guardian:

Then the first crisp trumpet notes of the Teddy Hill’s band are heard through the curtain. Immediately the whole atmosphere changes, and the Cotton Club artists from New York set out show this benighted continent what hot jazz really is…Whyte’s Hopping Maniacs abandon themselves whole-heartedly to the primitive ebullience of the Lindy Hop. (Manchester Guardian, September 7 1937. Source: Proquest Historical Newspapers, the Guardian and the Observer).

Hugues Panassié (French jazz critic):

Whitey’s Hopper Maniacs are three couples who specialise in a dance called the lindy hop (the name comes from the Lindbergh hop), a dance which has been raging for some time in America. The six dancers are remarkable, in particular Naomi Waller and Lucille Middleton. It is difficult to give readers who have never seen the lindy hop an idea of what it looks like. It is the most dynamic dance in the world. The dancers throw their partners up in the air, jump in front of each other and perform the most unpredictable gags.  (Hugues Panassié, as quoted in This Thing Called Swing, p220).

Celebrating Frankie in Dublin

This research is an on-going project, and I welcome any further information other readers can add about Whitey’s Hopping Maniacs’ visit to Dublin or help identifying the members of the cast in the photos. I would like to thank Cynthia Millman in particular and the Frankie Manning Foundation for their encouragement and support. I would also like to thank the staff of Trinity College Library.

I am interested in commemorating Frankie’s visit and the Harlem on Parade show in Dublin next year, as 2017 would be the 80th anniversary. If you would like to get involved please contact me.

Karen Campos McCormack is a freelance translator and swing dance, music and history enthusiast. She is currently working on the Spanish translation of Norma Miller’s Swingin’ at the Savoy: the Memoir of a Jazz Dancer (Temple University Press). She is the founder of Compostela Swing and you can find more of her articles in English and Spanish on Atlantic Lindy Hopper.



Batchelor, Christian, This Thing Called Swing: Study of Swing Music and the Lindy Hop, the Original Swing Dance. Original Lindy Hop Collection, 1997. https://www.amazon.com/This-Thing-Called-Swing-Original/dp/0953063100

Brennan, Cathal, ‘The Anti-Jazz Campaign’, Irish History Online, 1 July 2011. http://www.irishhistoryonline.ie/

Devitt, David, ‘The Theatre Royal – A Palace of Cine-Variety’, History of Ireland, Vol. 21, No. 2 (March/April 2013).

Flashbak, ‘The Cotton Club Revue Visit London in 1937’, http://flashbak.com/the-cotton-club-revue-visit-london-in-1937-22484/

Fry, Andy, Paris Blues: African American Music and French Popular Culture, 1920-1960. University of Chicago Press, 2014. http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/P/bo18008923.html

Irish News Archive, https://www.irishnewsarchive.com/

Kerins, Des, ‘The Story of a Staircase’, Arthurlloyd.co.uk, http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Dublin/TheatreRoyalDublin/Staircase/TheatreRoyalDublinStaircase.htm

Lloyd, Mathew, ‘The Theatre Royal, Hawkins Street, Dublin’, Arthurlloyd.co.uk, http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Dublin/TheatreRoyalDublin/TheatreRoyalDublin.htm

Manning, Frankie & Millman, Cynthia R., Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007. http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1877_reg.html

Miller, Norma & Jensen, Evette, Swingin’ at the Savoy: The Memoir of a Jazz Dancer.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996. http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1214_reg.html


Evening Herald, 7 August, 30 & 31 August 1937 (Irish news archive).

Manchester Guardian, 7 September 1937 (Proquest Historical Newspapers)

The Irish Independent, 31 August 1937 (Irish news archive).

The Irish Press, 30 & 31 August 1937 (Irish news archive).

Saturday Herald, 28 August and 4 September 1937 (Irish news archive).


Going global, great venues, and the home of swing in Galicia

(Clocks go back, winter is coming, so I am turning to summer for this post…)

Panormaic view of Bueu and the bay of Pontevedra
Panormaic view of Bueu and the bay of Pontevedra


As I was sitting having a beer in a leafy beer garden in southern Galicia this summer, while attending a meeting of the local swing association, I came to reflecting about globalization, universal human passions for music and dance, and the mysterious and circuitous turns in history which have led to this meeting taking place at all…as you do. The place is the Aturuxo bar in Bueu, a small village on the coast of one of Galicia’s southern bays. It is a lovely early summer afternoon and we are sitting around a table in the shade of the garden, surrounded by the countryside. The Aturuxo is in fact a great concert venue and the alma mater of Lindy Hop in Galicia. This is where Jorge and Elena started their first Lindy Hop classes when they returned after living in Porto (Portugal) where they had been bitten bad by the lindy hop bug. They started with a small weekly practice group in 2012 and now, in just three years, it has grown into a busy swing dance school (Swing On Vigo) and has spawned an independent Galician swing association which was formally created last year (Ghastas Pista Swing).  We were there to organize the association’s annual swing festival work programme and to attend a concert by Alo Django, a local swing band from Santiago de Compostela.

I think it is a fair bet to imagine that there was no Lindy Hop or other swing dancing occurring in Bueu in the late 1930s or ‘40s.  For a start the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and tough post-war period under Franco’s dictatorship would have been a dampener on the swing spirit. Bueu would have been a relatively remote fishing village. I would be interested to know if swing music was popular at the time in the larger cities of Vigo or Coruña, but it is unlikely that a group of lindy hoppers would have gathered to dance to a live swing band at their local bar, as was the case today. So I looked into this a little, there isn’t much material on the history of swing in Spain, but if you would like to know more this is the best source I have found article by Jorge García. It suggests that even back then Barcelona was the main jazz route entry in Spain and that while the fox trot and Charleston made it, Lindy Hop would not have been widely known or danced. Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers did a couple of tours of Europe in the late 30s, fitting in England, France, Switzerland and even a visit to Dublin, but did not reach Spain (which would have been in the midst of the civil war as mentioned).  I also doubt even Frankie Manning (Lindy Hop inspiration) had an inkling of how far his legacy would reach when he was ‘rediscovered’ in the 1980s and the Lindy Hop revival started in the US and Sweden. Ah the marvels of a globally connected world.

Enxebre festival presentation party
Enxebre swing festival presentation party

This global passion for swing speaks of the joy its music and dance transmits, which veritably ‘hooks’ lindy hoppers from all kinds of backgrounds. Alo Django provided us with some swingin’ tunes — crazy beat, foot stomping versions of All of Me, Undecided, Sweet Georgia Brown and others, which had us hopping in the grass well into nightfall. Alo Django are Xabier Mera (voice and guitar), David Tato (guitar), Quim Farinha (violin), Alfonso Calvo (double bass), often in collaboration with Gail Brevitt (tap and voice), and have been very supportive of the local swing scene. They recently organized the II Foliada Swing in Santiago for example, including a film screening, dance workshops, and a joint tap and swing shim sham on stage.

Here they are playing Sweet Sue

Alo Django playing at the II Foliada Swing, Capitol (Santiago)
Alo Django playing at the II Foliada Swing, Capitol (Santiago) Photo David Llecha

The route to the swing (dance) revival in Galicia has been circuitous and also follows the ebbs and flows of emigration and return: via Portugal and the vibrant swing community that Abeth Farag (US) helped to create over the last 10 years, via Jorge (from Bueu) and Elena (from Madrid) who after living in Porto have gone on to work full time at fostering and growing a local swing scene in Galicia; via Ireland and a half Irish-Spanish ‘migrant and back again’ (me) who started dancing in Dublin and has been doing her best to continue dancing and to share her love of swing dancing in Santiago de Compostela; via Carlos Tomico whose travels brought him to Scotland, Madrid (where he caught the swing bug), back to Galicia where he has been actively involved in Ghastas Pista Swing and teaching in Santiago, and are now taking him abroad again to Portugal; via Leti González, originally from Madrid, who has sailed the seven seas before docking in Vigo and getting on board the Swing On team – and also some really enthusiastic local lindy hoppers who discovered swing in this very location, like Daniel Pérez and Laura Rosales, current Treasurer and President of Ghastas Pista Swing Association. The people behind the local swing scene do paint a picture of globalization at its best, that is, bringing together people who love to dance!

And at the same time the swing scene in Galicia is very much local, fuelled by Estrella Galicia and tapas, dancing on the beach or in narrow old town streets, gathering for a Galician winter stew (cocido gallego) or shim shamming on the pier or in front of the Santiago cathedral.

This was the Frankie 100 celebration in the Rías Baixas (the southern coast of Galicia) with the students of Swing On School.

This was Santiago de Compostela’s Shim Sham for Frankie last May.

Although the passion for swing music and Lindy Hop is now global and goes across all kinds of cultures –from the US, UK, Sweden, Spain, Korea, South America, Israel, South Africa…it also takes on specific forms in each locality. I have lived and experienced three different scenes mainly – Dublin, Barcelona and Galicia. In Galicia it is developing hand in hand with great bars, live music, and the special ‘swing vermouth’ modality, which combines a pre-lunch drink and tapa with dancing, usually outdoors. In Barcelona, thanks to the great weather, there is outdoor dancing every weekend in plazas and parks (but here sans tapas). The scene there has developed mainly thanks to very active swing dance schools and teachers (now nearly 20 schools in the Barcelona region, some with hundreds of students) which have contributed to one of the largest most exciting swing communities in Europe. In Ireland the scene has grown mainly as an evening activity in pubs – because what other kind of venue can you find in Ireland??- but as a generally beer-free form of pub-going (which doesn’t usually go down well with the pubs). It ends up being all your friends’ houses where you meet up to dance and party (Anita Walshe, thinking of your place especially). There are sometimes swing picnics, which are a nice Irish family-friendly version of the ‘swing vermouth’ where people bring along home-baked cakes, oh and there is usually some kind of roof, just in case.

Killer Swing party in O Ateneo 30, Santiago
Killer Swing party in O Ateneo 30, Santiago (photo Katerin Alvarez)

These are the scenes that I am familiar with, but I can only imagine that the Lindy Hop community in Sweden or Korea have their own unique forms of swingin’. What is perhaps special about the global Lindy Hop community is that we are also very closely connected,  frequently attending events abroad and finding fellow Lindy Hop addicts where we least expected. As Norma Miller said in her memoirs ‘Although Harlem created it, the Lindy belongs to the world’.

The swing community could not grow without great venues that support it by facilitating, a) a space to dance and b) promoting local swing musicians and events. In the south of Galicia the Aturuxo, Carycar club or Taberna O Rincón, and in Santiago O Ateneo 30, Gallaecia in Armis and Dado Dada club have been essential allies and great places to dance.

Let the swing spirit continue 😉

Note: this post is by no means a complete guide of swing in Galicia – I write about the people and places I know personally, so if you feel I have left anything important out…well just add it to the comments and let me know.

In fact, I would really like to know your views – what do you think attracts people to swing and Lindy Hop nowadays? What is unique about your scene?

Find out more…

Ghastas Pista Swing https://ghastaspistaswing.wordpress.com/

Swing On School LINK http://www.swingonvigo.com/

Compostela Swing https://www.facebook.com/groups/compostelaswing/

Alo Django https://www.facebook.com/alodjango

Aturuxo Bar http://www.aturuxo.net/

O Ateneo 30 http://www.oateneo30.com/

Ok and many many more great bands and bars

Estrella Galicia?? (I do think we should look for a sponsorship deal sometime…)

García, Jorge ‘El Trazo del Jazz en España’ http://www.bne.es/es/Micrositios/Exposiciones/Jazz/resources/img/estudio1.pdf

Swing global, buenos locales y el hogar del swing en Galicia

(Los relojes se atrasan, viene el invierno, así que vamos a pensar en el verano para este post…)

Vista panorámica de Bueu y la ría de Pontevedra


Mientras me tomaba una caña sentada a la sombrita de los árboles en una terraza en el sur de Galicia este verano, asistiendo a una reunión de la asociación de swing local, me puse a reflexionar sobre la globalización, las pasiones humanas universales por la música y el baile, y los misteriosos giros y vueltas de la historia que han llevado a que esta reunión se celebre en primer lugar…lo habitual, vamos. El sitio es el bar Aturuxo en Bueu, un pequeño pueblo de la costa de las Rías Baixas gallegas. Hace una tarde buenísima de principios de verano y estamos sentados alrededor de una mesa a la sombra del jardín, rodeados de campo. El Aturuxo es en realidad un gran local de conciertos y el alma mater del Lindy Hop en Galicia. Aquí es donde Jorge y Elena comenzaron a dar sus primeras clases de Lindy Hop cuando volvieron de vivir en Oporto (Portugal), donde les había picado el bicho del lindy hop con saña. Empezaron con un pequeño grupo de práctica semanal en 2012 que ahora, en tan sólo tres años, ha crecido hasta convertirse en una concurrida escuela de bailes swing (Swing On Vigo) y ha dado lugar a la creación de una asociación independiente de swing en Galicia (Ghastas Pista Swing).  Estábamos allí para organizar el plan de trabajo para el festival de swing anual de la asociación y para asistir a un concierto de Alo Django, un grupo de swing de Santiago de Compostela.

fiesta presentación enxebre swing festival
Fiesta presentación del Enxebre Swing Festival

Creo que es razonable imaginar que no había Lindy Hop u otros tipos de bailes swing en Bueu en los años 30 o 40.  Para empezar, la Guerra Civil Española (1936-1939) y el duro período de la posguerra bajo la dictadura de Franco hubieran deslucido el espíritu swing. Bueu debía de ser un pueblo pesquero relativamente remoto. Me interesaría saber si la música swing era popular en aquella época en las ciudades de Vigo o Coruña, pero en cualquier caso es poco probable que un grupo de lindy hoppers se hubiera reunido en su bar local para bailar al son de un grupo de swing en directo, como era el caso hoy. Traté de encontrar más información – no hay mucho material sobre la historia del swing en España, pero este artículo de Jorge García es la mejor fuente que encontré  Sugiere que ya en aquella época, Barcelona era la principal ruta de entrada del jazz en España, y que mientras que el Fox Trot y el Charleston tuvieron éxito, es poco probable que el Lindy Hop fuera ampliamente conocido o bailado. Los Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers hicieron un par de giras por Europa a finales de los 30, visitando Reino Unido, Francia, Suiza e incluso una parada en Dublin, pero no llegaron a España (que hubiera estado inmersa en la guerra civil).  También dudo de que el propio Frankie Manning (la inspiración del Lindy Hop) tuviera noción de lo lejos que iba a llegar su legado cuando lo “redescubrieron” a finales de los 80 y el renacer del Lindy Hop empezó en los EEUU y Suecia. Ay, las maravillas de un mundo globalmente conectado.

Esta pasión global por el swing habla del gozo que transmite su música y su baile, que realmente “engancha” a lindy hoppers de orígenes muy diversos. Alo Django nos deleitó con algunos temas llenos de swing — versiones de All of Me, Undecided, Sweet Georgia Brown y otros, de ritmo loco, que nos tuvieron zapateando y saltando por la hierba hasta bien entrada la noche. Alo Django son Xabier Mera (voz y guitarra), David Tato (guitarra), Quim Farinha (violin), Alfonso Calvo (contrabajo), a menudo en colaboración con Gail Brevitt (claqué y voz), un grupo que apoyado la escena swing local muchísimo. Hace poco organizaron la II Foliada Swing en Santiago por ejemplo, incluyendo proyección de cine, talleres de danza y un Shim Sham conjunto de swing y claqué sobre el escenario de la Capitol.

Alo Django en la II Foliada Swing en la Capitol (foto David Llecha)

Aquí están tocando Sweet Sue

La ruta que lleva al resurgir del (baile) swing en Galicia ha sido algo enrevesada y también sigue los flujos, idas y venidas de la emigración y el retorno: ha pasado por Portugal y la animada comunidad de swing que ayudó a crear Abeth Farag (EEUU) en los últimos 10 años; ha pasado por Jorge Patiño (de Bueu) y Elena Branco (de Madrid) quienes después de vivir en Porto se han puesto a trabajar a tiempo completo para fomentar y crear la escena local de swing en Galicia; ha pasado por Irlanda y una “migrante de ida y vuelta¨ de origen irlandés y español (yo) que empezó a bailar en Dublin y ha estado haciendo todo lo posible para seguir bailando y compartiendo su amor por los bailes swing en Santiago de Compostela; ha pasado por Carlos Tomico cuyos viajes le han llevado a Escocia, Madrid (donde pilló el virus del swing), de vuelta a Galicia donde ha participado activamente en la asociación Ghastas Pista Swing y enseñando en Santiago, y que ahora le lleva al extranjero otra vez, a Portugal; pasa por Leti González, originalmente de Madrid, que ha navegado los siete mares antes de fondear en Vigo y sumarse al equipo de Swing On — y también pasa por algunos lindy hoppers del Morrazo muy entusiastas que descubrieron el swing en esta misma localidad, como Daniel Pérez y Laura Rosales, actual Tesorero y Presidenta de la Asociación Ghastas Pista Swing. Las personas que están detrás de la escena local de swing representan la globalización en su mejor faceta, es decir ¡juntando a gente a la que le apasiona bailar!

Y al mismo tiempo, la escena swing de Galicia es muy local, alimentada por la Estrella Galicia y las tapas, los bailes en la playa o en las callejuelas de la zona vieja, las reuniones para tomar cocido gallego o haciendo un Shim Sham en el muelle o delante de la catedral de Santiago.

Esta fue la celebración del Frankie 100 en las Rías Baixas gallegas con los estudiantes de Swing On School

Este fue el Shim Sham para Frankie en Santiago de Compostela en mayo 

Aunque la pasión por la música swing y el Lindy Hop es ahora global y recorre todo tipo de culturas –desde los EEUU a Reino Unido, Suecia, España, Corea, Sudamérica, Israel, Sudáfrica…también adopta formas muy específicas en cada localidad. Yo he vivido y conocido principalmente tres escenas — Dublin, Barcelona y Galicia. En Galicia la escena swing está creciendo de la mano de buenos bares, música en directo y la modalidad especial de “vermú swing”, que combina un vermú con tapa y baile, normalmente al aire libre. En Barcelona, gracias al buen tiempo, se baila al aire libre todos los fines de semana en plazas y parques (pero aquí sin tapa). La escena ha crecido principalmente gracias a escuelas de swing y profesores muy activos (ahora hay casi 20 escuelas en la región de Barcelona, algunas con cientos de estudiantes) que han ayudado a crear una de las comunidades swing más grandes y competitivas de Europa. En Irlanda la escena ha crecido principalmente como una actividad nocturna en los pubs porque ¿qué otro tipo de local se puede encontrar en Irlanda? pero en general, se trata de una forma de ir al pub sin tomar cerveza (lo cual no suele gustar a los pubs). La escena acaba por ser las casas de todos tus amigos donde te reúnes para bailar y hacer fiestas (Anita Walshe, pensando en tu casa en particular). A veces hay “swing picnics”, que son una versión familiar irlandesa del “vermú swing” donde la gente trae bizcochos y dulces caseros, ah y suele haber algún tipo de tejado, por si acaso.

fiesta killer swing
Fiesta Killer Swing, O Ateneo 30 (foto de Katerin Alvarez)

Estas son las comunidades que yo conozco bien, pero imagino que la comunidad swing en Suecia o Korea tendrá su propia forma particular de swinguear. Lo que quizá sea especial de la comunidad global de Lindy Hop es que estamos muy conectados, asistiendo a menudo a eventos en el extranjero y encontrando otros adictos al Lindy Hop donde menos lo esperábamos. Como dijo Norma Miller en sus memorias “Aunque Harlem lo creó, el Lindy Hop pertenece al mundo”.

La comunidad swing no podría prosperar sin buenos locales que la apoyen facilitando a) un espacio para bailar y b) promocionando a los músicos y eventos de swing locales. En el sur de Galicia el Aturuxo, Carycar club o Taberna O Rincón, y en Santiago O Ateneo 30, Gallaecia in Armis y Dado Dada club han sido aliados esenciales y sitios fantásticos para bailar.

Que continúe el espíritu swing 😉

Nota: este post no es ni mucho menos una guía completa del swing en Galicia — escribo sobre la gente y sitios que conozco personalmente, así que si crees que me he dejado algo importante…puedes avisarme y añadirlo a los comentarios.

De hecho, me gustaría saber tu opinión ¿qué crees que atrae a la gente al swing y al Lindy Hop hoy en día? ¿Qué es particular de tu escena?

Saber más…

Ghastas Pista Swing https://ghastaspistaswing.wordpress.com/

Swing On School  http://www.swingonvigo.com/

Compostela Swing https://www.facebook.com/groups/compostelaswing/

Alo Django https://www.facebook.com/alodjango

Aturuxo Bar http://www.aturuxo.net/

O Ateneo 30 http://www.oateneo30.com/

Vale, y muchos muchos más grandes bandas y bares

Estrella Galicia?? (Realmente creo que deberíamos buscar un patrocinio algún día…)

García, Jorge ‘El Trazo del Jazz en España’ http://www.bne.es/es/Micrositios/Exposiciones/Jazz/resources/img/estudio1.pdf