Happy 25th Anniversary , SWING KIDS!

I started swing dancing 25 years ago or so. When I got into it, it was very much a proper weirdo subculture. I didn’t know that there were some other people who liked it and were into it too; I thought my tiny group of friends and I were just the only ones of our generation who gave a crap. You must remember, this was 1993: the internet, and it’s ability to instantly connect you to any subculture worldwide, was still a lonnnnnngggg way off.

(Frankie Manning had only been brought out to teach widely less than ten years earlier, and it hadn’t caught on AT ALL in the mainstream. Swing was still a tiny, tiny subculture…)

In March of 1993, the movie Swing Kids came out. Even though I had /just/ started to get involved, I wasn’t aware of this little film which, at the time, didn’t make much of an impact.

But in short order, I watched it (on VHS, rented from The Wherehouse, several times in a row…) and it legitimately changed my life. Here were kids, roughly my age, who cared as passionately about this crazy foreign music that was created by a culture completely alien to them (geographically for them, temporally for me), but which spoke to their problems and issues. I fell in love.

So.

Happy 25th Anniversary , SWING KIDS.

You altered the course of my life, and by extension, the lives of everyone I have taught and worked with in the years to follow. Are you a perfect film? Nope. Are you awful and worthy of mockery and scorn? Nope.

You shine a light on a chapter of humanity that is worthy of celebration and you are far MORE accurate than many of the scoffers know. Whoever wrote you clearly did much research.

I had the honor and privilege of knowing, talking to, and dancing around some of the original Swing Kids. I will never falter in my support of this film; it shows, to me, the power of jazz music and dancing as a means to combat racism, fascism, and so many more cultural ills. You all said it so well in the late 30s, in your British fashions, speaking English in front of Nazis, and whistling signals…

“It Don’t Mean A Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing…”

Swing Heil. (It was a real thing.)

 

–Peter Flahiff (March 31, 2018)

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