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Midsummer Night Swing – Making NYC Magic

Love to dance?  Then it’s time to get sweaty.  In the hot and humid evenings of New York City’s summer, Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing provides the music and the place (Damrosch Park just south of the Opera House) and lessons to boot.  Since June 21, and through July 7, MNS hosts dance in a variety of styles and bands. Lessons are offered each night from 6:30-7:15, followed by two live sets from 7:30-8:30 and 9:00-10:00.

IMG_6904 puttin' on the ritz!

Puttin’ on the Ritz!

There is a $17 ticket price to gain the dance floor but the music finds its way to maverick dancers who are not ready or willing to commit so fully to the evening. The bouncing dance floor and the larger plaza are lovely sights when things start hopping and, unlike many events that contri­bute to New York’s summer magic, the self-selecting crowds has not yet become excessive. Indeed there are big smiles everywhere, and appreciative laughter – some embarrassed, some ecstatic, but all enthusiastic.

IMG_7028 2 gentlemen working on their soft shoe

Gentlemen working on their soft shoe

On this mildly humid evening (Wednesday) I heard Fleur Seule providing the music – fronted by “platinum haired, golden voiced” Allyson Briggs, looking and sounding like she stepped out of the 40’s (svelte, slinky, sexy with alabaster base and blood red lipstick).

IMG_6867 Fleure Seule musicians (some of)

Some of the Fleure Seule Musicians

Fleur Seule marshaled some strong brass, reed, percussion and piano – but from appearances it was hard to tell whether the instrumentalists had any actual interest in being there.

IMG_6619 Gene Eagle

Gene Eagle

The nominal style for the evening was swing. The event was DJ’d by Gene Eagle of Gene Eagle Dance. Lessons were engagingly provided by Celia Gianfrancesco and Jerry Feldman (Mrs. & Mr.)  Feldman, a light footed septuagenarian, was a professor of optometry at the State University of New York and now teaches dance – privately and at Hunter and Baruch.

IMG_6646 Feldman & Gianfrancesco

Jerry Feldman and Celia Gianfrancesco

MNS is one of those events that, but for the price tag, brings back the small town feeling to NYC. If you love to dance, you can find some of the city’s most ardent practitioner’s here – often happy to take on novel partners with each new number and show their stuff.  It is a setting in which people of all ages, sizes, backgrounds and skill levels just let down their hair and have at it.

IMG_6795 Cutting a rug

Cutting a Rug

The dance floor was seeded with members of the NYC Social Partner Dance Club Meetup Group (wearing T-shirts with a label on the back and an image of Feldman & Gianfrancesco on the chest), all Feldman students – mostly young and willing.  They turned out to dance with each other and all comers, and added another nice touch.

IMG_6961 Dance like no one's watching

Find your own style

Food and refreshments are available, but if you are going to be working fast and furiously in the muggy air, consider just hydrating well and floating on adrenalin. And when Terpsichore has wrung you out and left you in a heap, you can find your way to any of the area’s varied restaurants. However if you want to be local and immediate, you can choose from the Hill Country Barbecue Market stand, the Deck Beer Garden, the Bubbly Bar on the Hearst Plaza or the Lincoln Center Kitchen at David Geffen Hall.

IMG_7044 All are welcome

Make room for the little ones

Lest there be concern, Lincoln Center controls all aspects of the evening with an iron fist; every access point to and within the venue is staffed and aggressively policed; the up-side is a sense of Orwellian security – sometimes with a deft touch – but as often not. But if you are there to dance, you will have minimal contact with the proctors and can simply take comfort in the fact that they keep more dangerous elements (and the hoi polloi, typically including me) at bay.

Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing through July 7, 2016.

All photos by Fred R. Cohen
Top photo: Allyson Briggs with some of Fleure Seule

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Midsummer Night Swing – Making NYC Magic


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