"It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing," Duke Ellington taught us. The smash Broadway musical Swing! is back in town, and it's got lots of things going for it -- everything from traditional swing to the Lindy hop to country swing with vocals and a live band jiving along. The creators of this show recognized that swing music crosses generational and ethnic boundaries with the likes of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Stompin' at the Savoy," "Harlem Nocturne" and "Sing, Sing, Sing!", and they've given us the full range.
This musical captures the energy and emotion of the primary swing-time (the '30s) and flings them into the 21st century. In fact, some of the music titles could make rappers jealous. Imagine your young grandpa (great-grandpa?) asking the band for "Throw That Girl Around" or "Show Me What You Got" or "Hit Me With a High Note and Watch Me Bounce." (The "bounce" of that last title inspires a number involving bungee cords that's a showstopper.)
Dancer Michael Snipe Jr., Swing!'s newest cast member, says that when he's not onstage, he likes to stand in the wings to watch the eye-popping antics of his fellow dancers: "Even during a quick change backstage, I'm still looking at the dancers. I especially admire those doing the Lindy [hop]. It's like running a marathon, [with] backflips, over-the-head lifts and throwing lifts." Snipe, also a member of the Parsons Dance Company, adds that he's having a ball touring with Swing! "It's such a loving company," he says. "I really enjoy the other dancers, and the show is honestly fun." Having come from the concert-dance world, with its smaller audiences, he reports, "Now the houses are always full, and the audiences are so receptive. It's great!"
Snipe, a 2000 grad of the Juilliard School, has the handsome looks of a younger Eriq LaSalle (Dr. Peter Benton of TV's ER). The dancer performs a poignant duet to "I'll Be Seeing You" set in a USO dance hall during World War II. He looks at a photo of his girlfriend, who dances with him in a "memory" sequence before he leaves to go abroad. Snipe reports that his confidence is growing: "In the presses and turns, I feel more free -- now it's in my body, it's in my blood, and I can really do it ... For me, being in this show is like a dream."
The show is light on storyline, but, as Swing! director and choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett has said, it's more than a revue: "There is a message about swing dancing, which is that you can't do it alone." Another message: Swing ain't dead; it's evolving. From college campuses to dance halls around the world, the swing-dance renaissance continues. After swing dancing's heyday, says Taylor-Corbett, "it never went away. It underlies rock & roll, and it keeps morphing."