Dancers Give Swing a Whirl at 3-Day Event

Hundreds of people from across the country attended the third annual Monsters of Swing dance contest at Nicholby's in Ventura this weekend.

Professional dancers gave lessons during the day to those fascinated with the music of the '30s and '40s, teaching them how to do the Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing, Fast Lindy, Slow Lindy and Charleston. The sessions covered everything from lifts and hops to spins and slides.

And at nightfall, dancers could enter the Jack and Jill Swing, Couples Swing, Jack and Jill Slow and Couples Slow contests.

"It's a nightclub version of a dance camp," said event organizer Lee Moore of Ventura. "During the day there's the classes, and then at night wild dancing and partying."

About 300 people participated in the three-day celebration, which included vendors selling swing videos and merchandise, including vintage and modern clothing, CDs, zoot suits and tap shoes. Cash and other prizes totaling more than $2,000 also were offered.

The big-band dance music and swing dancing popular from the Great Depression through World War II have experienced a recent resurgence.

"People are dancing with partners again, and the music is happy and fun," said Moore, who teaches swing and Lindy Hop classes at Nicholby's on Monday and Wednesday evenings. "People have a good time with it. They dress up and really get into it. It's a real positive environment."

Ryan Francois, the reigning American swing dance champion and U.S. Open champion, believes the swing scene is more positive than other popular dances of late.

"If you go to a disco, people stand in their separate spots and don't necessarily communicate with each other," said Francois, who arrived from London to teach the Lindy Hop this weekend.

"However, if you walk into a place where there is swing or Lindy Hop, people are not only dancing with each other, but there's a collective feeling that they are one group," Francois said.

It's also a safe environment, he added.

"You can put your purse down and it will still be there at the end of the evening," Francois said. "And there is no fighting. It's a great atmosphere and fun to be a peacock on the dance floor."

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