Alive and Kick­ing

ALIVE AND KICK­ING, doc­u­men­tary, not rated, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 2.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - — Michael Wade Simp­son

The Lindy Hop, a fast-paced, ac­ro­batic cou­ples dance, was born dur­ing the De­pres­sion era in Amer­ica and grew up along with the pop­u­lar­ity of swing bands dur­ing the 1930s and ’40s. Both the mu­sic and dance faded away af­ter World War II, but were re­vived in a big way with the help of a cou­ple of 1990s movies and a danc­ing Gap com­mer­cial ad­ver­tis­ing stretch jeans.

The doc­u­men­tary Alive and Kick­ing is no ex­posé. It of­fers only good news — that swing danc­ing is not go­ing away any time soon. The Lindy Hop may no longer be cutting edge, but it’s still cool — and youth-dom­i­nated, with all its gym­nas­tics and car­dio­vas­cu­lar de­mands. “Swing dance is pure joy set to mu­sic,” says one of the by­standers at a dance. “There are 200 peo­ple in this room and there’s not a sin­gle cell­phone out.”

The film, di­rected by Su­san Glatzer, of­fers a brief his­tory of the dance form, which moved from the streets into the dance halls of Har­lem and then around the coun­try. News­reel-style clips from the early days of­fer all-black dance teams demon­strat­ing aeri­als, splits, whip turns, jiv­ing, and the con­stant rhythm that made the Lindy Hop a pop­u­lar pas­time decades ago. The Lindy Hop was said to be the em­bod­i­ment of Louis Arm­strong’s sound and Count Basie’s beat. Some of the swing old-timers in­ter­viewed in the film in­clude Norma Miller, the Queen of Swing, who was fea­tured in the 1941 movie

Hel­lza­pop­pin’, and Frankie Man­ning, who started danc­ing in the ’30s at the Savoy Ball­room, the first in­te­grated ball­room in Har­lem, and danced into his nineties.

When not show­ing daz­zling scenes of Lindy Hop­pers hop­ping, Alive and Kick­ing fol­lows a group of en­thu­si­as­tic (and mostly white) pro­fes­sional swing dancers who travel around the world giv­ing work­shops and en­ter­ing com­pe­ti­tions. Un­like many young ac­tors who dream of fame and for­tune, these per­form­ers have more mod­est as­pi­ra­tions. Mem­bers of one up-and-com­ing dance team are shown at their day jobs, do­ing con­struc­tion work and scoop­ing ice cream. Later, ec­static af­ter win­ning their first ma­jor com­pe­ti­tion, the talk is about get­ting teach­ing gigs, which is ap­par­ently where the money is.

Swing danc­ing means com­mu­nity, con­nec­tion, and heal­ing for many of the am­a­teur participants in­ter­viewed in the film. The egal­i­tar­ian ap­proach to part­ner­ing, the sense of play found in the dance, and even the op­por­tu­nity to touch an­other hu­man are men­tioned as im­por­tant facets of the dance. “There is an in­cred­i­ble in­ti­macy that you have among strangers. You have a three-minute ro­mance and then move on, and that’s OK,” says a devo­tee.

Two Swedish women, Emelie and Re­becka, be­came so close dur­ing the time they were de­vel­op­ing a non­sex­ual dance part­ner­ship that they adopted each other as sis­ters. An ex-Ma­rine named Augie tells how he re­turned to the U.S. af­ter his first tour in Iraq feel­ing alien­ated and sui­ci­dal. It was danc­ing that helped him con­quer PTSD — swing was the phys­i­cal and emo­tional out­let that al­lowed him to re­con­nect with peo­ple and find a reason to go on. In New Orleans, af­ter Hurricane Ka­t­rina, swing dancers from around the coun­try con­verged on the city to help pre­serve jazz mu­sic and to at­tempt to re­ju­ve­nate a devastated city. Danc­ing in the streets was back.

As a doc­u­men­tary, Alive and Kick­ing has the feel of a story with­out any ten­sion. There are only so many glow­ing tes­ti­mo­ni­als an 88-minute film needs to have. Still, if there is joy in­her­ent in the danc­ing, there is also joy in be­hold­ing it. “There are peo­ple out there who need this dance,” says the Queen of Swing. There are places in Santa Fe to find it.

Alive and Kick­ing

The joint is jumping: Dancers from

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.