Lindy on the Rocks: Get in the Swing of Things (for a Good Cause)
By Gwen Gray
Remember back in the ’90s when the swing revival hit Denver, and (eh-hem) some of us went around quoting the movie “Swingers?” We dragged our husbands to vintage-y nightclubs to learn how to “pretzel,” and hummed Brian Setzer Orchestra songs. I doubt many of us spent much time pondering the true historical significance of the swing dances we were trying to learn.
Fortunately, a few others were taking a longer view, including Caryn Carrasco, the founder of Denver’s Community-Minded Dance (cmDance), which produces annual dance events such as the upcoming Lindy on the Rocks to benefit the nonprofit organization’s dance education programs.
Get Carrasco talking about what makes swing dance stand the test of time, and she’ll wax poetic about how the world’s dances tend to evolve along with music as one of the most significant expressions of any culture. American jazz music and dancing, in particular, both emerged from a melting pot of cultures.
“People came here from all over the world and shared their influences. The music and dances they created came together and evolved. And, as the music evolved, the dancing evolved. They weren’t ever separate,” Carrasco says. In her view, jazz and the dances it inspired are about as American as apple pie.
A dancer herself, Carrasco was compelled by the swing movement in the nineties to seek out the best dancers from across the country—L.A., New York City, Chicago—and bring them to Denver so Coloradoans could watch and learn from the best of the best. “To entertain, to inspire, to truly show Colorado what was out there,” she says.
Her idea worked, and cmDance is now one of the most well-connected dance organizations in Colorado, supporting and partnering with local venues, studios, and instructors.
The organization is best known for its dance events Lindy on the Rocks, Lindy Diversion, Rocky Mountain Balboa Blowout, Denver Tango Week, the Hot Night series, and the occasional, smile-inducing flash mob.
cmDance’s biggest annual event, Lindy on the Rocks, is in its ninth year. It will kick off on July 31 and run through August 4, for a weekend filled with “mini training camps” for dancers and performances by top instructors and dancers from across the country. Classes will run all day on Thursday and Friday, with half days on Saturday and Sunday. There is a beginner’s track of workshops all weekend long for those just starting out in swing dance. And, attendees need not have a partner to attend.
The Swing in the City Gala fundraiser, on August 3, is a highlight of the Lindy on the Rocks weekend, and this year, it will feature New York City’s George Gee Orchestra and vocalist John Dokes. Additionally, the Chilean dance troupe Groupo Folklorico Copelec will perform in celebration of Denver’s Biennial of the Americas 2013. Carrasco says, “This is a once in a lifetime event for them to be here and share this authentic dance and history with Colorado audiences and students. They will be teaching and performing in our summer school classrooms, and in various locations in Denver.”
All of the proceeds of cmDance events go to the work the organization does to bring dance to underprivileged children. They provide classes for kids from preschool through high school across Colorado, and also work with the Denver Great Kids Head Start Program.
Carrasco says, “What cmDance does—with the musicians and dancers we bring here—it’s a living manifestation of how American music and dancing evolved. We bring that into schools and into the audiences.”