Swing state: Dance contest lindy hops into Grand Prospect Hall

Swing state: Dance contest lindy hops into Grand Prospect Hall
Jack F / Getty Images

They’ll make your dancin’ dreams come true!

Brooklynites can get down with some of the world’s best swingers next weekend, when the American Lindy Hop Championships jitterbug their way onto the multiple dance floors of the Grand Prospect Hall. The three-day dance extravaganza, running Nov. 8–10, is open to anyone who is interested in the vintage dance style, whether they want to coaster step their way to the top prize or just spectate from the sidelines, said the event’s director.

“The American Lindy Hop Championships is a friendly atmosphere,” said Paulette Brockington. “You don’t need experience, and all levels of dancers attend. Many non-dancers come just to watch and listen to the music.”

For those new to swing, there will be plenty of opportunities to learn the steps. Each afternoon, experts will offer a wide variety of classes and workshops in the dance genre that swept the nation during the first half of the 20th century — and, to a lesser extent, during the swing revival of the late ’90s.

A slew of performances will be held throughout the hoppin’ weekend, with dancers showing off their best Shim Sham — known as tap dance’s national anthem — to open up the weekend on Friday night. The evening will also feature open dancing sessions, a “Cabaret” competition for non-swing styles, and contests in which couples show off their best choreographed routines in various dance styles, including West Coast Swing and Carolina Shag, styles that are returning to the competition for the first time in 21 years.

One notable new event this year will be the “Truckin’ Division” competition, where solo dancers must show off their steps while carrying a heavy metal tray. The division nods to a tradition in dance halls of the 1920s, said Brockington.

“It is one in which solo jazz dancers dance with trays, as waiters did during the Harlem Renaissance to get big tips,” she said.

A tribute to swing legend Mama Lu Parks will close out the weekend on Sunday.

“Mama Lu Parks carried on the legacy of the Lindy Hop and the Savoy Ballroom from the 1960s until her death,” said Brockington. “Her dancers toured the world and also danced for three presidents.”

The Championship has happened annually for the last 22 years, but this is its first time in Brooklyn. The Grand Prospect Hall’s history as a dance hall during the Roaring ’20s made it an attractive venue, said Brockington.

Dancers can sign up to compete in any of the weekend’s 13 dance contests until Nov. 6.

The American Lindy Hop Championships at Grand Prospect Hall [263 Prospect Ave. between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 788–0777, artspectrum.org/alhc.htm]. Nov. 8–10. $15–$25 (spectator only); $25–$90 (competition); $40–$60 (single day social dance and classes); $130–$339 (all-weekend passes).

Reach reporter Jessica Parks at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jpark[email protected]local.com. Follow her on Twitter @_JessicaParks.