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The Harlem Swing Dance Society – The Harlem SWOP! The Latest News and FYI from Harlem

Contributed by Barbara Jones

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Greetings from Harlem! 

Spring and a rebirth of energy is upon us all: here is the latest from the place where Lindy Hop all began…. with The Harlem Swing Dance Society (THSDS).

Bad News but Good News – The Renaissance Casino and Ballroom

Sadly close to 5,000 signatures and the work and efforts of many could not “Save the Renny” (The Renaissance Casino and Ballroom) in part… or its façade.  A compromise was met with the builders – who in reality didn’t have to listen to anyone at all – and the new design was developed to reflect a bit of the nostalgic and famous ballroom.  There is till mumbling and grumbling but time goes on… The destruction started a couple of weeks ago and as of writing one structure still stands.  

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Part of the problem began years ago when the cultural building wasn’t landmarked. A few of the hard lessons learned from this is to value and treasure what you have – and ensure that cultural landmarks are preserved and revered.   With this effort THSDS has had the pleasure of meeting and re-uniting with community leaders and activists who share our goal: Preservation of Harlem Culture.  

Because of the anger, energy and more this has now ignited new efforts of preservation.  More voices are being sought and listened to. The Harlem Swing Dance Society is confident that the public outcry from so many around the world was not in vain, and we will update you on future ways that the dance halls and ballrooms that used to grace Harlem will be honored soon…

To all of you who signed to online petition in support we thank you!

Blooming Interest: Documentary’s, Interviews and more

Harlem World is one of many magazines in the area that glorify and showcase Harlem’s glorious past and promising future. They have a blog show with  Daniel Tiesdale, and in March THSDS and Judy Pritchett were on to talk about The Big Apple, Lindy Hop, The Frankie Manning Foundation and The Harlem Swing Dance Society.  This broadcast was heard by many and has helped spark a re-interest in Harlem’s dance and its pioneers in the area.  Harlem’s City College Radio WHCR has also expressed interest in their cultural dance roots.  Interviews are coming up this month so watch The Harlem Swing Dance Society Facebook page (900 likes) for broadcast dates.


Speaking of pioneers:  Sonny Allen, Barbara Billups, Beatrice Pierce, Gregory “Waco” Arnold and Ralph Hopkins will be featured in a mini documentary on one of New York City’s Cultural Channels. They will be talking about The Savoy Ballroom and the Savoy Manor, and their historical significance as to keeping Lindy Hop and swing dancing alive. This history, and as well Harlem’s amazing winning streak with the legendary Harvest Moon Ball competitions, were exciting times that kept Harlem’s dance alive for more than 40 years.  We’ll keep you posted with the broadcast date.

Top Ten Savoy Ballroom Facts: For the Savoy Ballroom’s 89th Anniversary on March 12th The Harlem Swing Dance Society released a Top Ten List that became very popular on social media with Harlemites. Many conversations and memories gave us great feedback, and as a result this has lead THSDS to be a contributor for Welcome to Harlem’s new site “Harem Roots”. “Welcome to Harlem” is a Harlem Tour organization that worked along with the Frankie 100 2014 festivities, and has since aided THSDS to many supporters interested in preserving and rebuilding interest in Harlem’s dance. By means of this collaboration Educators and students in the area will have a valuable resource at their fingertips.


Harlem Savoy Swing Back: Regenerating Interest

Recalling how far we’ve come and where we are going always insightful.  New on Sundays – if you care to join us – THSDS has introduced a “Harlem Swing Back Savoy Sunday” series on Facebook to share classic moments within our mission to enlighten and bring awareness to Harlem’s famed folk dance.  We have featured so far memorable moments with Rafal Pustelny, Merika Jones and Norma Miller, so watch The Harlem Swing Dance Society Facebook page for more classic photos.  


Because of us featuring Norma’s children’s book it lead to an online magazine recap of her stunning career (and also featured her swinging out with pal Adam Brozowski!).  You can read the recap here.


April and May: Busy Busy

Health Fairs, Interviews and a long awaited Spring Savoy Swing Dance on April 29th are happening in April. In May we will be collaborating with Maysles Cinema in Harlem on a Film series on Dance… and plenty of other events!  So if you are going to be in NYC or the Harlem area  please contact us!  

Till next time – Swing Back!

Contributed by Barbara Jones


The Harlem Swing Dance Society on Facebook:  Message us and like us!

Hotline:   347 – 709 – 7022

Tuesday’s in Harlem Swing!  Tuesday Night Harlem Swing Dance Classes – Join us and learn form Savoy Ballroom Legend Sonny Allen!

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