Swing Italy

Jamboree Festival Senigallia

A music that is very easy on the ears and great to shake your body too, a throwback to the past but slowly regaining its de rigueur and in Italy it has become very trendy of late.

We are talking about swing, an international phenomenon, no matter if you are young or old… just dance is the only requirement.

swing dancing, swing music, swing culture,

The popularity and revival of swing is not something that is often expressed in the media, TV shows or magazines. It feels slightly underground, enjoyed more in knowing circles, more like a social movement of people who love dancing with an old fashion but contemporary and funky rhythm and sound.  It is catchy and makes you want to twist and interact with other dancers.

swing italy

Lindy-Hop, better known as swing, is a musical genre that grew out of Harlem in New York in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The rhythms are often hectic and well defined as swinging. Swing is now identified as a kind of pace that you have inside, your inner beat. The swinging atmosphere is almost an attitude towards life, which allows you to keep your legs moving and let them be carried. Frank Sinatra talked about a heartbeat, for Duke Ellington it was a way of fluctuating (better swinging) upon the time … and thinking deeply on the swing rhythm it is “one – two” … just like a heartbeat!

There are many similarities of the current revival and the moment when this music was born: in the midst of economic crisis, while the symphony orchestras and blues interpreter still influenced the musical desires of many people.

In the 20’s and 30’s there was a continuous wish of something different, more intense and powerful. So, the orchestras gave more energy to the rhythm section with bass, drums and horns. It grew out of black American culture. The name of the new dance phenomenon was said to have originated during a largely black dance marathon in a ballroom in Harlem around 1928. So it was said that a dancer there invented a few solo steps and said that he was dancing “The Lindy.”

Probably the dancer was referring to Charles Lindbergh the American aviator who in 1927 at the age of 27 became the first person to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic ocean. An epic flight from New York to Paris. It was the beginning of a new era, the Lindy era! Lindbergh although a hero for his flying exploits was also seen by many as having racist views and a Nazi sympathizer.

Charles Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh Pioneering American aviator. (Scott Kraft via Flickr)

Everywhere people met to dance swing in Harlem, from ballrooms to private houses, everything became useful to dance, no other things were needed, just dancing was the imperative!

Swing dance Italy, swing music Italy,

In Italy Swing arrived a few decades later with the landing of marines in the old fascist Italy. They came to free Italians from oppression, but they also brought cigarettes and this amazing new music and dance from overseas. The dances in vogue became the “Lindy-Hop and the ‘Boogie Woogie’ and had a more fun and ironic connotation as a lighter and more fun point of view of life.

Today the number of swing dance schools in Italy grows ever larger every month. Every weekend there are swing events all over the country, in Rome, Milan, Turin, Bologna and Modena.

Italy hosts one of the biggest swing events in the world with the Summer Jamboree International Festival. It becomes an exciting and funny event because it draws on our memories, the songs that our parents listened to when we were children, the old family photos, the holidays on the beach when we were little.  The annual event takes place every year in the port town of Senigallia in the Marche region between the end of July and the beginning of August.

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And so every year the seaside resort on the Adriatic coast is taken over and transformed into a Swing era town. With Swing workshops and parties and businesses really ‘getting into the Swing of things’. Hairdressers, clothes shops, book stores and coffee places are plunged into another century, one more aligned to the 1950s.

Summer Jamboree Italy

The event has been going on for seventeen years now and attracts more than 400,000 people with tons of free concerts at lots of different locations.

It is really like the city jumps into a time machine every year and becomes an enormous ballroom to revive the fabulous Forties and Fifties.

Senigallia, and Italy in general, during the forties and fifties were places ravaged by war and its depressing aftermath.  People were trying to rise once again after the horrors of the Second World War. Technological advances produced the main impetus to progress and recovery. A growth in employment gave people money to enjoy on entertainment.

Jamboree Festival in Senigallia
Jamboree Festival in Senigallia. (Rino Peroni via Flickr)

Successful Italian Companies such as Fiat and Olivetti improved their status outside of Italy. The economic recovery and reorganization was proceeding at a fast pace as Italy started to leave behind the black war years. Of course, there were still problems: there weren’t enough schools and hospitals, but in general an atmosphere of hopefulness prevailed. This is the atmosphere of the Jamboree Festival in Senigallia.  At the Festival you can see people of all ages from 18 t0 80.

Swing Italy, Vintage Italy,

This year’s Jamboree will start on July 26th and go on for 12 days until August 6th.  Bands and artists will be coming over from all over the world. You can expect free classes to learn swing dances, a Hawaiian themed party on the beach, a vintage market of modern antiques and memorabilia and a cool retro barber shop. Rock’n’Roll, Swing, Jive, Rockabilly, Country, Doo-Wop, Rhythm ‘n’ Blues, Hillbilly, Western Swing. This is the musical culture (also for fashion and design) to which many contemporary artists have been inspired.

Jamburee Concert Senigallia

Lindy-Hop is contagious and will quickly put a smile on your face. You must first try and feel the rhythm, following the basic musical concepts applied to the dance, learn to drive the movement or to understand other’s intentions. Listen to the music and follow it with the body. The core of this dance is the Triple Step and all the variations: Swing Out and Lindy Circle, you can even try this at home.

Do you want to buy clothes or shoes for the swing style era? Check out Rome’s vintage markets, take a look in the district Rione Monti, near the Colosseum or Circolo degli Artisti in via Casilina. There are stands that show in every colour, combinations and shapes.

The available indoor space is not very big but it is packed and you can find many interesting and original products, from jewelry to clothing all inspired by the 1950’s to vinyl records that you can only buy from passionate enthusiastic music lovers. The liking for vintage and retro is booming in Italy. Courses to discover vintage style and culture are available in the Italian city of fashion, Milan, with the establishment of Milan Vintage Week.



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