Dancing under the stars in Manhattan

Posted by Lia Chang on Sunday, 13 June 2004.

My ultimate summer evening delight is dancing under the stars at the Lincoln Center Midsummer Night Swing in Manhattan.

This outdoor dance party, now in its 16th season, offers a diverse palette of musical choices, with twenty-seven bands and ensembles playing swing, salsa, Afro Latin jazz, Carolina Shag, country, Gangster Bop, Mardi Gras mambo, merengue, rock 'n' roll, rumba, samba, soul and R & B, tango and zydeco.

The Midsummer Night Swing ballroom floor and bandstand is located at the Josie Robertson Plaza at 64th St and Broadway, in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts complex. It is flanked by Avery Fisher Hall and the New York State Theater , with the Metropolitan Opera House serving as an impressive backdrop.

I've strapped on my dancing shoes to twirl and be twirled under the stars to the classic salsa rhythms of bandleader Willie Villegas y Entre Amigos and trombonist Jimmy Bosch , the featured musical artists of the evening.

Over the loudspeaker, salsa expert Delille Thomas presides over the sea of dancers on the dance floor, demonstrating basic salsa steps on the raised bandstand stage.

It is 7pm and tickets for the main dance floor are sold out (the capacity is 800). The free dance lessons started at 6:30pm and couples are practicing their moves under the porticos of Avery Fisher Hall, on the plaza and in front of the public spaces of the other performance venues of Lincoln Center , while spectators eagerly await the concert.

The party begins at 7:30pm when Willie Villegas y Entre Amigos and his 8-piece, twin trombone salsa band hit the stage. My admission bracelet is my all access pass to the dance floor throughout the two sets until 10pm, the bewitching hour.

Women are wearing halter and tank tops, cropped pants, jeans, cute little circle skirts, floaty chiffon dresses, and light linen shifts on this perfect night for dancing. Men are staying cool in their short sleeve button down shirts and t-shirts paired with khakis, jeans, or Bermuda shorts. The crowd is dressed for comfort over style, some are there for the music, some to dance, but everyone is having fun under the stars.

Midsummer Night Swing concerts run Tuesday through Saturday nights for the next four weeks. A celebration of the vibrancy of rhythms derived from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ireland, Zaire and Creole-speaking Louisiana, this wonderful outdoor festival puts swing in a global perspective by highlighting different jazz styles and eras.

The lineup of bands includes Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (June 16), Deacon John's Jump Blues (June 18), tango (Pablo Asian 's post-Astor Piazzolla group Avantango , June 19), rockabilly (Texas singer-songwriter Rosie Flores , June 25), classic soul and R & B (The Uptown Horns' Soul Shingaling Revue , July 3), Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (July 6), the All-Star Catskill Ceili Band featuring Mary Bergin on tin whistle (July 9), zydeco (Leroy Thomas & The Zydeco Roadrunners , July 14). Legendary tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet and His Big Band closes out the Swing season on July 16th.

There are special afternoons of dance lessons offered for children; the universal languages of dance and music appeals to all ages. On Saturday, June 26th, children learn to tango and cha-cha with Pierre Dulaine of the American Ballroom Theatre Company; on July 10th, it's beach party dancing with teachers from Stepping Out Studios.

Purchase tickets on the day of performance for $15 at the Josie Robertson Plaza (Fountain Plaza at Columbus and 63rd St.) at 6pm for that evenings performance/lesson only. Passes can be purchased on the Plaza each night of Swing. Tickets for Kids Day are $5. Cash Only.

Tickets are available online at www.lincolncenter.org or by phone at CenterCharge (212-721-6500) A per-ticket service charge ($5.50) applies for tickets. Pick up tickets at the Will Call booth on the Plaza.

Six-Night Pass $78
Ten-Night Pass $120
Season Pass $220

Tuesday, June 15: Dominic Kanza & the African Rhythm Machine
Soukous, Rumba
Wednesday, June 16: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
Swing, Jump Blues, Mardi Gras Mambo, Boogie Woogie
Thursday, June 17: Harbor Latin Big Band
Palladium Era Mambo, Cha-Cha
Friday, June 18: Deacon John's Jump Blues
New Orleans Swing, Rhythm & Blues
Saturday, June 19: Avantango
Tuesday, June 22: Ed Polcer and the Magic of Swing Street
Traditional Swing
Wednesday, June 23: Arturo O'Farrill and the Lincoln Center Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra with special guest Paquita D'Rivera
Afro-Latin Jazz
Thursday, June 24: Los Macondos de Colombia
Vallenato, Cumbia
Friday, June 25: Rosie Flores
Rockabilly, Swingin' Country
Saturday, June 26: Kids Day #1- An Afternoon of Dancing for Kids 4:00 - 5:30 pm Swing, Tango, & Cha-Cha for Kids
Saturday, June 26: Son Boricua
Salsa, Boogaloo, Latin Soul
Tuesday, June 29: Tiempo Libre
Cuban Son & Timba
Wednesday, June 30: Super Uba & Special Guest El Bachatn
Merengue, Bachata
Thursday, July 1: Roomful of Blues
Blues, Swing, Jump
Friday, July 2: Grupo Saveiro
Samba, Pagode, Forr
Saturday, July 3: The Uptown Horns' Soul Shingaling Revue
Classic Soul and R&B
Tuesday, July 6: Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra
Swing and Jazz
Wednesday, July 7: Western Caravan with Thirsty Dave
Western Swing, Honky-Tonk
Thursday, July 8: Hustle Party with DJ Bobby Morales and The Trammps
Classic Disco, Hustle
Friday, July 9: All-Star Irish Catskill Band
Irish Ceili and Sets
Saturday, July 10: Kids Day #2 - An Afternoon of Dancing for Kids 4:00 - 5:30 p.m., A Beach Party for Kids
Saturday, July 10: The Holiday Band
Carolina Shag, Beach Music
Tuesday, July 13: The Harry James Orchestra
Wednesday, July 14: Leroy Thomas & The Zydeco Roadrunners
Thursday, July 15: Royal Crown Revue
Swing, Jump Blues, "Gangster Bop"
Friday, July 16: Illinois Jacquet and His Big Band

Midsummer Night Swing is sponsored by Time Warner Inc. and made possible by Daisy and Paul Soros.

For more information, call the Swing hotline, 212-875-5766 or visit the Lincoln Center website, www.lincolncenter.org.