Swing Dancing at Hilltop Lodge
By Terry Bailey
April 1, 2017
The soft strains of the Big Band melodies of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey drifted down the corridors of Hilltop Lodge in Beloit last Friday evening. Not to be outdone, the hard driving Texas swing dance tunes of Bob Wills were often heard. Add to that the music of Chuck Berry, Reba McIntire and the honky tonk music of Johnny Horton and you have sampling of the dance music taking place at Hilltop.
About 50 residents of Hilltop Lodge were treated to a display of swing dancing straight from the 1930s, 40s and 50s. All the tables and chairs were cleared out of the way in the South Dining hall to make room for the dancing. This was reminiscent of the Saturday night house dances “back then” when all the furniture was taken out of a house to make room for the dancers. When the dance was over, usually around sun rise, the furniture was put back in its place and everyone went to church.
The performers for the dance presentation were Terry Bailey and Naomi Reeh (Ray). Bailey said, “I have always been interested in partner dancing since the time I was a kid when Eisenhower was president. I saw people waltzing, two stepping, and doing the schottische (shot-ish). People were doing synchronized steps and moves as partners. To me, that was dancing. Then the Twist came along in 1962 and people were on the dance floor boogieing around by their selves. Luckily, in the late 1970s Disco came along and partner dancing came back into style.”
The dancing demonstration began with a medley of very different styles of music. Bailey and Reeh danced a little to Bob Wills Texas Swing, then some dancing to the Big Band music of Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey, then some of the high powered music of Chuck Berry and 1950s Rock and Roll, followed by the “For Sure” cowboy music of Chris Leduc, Cajun dance music by the Mud Bugs, and some Juke Box Honky Tonk music by Johnny Horton and the Dixie Chicks. This is what they call their “Swing to Anything” demonstration. Bailey commented, “The tunes in this medley are extremely varied and different. But we danced swing to one then the next then another and so on. This proves if you can swing dance, then you can swing to anything. Once I did swing dancing to polka music in Wilson, Kansas during the Czechfest, but that is another story.”
After their opening flurry of dancing, they slowed things down. They walked through each of the 25 various moves they performed during their dance. This gave the audience a chance to see how each of the various turns or moves were executed in slow motion. When they danced full speed, all the moves were performed smoothly and quickly in a continuous fast paced flair. It was hard to distinguish one move from another.
Activities Director Jan Wilcox made these observations, “It was wonderful to have Terry and Naomi put on a display of swing dancing for our residents. It was something new and this type of presentation is something our folks have not seen before. After the dancing was over many residents passed on compliments about how well they danced and how much fun they seem to have dancing with one another. We look forward to having them return for another exhibition.”
Rounding out their exhibition, Bailey and Reeh again danced to a variety of music aimed at the time period when the members of the audience may have be frequenting dance hall in days gone by. They danced to tunes such as In the Mood, San Antonio Rose, Johnny B. Goode, Moonlight Serenade, Pick Me Up On Your Way Down, and, yes, Gene Autry’s You Are My Sunshine and other favorites from the past. Their dancing flowed from one style of music to the next seamlessly.
Naomi commented, “It was great fun being a part of something like this. As we danced I could see folks smiling as they watched us dance. I hope we were able to bring a little sunshine into their lives and bring back a few happy times when they were on the dance floor I look forward to coming back and doing some more dancing.”
Bailey summed up the evening, “Naomi was a student in my February Swing Dance class here in Beloit. When I danced with her I knew right away that she was one of those rare ones who was born to dance. I am very indebted to her for helping me with this dance project at Hilltop. Without her, nothing would have taken place.
I tell the guys in my dance classes the best way to have people think you are a great dancer is to find the prettiest girl you can find and make her your dance partner. Nobody will be looking at you. All eyes will be on your partner. I finally wised up and took my own advice.”
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