MakingStarWars.net — So I happened upon the movie Alive and Kicking the other day.
Beyond re-igniting my love for all things swing (dancing, music, retro-style), the film reminded about a spectacular set of articles by Cole Horton regarding the 1940s and World War II influence on Star Wars.
Combining my passions is a forte, and (Google being what it is) I decided to look up “star wars swing dancing”. That resulted in my introduction to “May the 1940’s Be With You” with Swing Nights Denver.
The Galaxy Comes to Denver
“We celebrated the galaxy far, far away with a night of Swing Dancing,” said the group’s Facebook gallery. “Our theme dance…had a costume contest and performances by both the QuickSilvers and The Diamond Dolls.
“We had so much fun that we can’t wait to do it again next year.”
So I contacted dancer/choreographer Ceth Stifel (a Star Wars name if I’ve ever heard one) and asked, how did all of this happen?
“This is our 2nd year,” explained Ceth. “We have weekly Swing Dances at the Mercury Cafe (every Thursday and Sunday), and we put together special theme nights on occasion because they’re fun.
“Both years we tried hard to contact the local chapters of the R2 Builders, Rebel Legion, and 501st because our biggest dream for the dance is to have a builder and their R2-D2 come visit the dance.
“This year, someone brought in a nice Boba Fett helmet and passed it around to friends,” he added. “We never knew that Kylo Ren and Fett could dance so well, though, after this dance, it’s apparent they can.”
Swing in Space
All of this seems to make good sense, especially since (arguably) the most musical scene in the saga owes much to the era.
“[T]he cantina just wouldn’t be the same without the influence of World War II,” wrote Horton in 2015. “[T]he costumes, props, sounds, or music, relics of the 1930s and 1940s are dotted throughout this iconic scene.”
While filming pickup shots in the US for the cantina scene, “Sing, Sing, Sing”…played out loud to get the tempo and movements right for the actors in the musician costumes. ILM member Phil Tippett remembers in J.W. Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars, “[we danced] to the beat of an old Benny Goodman tape that George brought in, and the instruments had been designed at ILM.”
As Lucas and co-editor Richard Chew were editing the cantina sequence, Chew asked Lucas what he wanted in the temporary music track. He recalls asking George Lucas in The Making of Star Wars, “Hey George, have you ever heard Tibetan music because I think the chanting and the animal-bone instruments might really be appropriate.” But Lucas replied, “no, I’m going to use Benny Goodman. Yeah, they’re gonna play swing, man.”
Ceth believes that the current swing dance culture and Star Wars fans, and particularly cosplayers, have much in common.
“From John Williams’s Cantina Song, which is pretty much a sci-fi Charleston, to costuming — vintage clothing or movie-grade costumes — the desire to re-create is the same, and both audiences have an incredible propensity for fun.
“Swing and Lindy Hop dancing are always a good time, and when you add the sheen of a galaxy far, far away, these two cultural touchstones make the dance even better.
“So to answer the question, ‘Do people want to wear a Boba Fett helmet and Swing Out?’ They absolutely do.”
Below, I’ve included some neat photographs from the evening, and embeded Quicksilver’s debut of the Cantina Routine from the 1940’s White Christmas Ball in Broomfield, Colorado; exhibits 1001A and 1001B, speaking to the wide array of Star Wars fans and their neverending quest to celebrate the Saga.
Mr. Stifel hopes this post on MakingStarWars.net expands next year’s Star Wars Day swing celebration might entice some visitors from a galaxy far, far away.
“Maybe, with the extra exposure, the R2 dream will come true next year!” he said.
With any luck, maybe some Rebels and Stormtroopers might try the Lindy Hop, too.
Thanks to Ceth and Swing Nights Denver for the photos and links. JB