I was the rebel of the family; near the end of high school I’d hide in my room listening to Sarah Vaughan, then Billy Holiday, then Kay Starr. I fell further into the past and no one could stop me. I’d reminisce about the forties, thirties, twenties while listening to my acquired records, as if I’d been a part of that time.
Recently I found I was not alone. I’d been to Banjo Jim’s in the East Village a few times, where every Monday the fantastic Cangelosi Cards plays for a few beboppers, but I soon discovered there was much more to it—and how!
I attended a 1920s Winter Ball at the Green Building in Brooklyn with a friend. Inside the warehouse—laced with white lights and candles—the past came alive through snapping fingers, bare backs, and bob haircuts. A beautiful swirl of people from ages 18 to 80 did the Lindy Hop and the Charleston. A variety of musicians and singers performed, including the young pianist Drew Nugent and Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra. There were also burlesque and tap dancers; the crowd circled them, ooh-ing and ahh-ing.
A fedora-ed gent told me where we could go to learn the dances, such as Dance Manhattan and Swing 46 in midtown Manhattan. In response to the wonder on our faces we were told that these events happen all of the time, all over the city.
On February 13th, a Valentine’s Eve Ball will be held at the Green Building at 450 Union Street. Mr. Arenella says his orchestra, six piece for this occasion, will be playing 1930s, Depression era—“softer, more romantic”—tunes to accompany the amorous Foxtrot.
Many still find hope and freedom and love in the blissful cries of Benny Goodman’s clarinet—the trick is to find them. Valentine’s Eve at the Green Building would be a swingin’ start.
Ready to immerse yourself in the ways of the good ole days? Here are some helpful websites:
Bio: Kristen Brunelli is an intern at Guernica. Read her last recommendation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time here.