It Does Mean a Thing: Providence Swings

Photo Credit: Tom Hager and Robert Hatcher
Photo Credit: Tom Hager and Robert Hatcher

There is only one thing that makes Rhode Island a swing state and it isn’t controversial. Providence Swings, a non-profit organization, is where the swinging takes place.

Based out of Lincoln, Rhode Island, Providence Swings is part of a Lindy Hop revival that has “lasted longer than the original dance craze,” according to Susan Glatzer of 2017 film Alive and Kicking. This film, in theaters since April, depicts the history of swing dance, where Swing Queen Norma Miller credits the music for dancers’ ability to excel at the kicks, spins and lifts. In an interview with NPR, Norma Miller modestly explains that people associate her with this dance era because she has “outlived all of the dancers from that period.” She, like all active swingers from Rhode Island to the West Coast, is adamant about keeping this genre of dance alive. The film references dancers who have gone off their anti-depressant medications as a result of dancing, and who swear by swing dance as a way of life. On an historical scale, swing dance, and specifically, the Lindy Hop, are credited for bringing the US out of The Great Depression during the Harlem Renaissance. So it stands to reason that Providence Swings can hurl joy into individual lives in New England.

One can start off with a sneak peek by watching the all-female dance troupe Divine Providence and the Rhody Hoppers (aka Lil’ Rhody Lindy Hoppers of Providence Swings) at the Sweet Little Variety Show on June 8 at Aurora at 8pm. If you’re busy that night, head to the weekly Bread and Butter Jam at 85 Industrial Circle in Lincoln. On that night, the Lindy 2 class begins at 7pm, then there is the Bread and Butter Jam that begins at 8:15pm.

One can feasibly have one’s cake, butter and jam, and eat it, too (especially with all of the calorie-burning exercise) by going to Sweet Little Variety Show on June 8, then to to sign up for a Tuesday or Thursday class, then to the Bread and Butter Jam at the headquarters in Lincoln or at the Narragansett Towers on August 3 with Lloyd Kaplan. The event at Narragansett Towers is described as a field trip for the weekly Bread and Butter Jam, which begins with a beginner lesson from 7-8pm at 35 Ocean Road, Narragansett. Then there is outstanding, energizing, inspiring, knee-slapping, toe-tapping music by Lloyd Kaplan all night.

For those who missed seeing the Providence Swings recent performance at WaterFire, there is an excellent opportunity to enjoy them on July 15 when Divine Providence performs a half-time show for the Providence Roller Derby game at Thayer Arena in Warwick. It will be exciting to see how two very different genres of hearty exercise — roller derby and swing dance — complement one another. Other weekend events scheduled at Providence Swings are the Moonshine Rhythm Club (September 9) and the Live Lindy Harvest (November 4) also with beginning lessons and live music and dance throughout the night.

  • Weekly classes regularly Tuesdays and Thursdays at Providence Swings: 85 Industrial Circle, Lincoln.
  • Weekly Bread and Butter Jam Thursdays at Providence Swings: 85 Industrial Circle, Lincoln.
  • Providence Swings performance at Sweet Little Variety Show, Aurora, Providence, 8pm June 8.
  • Providence Swings performance at Providence Roller Derby Game, Thayer Arena, Warwick, July 15.
  • Bread and Butter Jam field trip at Narragansett Towers, 35 Ocean Rd, Narraganset, August 3. Beginner classes from 7-8 pm, live music and dance all night with Lloyd Kaplan.
  • Moonshine Rhythm live music all night, September 9 at Providence Swings: 85 Industrial Circle, Lincoln.
  • Live Lindy Harvest, Providence Swings, November 4, 4-9pm.