Firehouse in North Park to celebrate 14th anniversary

Dance students Jase Dalope and Julie Puccio put the skills they acquired from their classes at the Firehouse to good use during the Catalina Swing Dance Festival on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. Photo by Lauren J. Mapp

Lauren J. Mapp

Dance students Jase Dalope and Julie Puccio put the skills they acquired from their classes at the Firehouse to good use during the Catalina Swing Dance Festival on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. Photo by Lauren J. Mapp

Lauren J. Mapp, Editor-in-Chief

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Inspired by the blockbuster hit “Swingers” in the 1990s, a revival of classic swing dancing continues to be popular amongst San Diegans. While classes are offered around the city, one of the most prominent places – especially for newcomers in the Lindy Hop community – has been the Firehouse.

For the past 14 years Meeshi Ravi, a local dance instructor, has taught students in a variety of classes to help with both individual and partner movement.

Located at Queen Bee’s Cultural Center in North Park at 3925 Ohio St., the Firehouse has been a place to learn and practice swing dancing. People start taking classes at the Firehouse for many different reasons, but a main draw to social dancing is meeting new people. With dance students spanning over a range of several decades – from high school and college students to young professionals and older generations – the Firehouse’s endearing atmosphere puts many at ease.

“I moved here a year ago from Nashville,” said Firehouse dancer Rob Nixon. “My girlfriend and I came here and didn’t know anyone so we jumped into the swing dance scene, and it was like a huge warm welcome hug in San Diego. It was kind of cool to have a family, an instant family.”

A sense of being comfortable in your own body is one of the major take home messages that the instructors at the Firehouse employ. Some students find that through dancing to classic jazz and swing music it helps them in other styles as well.

“I think it’s cool how it has transformed other types of dancing for me,” said Tommy Bowerman, who has been taking classes at the Firehouse for seven months. “You do swing, and you think that you’re only going to learn swing, but really it makes you more comfortable in other realms.”

A love of swing, jazz and rockabilly is a large motivator for many to learn swing dancing, and Ravi suggests learning to the style of music that you feel comfortable with.

“I can see how, as a beginner, you can see someone who has been dancing for a long time, and go ‘oh my God, I can’t do that, so I shouldn’t even try,” Ravi said. “You know, it’s just like ‘just do it.’ That’s the only way… My philosophy is you got to dance to the music you love. If it moves you, that’s the dance you should learn. Swing music, soul music, whatever music – and then it’s authentic if it comes from that, rather than trying to learn steps.”

In terms of learning, Bowerman – who is following in his father’s swing dancing footsteps – believes the atmosphere is great for fostering enthusiasm while reinforcing the basics.

“You’ll learn so much through swing,” Bowerman said. “The teachers – especially at the Firehouse – are awesome, especially in the [beginner class]. I am a very slow learner and they took me right through it.”

In addition to the classes in Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing and Charleston styles, Ravi has recently added a set soul dancing classes to Monday nights. The beginner and intermediate “Soulercize” classes combine doo-wop and soul moves to music that spans several decades.

“People are creating in the moment,” Ravi said of soul dancing, as opposed to the recreation of dance styles of the past, as seen in swing dancing. “I started to learn all these dances, but then after I was like ‘hey, I have 20 dances, but I don’t really have someone to dance with.’ So I said, ‘I just want to share this stuff.”

Johnny Boyd – the former front man of the band Indigo Swing – will be concluding his West Coast reunion tour at the Firehouse’s 14th anniversary “Black and White Holiday Ball” on Dec. 19. Classes that day will be hosted from 7:30-8:45 p.m. and will feature both an introductory Swing 101 class and a “Better Turns and Spins” workshop.

“[Boyd] is having his first reunion kind of a tour in 12 years, I think [with] some members and some not,” Ravi said. “He’s going to be playing a lot of his [former favorites], plus a lot of his new stuff… It’s a big deal, it’s beyond the swing dance world.”

Tickets for the Black and White Holiday Ball with performances by Johnny Boyd and the Golden West Trio featuring Miss Kay Marie are $20 for general admission or $15 with the purchase of a class beforehand.

 

Dance students Jase Dalope and Julie Puccio put the skills they acquired from their classes at the Firehouse to good use during the Catalina Swing Dance Festival on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. Photo by Lauren J. Mapp

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Firehouse in North Park to celebrate 14th anniversary