Cover image of The Track with Ryan Swift

The Track with Ryan Swift

Each month on The Track, join host Ryan Swift as he sits down for an in-depth & candid conversation with swing dancers, musicians, DJs, competitors, and instructors from the world of Lindy Hop.

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The Track - E003 - Skye Humphries

This month, I sit down with one of the most influential Lindy Hoppers of his generation, Skye Humphries. Dancing by age 12 (thanks to his mom) and a member of both Minnie s Moochers and the Silver Shadows, he is a winner of virtually every lindy hop competition on the planet - ALHC, ILHC, WLHC, ULHS, and more. He has traveled the world over for dance and teaches Lindy Hop over 40 weekends a year. Skye & I sat down in New York City, while he was home on a rare break between teaching...

1hr 57mins

15 Jun 2015

Rank #1

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The Track - E002 - Nina Gilkenson

In our second episode, I sit down with the hilarious and insightful Nina Gilkenson. Nina established herself as a well-known international instructor by the amazingly young age of 16. She is a co-founder of the International Lindy Hop Championships, now in it s 8th year and one of the pre-eminant swing dance events in the world. She is also co-owner of Baltimore s Mobtown Ballroom. Nina and I talk about her experiences dancing and teaching at a very young age, our shared sense of...

2hr 4mins

18 May 2015

Rank #2

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The Track - E012 - Sylvia Sykes

In this episode I am joined by one of the most widely recognized and respected swing dance instructors in the world, Sylvia Sykes. Sylvia began dancing in 1966, competing in 1970, and teaching in 1979, and she studied with many of the dance greats, including Frankie Manning, Dean Collins, Maxie Dorf, and Willie Desatoff.  She is a six-time US Open Finalist, a member of the National Swing Dance Hall of Fame, and co-founder of the International Lindy Hop Championships. Sylvia’s unparalleled expertise and passion for preserving regional dances have made her the most sought-after head judge for Lindy Hop and Balboa competitions, and a celebrated international instructor. We sat down at ILHC 2015 to talk about her obsession with the ‘Ellington at Newport’ record as a 6-year-old, dancing on American Bandstand with her original partner Jonathan Bixby, and her experience learning from swing dance masters Dean Collins and Maxie Dorf.  We also discuss the virtues of live music for swing dancing, what she looks for when she is judging Jack & Jill, Strictly, and choreographed contests, and the common thread she sees between legends Maxie Dorf and Dawn Hampton.

2hr 16mins

22 Mar 2016

Rank #3

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The Track - E005 - Naomi Uyama

I am joined on this episode by Naomi Uyama, who is not only an accomplished international Lindy Hop instructor and competitor, but also a singer and bandleader. Since discovering Lindy Hop in the late 90s at age 16, Naomi has won titles at such prestigious competitions as the American Lindy Hop Championships, the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, International Lindy Hop Championships, and the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships. She has performed with her band, Naomi & Her Handsome Devils, at...

1hr 36mins

18 Aug 2015

Rank #4

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The Track - E016 - Laura Glaess

This month, I am joined by instructor & choreographer Laura Glaess. Laura was introduced to Lindy Hop in her small Texan hometown and helped grow the scene in San Antonio before making her way to Austin, TX, where she is now a vital part of the local scene. Her boundless energy & dedication have led her to become a highly-regarded international teacher and competitor.  Laura is the co-owner of The Lindy Project in Austin and is well-known for her work choreographing performances like the Lindy Focus New Year’s Eve Show and her work with the ILHC-winning team, Lindy Hopper’s Dozen.   We sat down at Lindyfest 2016 to talk about learning to dance at a restrictive Catholic school, what’s it’s like when your personal & professional identities are wrapped up in a romantic relationship, and what it's like when that ends.  We also discuss learning an instrument later in life, the challenges & rewards of running a team, and making plans for a career after dancing.

1hr 59mins

26 Jul 2016

Rank #5

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The Track - E049 - Evita Arce

In this episode, I am joined by dancer and instructor, Evita Arce. Evita began her dance career as the youngest performer in Roy Lozano's Ballet Folklórico de Texas in Austin, TX and discovered Lindy Hop in college. She has since become a renowned dancer & instructor - she performed the lead role in Broadway's "SWING!" on its 2008 Japan tour, on television's "So You Think You Can Dance," and in Jazz at Lincoln Center's "Let Freedom Swing" at the Kennedy Center. She now teaches Lindy Hop all around the world (and online at Syncopated City) and recently performed in Regina Spektor's Broadway residency alongside Caleb Teicher. Evita joined me on an Easter Sunday video chat to talk about making her professional dance debut at age 7, why improvisation is a vital part of her Lindy Hop experience, and how she established dance as her full-time occupation. We also discussed her vision for the upcoming production Swing 2020, the current and future challenges she and the Lindy Hop community face in this time of COVID-19, and why she believes Jazz is the greatest living American art form.

1hr 54mins

28 Apr 2020

Rank #6

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The Track - E019 - Remy Kouakou Kouame

I am joined this month by Remy Kouakou Kouame - Remy began dancing Boogie Woogie at age 6 in his hometown of Montpellier, France, and by 2006 he and his partner Sarrah Montalban became World Boogie Woogie Champions.  Since then, he has become an acclaimed international Lindy Hop and solo jazz instructor who has also earned several titles at the International Lindy Hop Championships. Remy joined me after ILHC 2016, where he described the competitive world of Boogie Woogie, challenging his own personal fears and insecurities as a competitive swing dancer, his initial impression of Lindy Hop as a dance for losers, and how dancers Ryan Francois and Skye Humphries helped change his mind and discover the “Spirit of Lindy Hop.” We also discussed the music video “Two Cousins,” which put him on the radar of many Lindy Hoppers, what it’s like working with partners Ramona Staffeld and Alice Mei, why he thinks it’s important to “master the dance before mastering the art of selling yourself,” and why he feels dancers should focus on finding their own groove instead of recreating the past.

2hr 6mins

22 Nov 2016

Rank #7

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The Track - E006 - Dawn Hampton

I have the honor and privilege to be joined this month by the one-and-only Dawn Hampton. It is no exaggeration to recognize Dawn as a national treasure - her amazing life began traveling from town to town in the American South with a carnival, singing and playing saxophone with the Hampton Family Band, followed by stints at Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, and the Savoy Ballroom in New York City. Dawn became a legend of the Greenwich Village cabaret in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, coaching the...

2hr 1min

15 Sep 2015

Rank #8

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The Track - E048 - Caleb Teicher

In this episode, I am joined by dancer and choreographer, Caleb Teicher. Caleb began his dance career as a founding member of Michelle Dorrance's critically acclaimed tap dance company, Dorrance Dance, and is the recipient of many prestigious awards, including two Bessie Awards. Caleb discovered Lindy Hop through a chance encounter with swing dancers in a tap class in 2010 and has since performed in collaboration with Nathan Bugh and as part of Syncopated City Dance Company. His work has been performed at The Joyce Theater, the Guggenheim Museum, Jacob's Pillow, and on Broadway as part of Regina Spektor's residency. Caleb joined me in New York City last month to talk about learning the drums and tap dance at an early age, his rapid and unplanned trajectory in the world of professional dance, what makes the tap and Lindy Hop communities unique, and the critical role that social swing dance has played in his life and sense of community. We also discuss how his preferred role in partner dance has evolved over time, the magic of how dancing Lindy Hop simultaneously expresses its history and the present, and how his newest project, Swing 2020, aims to bring the best and brightest of modern Lindy Hop to a new audience. This episode is produced & edited by Alletta Cooper.

2hr 1min

24 Mar 2020

Rank #9

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The Track - E022 - LaTasha Barnes

This month, I am thrilled to be joined by Juste Debout World House Dance champion, and relative newcomer to swing and solo jazz dance, LaTasha Barnes.    Tasha and I sat down at Lindy Focus XV to talk about the many twists and turns of her life’s journey - from growing up as a young African-American in the capital of the Confederacy, to 10-year Army veteran, powerlifiting champion & fitness competitor, and an artistic director & educator with Urban Artistry dance company. We discussed her experience working at the White House under both the George W Bush and Barack Obama administrations, recovering from two debilitating injuries through dance therapy, performing at the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, how a chance encounter led to her introduction to Lindy Hop, and the complex topic of representation and appropriation in the largely-monochromatic modern swing dance community.

1hr 50mins

10 Mar 2017

Rank #10

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The Track - E010 - Rob Moreland

This month, I am joined by the Head DJ of Lindy Focus, Rob Moreland.  Now based in St. Louis, ‘Raleigh’ Rob has been DJing for swing dancers since 2003, when he started a four-year stretch of DJing every week at a local dance in Raleigh, NC.  Rob has since DJed countless international dance events, including the Basie Centennial Ball, Frankie100, and Lindy Showdown, and has been the featured DJ at Stompology, Swing Out New Hampshire, and the Nevermore Jazz Ball. In our conversation, we talk about how he found swing dancing after playing second fiddle in a cajun band, compare some of our worst DJ mistake horror stories, and explore the differences between DJing at large national events and local regular gigs.  We also commiserate on our mutual weakness for remembering song titles, compare notes on preparing for gigs & contest music, and Rob shares some advice he'd give to new and aspiring DJs.

1hr 48mins

18 Jan 2016

Rank #11

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The Track - E024 - Gordon Webster

This month, I am joined by pianist and bandleader Gordon Webster.  A piano player since age four, Gordon had his first gig playing for swing dancers in 2001 and he caught the Lindy Hop bug soon after.  His passion, diversity, and musicianship have made him one of the most sought-after musicians in the Lindy hop world, becoming a fixture at events like The Snowball, Lindy Shock, Swing Camp Oz, and Beantown Dance Camp.  His seventh album, entitled “This.” was released this month, and he is currently wrapping up an ambitious Indiegogo campaign supporting that album and an upcoming digital single-of-the-month club. Gordon and I sat down at his home in New Jersey to talk about his development as a musician, the moment at Swing Out New Hampshire when he realized playing for dancers is what he was meant to do, and how his approach to band leading is different than some other swing bands today. We also discussed what goes into recording an album (be it live or in the studio), how Mona’s Tuesday night jam session has become the go-to late night destination for early jazz musicians in NYC, and why he finds the ever-changing tastes of the Lindy Hop scene the greatest inspiration for him as an artist today. Gordon also speaks candidly about Steven Mitchell, the allegations against him, and how that news impacted him personally and professionally.

1hr 41mins

25 Apr 2017

Rank #12

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The Track - E020 - Nathan Bugh

This month, I am joined by instructor, performer, and fellow New Yorker, Nathan Bugh. Most dancers I’ve talked to on the show are professional Lindy Hoppers in the sense that they make their living traveling from city to city as dance instructors.  While that description definitely applies to Nathan - he has taught with partners Evita Arce and Gaby Cook around the world - he’s also a professional Lindy Hopper of a different type: one who is regularly hired to perform at corporate and commercial events. We sat down in New York City at the end of 2016 and talked about his experience performing at those commercial gigs, how his education in music composition at Juilliard does (or doesn’t) influence his approach to Lindy Hop, and weighed the relevance of vintage jazz dance in modern popular culture. Nathan also explained why his unconventional approach to class structure may not necessarily be the best business model, what he means when he refers to the "academic Lindy Hop community,” and how the hot trend of “Gastby” entertainment at commercial dance gigs is in some ways more “real” than what’s found in the dedicated Lindy Hop community.

1hr 49mins

11 Jan 2017

Rank #13

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The Track - E015 - Michael Gamble

This month, I am joined by DJ, Lindy Focus co-organizer, and Rhythm Serenaders bandleader, Michael Gamble. Michael has been swing dancing for more than 15 years and in that time his projects have become some of the most esteemed in the swing dance community. Michael has been head DJ for Beantown, Lindy Focus and the European Swing Dance Championships, and a featured DJ at Herrang Dance Camp, ILHC, and the Lone Star Championships, among others.  His band, the Rhythm Serenaders, has performed at events including DCLX, Lindy on the Rocks, and the Nevermore Jazz Ball, and have just announced their first album, which comes out later this summer. Lindy Focus has become one of the largest and most popular swing dance events in the country, drawing more than one thousand attendees each year to his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. We sat down at LindyFest 2016 to talk about how his start in the world of electronic music, a bachelor’s degree in music and a father in the music industry all shaped his direction as a performer of authentic swing dance and music.  We dive deep into what it takes to run one of the nation's premiere swing events, how DJs carry the responsibility for furthering jazz literacy in an era focused on live music, and the the challenges of transcribing a classic swing song.

1hr 58mins

28 Jun 2016

Rank #14

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The Track - E013 - Jerry Almonte

This month, I am joined by one of the most prolific and respected Lindy Hop bloggers in the world, Jerry Almonte. Jerry is a fixture behind the scenes of the swing community — he is one of the founders of DCLX, the Washington, DC Lindy Exchange (which just celebrated its fifteenth year), and DJs regularly at The Jam Cellar in Washington, DC.  He has also served as Event Manager for landmark events including Frankie 95, the Big Big Event, and every year of ILHC since its inception. However, Jerry may be best known for Wandering and Pondering — a Facebook page in its current incarnation — where he shares videos, news, photography and observations from the world of swing dance and beyond. Through the highly curated content he shares daily, he’s become the de facto archivist for Lindy Hoppers worldwide. We sat down at Lindy Focus 2015 to talk about the impact that early internet discussion boards had on him and the burgeoning swing dance subculture, the origins of DCLX & Jam Cellar, and what it takes to put on an event like ILHC.  We also examine his process for finding and sharing content for his blog, how his experience as the son of immigrants influences his affinity for behind the scenes roles, and when he realized what really matters to him as the growing swing dance scene continues to evolve.

1hr 50mins

26 Apr 2016

Rank #15

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The Track - E004 - Shana Worel

This month I sit down with Shana Worel, who I met first years ago as a Lindy Hopper, but who has now crossed over to what I lovingly called the 'dark side' of swing dance - Balboa. Shana ran a very successful swing school in Boulder, Colorado for 15 years before relocating, and has traveled extensively since 1999 as a very well-respected swing dance competitor, instructor, and DJ. In our conversation, we touch upon today's Balboa scene, dig into what makes a "Bal song," and get to the root...

1hr 46mins

21 Jul 2015

Rank #16

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The Track - E021 - Josh Collazo

This month, I am joined by one of the top swing drummers in the world, and bonafide rock star, Josh Collazo. Josh is known to most swing dancers through his work behind the drum kit with bands such as Jonathan Stout’s Orchestra and Campus Five, Dave Stuckey & his Hot House Gang, or perhaps his first band, The Feetwarmers.  But Josh may be better known to more mainstream music fans as the drummer for the Grammy-winning and platinum-selling band, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Josh and I sat down after Lindy Focus XV and talked about how he balances those two musical worlds, how his passion for swing dancing in the late 90s influenced his development as a drummer, and what it’s like to fill the shoes of drum legends like Gene Krupa and Chick Webb at the Lindy Focus tribute nights. We also discussed his early experiences as a bandleader, the technique and music theory of what provides an authentic swing era sound, and how he has gained enough confidence as a swing musician to take the torch and start creating original swing music with his new group, the Candy Jacket Jazz Band.

1hr 31mins

1 Feb 2017

Rank #17

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The Track - E018 - Nalla Kim

This month I’m joined by Nalla Kim.  Nalla has traveled the world as a dancer, instructor, and competitor, and is a mainstay in the booming swing dance scene of Seoul, South Korea.  He runs the swing teams Sweet Heart & Lindy Blossom and brings international instructors and musicians to the thousands of Lindy Hoppers in Seoul though events like Authentic Jazz Weekend, Lindy Blossom Weekend and SEOUL Lindyfest. Nalla made his first appearance at ILHC in 2011 with team Sweet Heart and now he's become one of the regular ILHC judges. He's known around the world for his enthusiasm and passion for Lindy Hop.  Nalla sat down with me at ILHC 2016 to share how he discovered Lindy Hop, describe the incredible Seoul dance scene, and educate me on some of the history of Lindy Hop in South Korea. We also discussed his early dance inspirations and his difficulties moving past copying other dancers to develop his own style, his wife Jessica’s professional yodeling, the cultural differences between dancers of South Korea and the United States, and how the global scene may improve discourse when it comes to sensitive or controversial topics. Nalla asked that I remind listeners that English is not his first language, which I am, of course, happy to do.

1hr 54mins

25 Oct 2016

Rank #18

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The Track - E025 - Cynthia Millman

This month is the 10th anniversary of the publication of the autobiography Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop, and I am thrilled to be joined by its co-author, Cynthia Millman. A long-time Lindy Hopper in her own right, Cynthia first met Frankie Manning in 1986.  She performed with the Big Apple Lindy Hoppers for five years under his artistic direction, and later studied, taught, and partnered with Frankie.  She is a librarian at The Town School in Manhattan, has contributed articles to Dance Magazine and The International Encyclopedia of Dance, and has served on the board of directors of the Frankie Manning Foundation since its inception. I joined Cynthia at her home in New York City to talk about her own discovery of Lindy Hop, the NYC swing dance scene of the 1980s & 1990s, and how the modern Lindy Hop world compares to that period, commonly referred to as the “swing revival." We also discussed what it was like writing the book with Frankie, some of her favorite stories that did and didn’t make it into the book, and reflected on Frankie’s legacy, including the work done by the Frankie Manning Foundation.

1hr 32mins

23 May 2017

Rank #19

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The Track - E027 - John Festa

This month, I am joined by a living legend from the world of West Coast Swing, John Festa. Born into a family of original-era swing dancers that never stopped dancing, John is a renowned dancer, instructor, and DJ at Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, Carolina Shag, and Blues dance events across the country. He is co-founder of the Gotham Swing Club and Liberty Swing Dance Championships, and hosted NYC's longest-running weekly WCS party. He has also earned numerous awards and accolades, including induction into the Swing DJ and World Swing Dance Council Halls of Fame. At his home in New York City, John and I compared & contrasted the worlds of Lindy Hop & West Coast Swing, and spoke about how a broken ankle effectively ended his professional ballet career while simultaneously leading him to experience two white-hot periods of swing in NYC: Lindy Hop at The Cat Club in the 1980’s and West Coast Swing at North River Bar in the 1990's. We also discussed the many different sounds that we love to DJ and dance to, reminisced about our friend Dawn Hampton, uncovered John’s unabashed love of disco and the direct parallels he sees between the swing and disco eras, and delved into John’s professional advice for women for choosing the best bra for swing dancing.

1hr 41mins

26 Jul 2017

Rank #20