Vintage Swing Dance in Seattle

History

Savoy Swing Club began in 1993 with a group of dancers from Seattle who had recently attended a workshop weekend in Port Townsend through the Living Traditions group.

The dance camp, entitled “Wild Week”, was taught by Steven Mitchell in December of 1992. He taught a jazz routine to “Flying Home” that the whole group was excited about, so they decided to get together to try and retain the steps and choreography they had learned. They first got together on January 8th in 1993 at the Fremont Center for Movement Arts, and began meeting once a month on Fridays. They had no name for their practices, just a group of friends working on a hobby. Soon it became twice a month, and they transitioned to Dance Underground every Friday.

On April 17th of 1993, this ever-growing group of lindy hoppers performed their routine to “Flying Home” for Frankie Manning at a Living Traditions dance. In May of that year, they adopted the name “Savoy Swing Club,” and began to expand on their routines, with Guy Caridi choreographing a lindy hop routine. In June, dance classes were available to the public, taught by Guy Caridi and Nancy Fry at the Loyal Heights Community Center. At this point, the performance troupe, that is still alive today, and the club were synonymous. On October 2nd of 1993, the troupe had their first “official” performance at the Everett mall.

Steven Mitchell taught the first SSC workshop in October of 1993. The 21st-23rd of that month was a workshop weekend, and the first dance featured the Fabulairs at Carpenters Hall. On January 30th, 1994, the SSC logo was created and approved, and on February 26th, 1994, the mission statement was established. One month later, on the 26th, twenty-seven people were acknowledged as Charter Members of the club. A complete list of the Charter Members is as follows:

  • Kathy Bruni*
  • Guy Caridi*
  • Julie (Walsh) Cauthorn*
  • Robin Clark*
  • Tom Clark
  • Julia Derby
  • Nancy Fry*
  • Jan Herdman*
  • Winfield Hobbs*
  • Keith Hughes*
  • Jim Lane*
  • Joe Lesser
  • Matt Liu*
  • Kathy Minsch*
  • Roger Mowery*
  • Kelli Jayn Nichols*
  • David Paris
  • Richard Petters*
  • Crispin Pierce*
  • Paulette Pollard
  • Vicki Rothwell*
  • Christine (Nelson) Sampson*
  • Boo Scott*
  • Viola Spencer*
  • Marie Sundberg*
  • Kate Withey*
  • MJ Zimmerman*

*designates one of the original 21.

A list of other early participants in SSC, though they were not charter members, is as follows:

  • Dave Atkinson
  • Richard Collins
  • Alice Freidman
  • Janet Klinger
  • Hallie Kuperman
  • MaryLee Lykes
  • Peg McNair
  • Randy Rinehart
  • David Ruggiero
  • Phillip Schnell

One year after this group of friends first started practicing together, an official club performance troupe was designated with auditions for performers and the club members as understudies. Guy Caridi was elected the artistic director on March 16, 1994, a title he carries today as he runs the SSC performance troupe. In April of 1994 the club became incorporated, with the first board of directors elected. Roger Mowery became the first president. Dues were set at $35 per quarter year. The criteria for membership in the club was based on an audition, and only those judged at the intermediate level were allowed to become members. Not until September of the same year was the criteria for membership abolished and club membership become open to all.

In 1995, the dues changed to become $35 per quarter or $100 per year. On March 15, 1995, the club membership totaled twenty-nine people, and one month later, classes moved to Mt. Baker Community Club. That fall, the club granted Honorary Lifetime Memberships to Frankie Manning, Steven Mitchell, and Erin Stevens.

In 1996, dues dropped to $96 per year, and on April 18, 1996, membership reached eighty-three. The SSC Demo Group (later ECS) was established on November 9, 1996, with Krissy Biernacki as the first manager. Originally, the demo group was established as a “b” team to the performance troupe’s “a” team. There were no auditions, and it was open to anyone, provided they were a member of SSC. In 1997, under the leadership of Christine Sampson, the demo group was one of the first performance troupes in the country (during the resurgence of swing dancing and lindy hop) to learn and perform the Big Apple.

In 1998, the Gap commercial featuring swing dancing premiered, and the craze for lindy hop began. Classes were offered by SSC three nights a week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with three classes each night, making a total of nine classes offered a week. Enrollment in classes sometimes reached over 100, and in 1999, the peak for membership was reached, with over 500 people enrolled as members. The Friday night practice became twice monthly, and then morphed into Blues Underground. The performance troupe attended the U.S. Open in Southern California, and placed 3rd in the teams competition, the only lindy team in the country to take such a high placement at that point in history. Normally West Coast or Shag teams would take the top spots.

On October 9th, 2000, the first “Swingin’ Monday at Sonny Newman’s” happened, and this Monday night swing dance has been part of the Seattle social dancing scene ever since. Dan Crawford organized and ran the dance for the first five or so years, and in 2009 the name of the dance changed to “Savoy Mondays”.

In 2001, the application for Federal 501(c)3 status was submitted. This status, once approved after the March 30th submission, made Savoy Swing Club a not-for-profit group. On November 6th, a preliminary approval was granted, and a $500 fee was required to continue. On December 29th, 2001, the IRS gave official approval of SSC’s 501(c)3 status.

In 1998, the first SwingOut Northwest took place. Living Traditions had stopped holding their winter dance camp, and SwingOut Northwest was created to take its place. It was held successfully every other year in 2000, 2002, and 2004. In 2006, the camp lost a lot of money, and the club’s checking and savings accounts were drained, almost to the point of bankruptcy. Attendance at SONW had slowly been decreasing over the years, but 2006 marked the end of SwingOut Northwest, and almost of the Savoy Swing Club.

In 2007, a new generation of dancers took charge of the board, and began restoring the club to financial stability. Board members included Byron Stuart (President) and Freddie Dickinson (Vice President). The club began to regain stability, and a system of half the officers being elected every year (each position is a two-year term) to avoid the whole board being replaced at once, took effect.

The first Killer Diller Weekend, a workshop weekend of classes, dances and competitions, was born in 2007. The event has grown every year, and become one of Seattle’s largest and most successful dance events.

Last updated in 2009

Seattle Swing Guide

Get our comprehensive guide to all things swing. Download the PDF here

Membership!

Members save on dances, classes, weekend workshops, and at venues and shops all over Seattle. Not only does your membership support our programs, but it saves you money! Click here to read more

Did you know?

Did you know SSC has been around as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit for almost 20 years? January 8, 2013 is the 20-Year Anniversary of Savoy Swing Club.