Dance the Night Away at Lincoln Center With Midsummer Night Swing

Classic Arts Features   Dance the Night Away at Lincoln Center With Midsummer Night Swing
The annual live music and dancing destinmaton celebrates its 28th anniversary this year.
Catherine Russell Septet at Lincoln Center’s <i>Midsummer Night Swing</i> 2016
Catherine Russell Septet at Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing 2016 Kevin Yatarola for Lincoln Center

For the past 28 years, Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing has been the go-to destination for evening entertainment during the warm summer months. For three weeks in June and July, people from throughout the city and beyond gather under the stars in Damrosch Park for live music and dancing. With the wide array of musical genres presented, this beloved festival has become synonymous with the excitement of a glimmering New York City summer night.

This year will prove to be no different. You’ll have your first chance to put on your dancing shoes on June 27, as The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra opens the festival with an evening of big band swing. Led by trumpet virtuoso Scotty Barnhart, the orchestra’s skilled instrumentalists and featured guest vocalist Carmen Bradford will keep you on the dance floor in true swinging spirit for a fitting opening night celebration.

Margi & the Dapper Dots join the Midsummer Night Swing lineup on June 30, bringing with them their sultry honeyed tones and golden-age classics. These mainstays of the New York City scene make their Lincoln Center debut with tunes that will keep you waltzing, foxtrotting, and cha-cha-cha-ing well into the night.

Celebrate the Fourth of July—and Louis Armstrong’s birthday—with David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band for a night filled with classic swing and jazz. Co-presented by the Louis Armstrong House Museum, Grammy Award nominee David Ostwald and his ensemble will lead dancers through Satchmo’s classic works. Return on July 6 for A Celebration of Dawn Hampton with Ron Sunshine and his Orchestra and The George Gee Swing Orchestra. Lindy hop takes center stage as we commemorate the life of Dawn Hampton, a true entertainment icon; a longtime member of the Swing family, Dawn passed away last year. Heed her sage advice and “let the music move you.”

If ’30s—’40s dance tunes are your thing, swing scene veteran Michael Gamble and his Rhythm Serenaders will get you moving to riff-dominated adaptations of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Billie Holiday on July 12. Then, one of the most popular parties of the summer takes the stage in the Damrosch Park Bandshell as The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra returns for its 13th Annual Tribute to Illinois Jacquet on July 15. Following in the footsteps of Harlem’s vibrant music history, the Orchestra invokes the spirit of jazz legend Illinois Jacquet, the King of Swing. Also that night, New York’s best dancers will meet on the dance floor in a showdown to win the Ambassador Prize Lindy Hop Dance Contest.

Get ready for something different on July 14: You’re invited to keep the true country music spirit alive with two kingpins of the Texas honky-tonk sound. On a special New York City stop on the Texas Dance Hall Tour, singers and guitarists Dale Watson and Ray Benson (the latter the front man of the Grammy Award–winning western swing band Asleep at the Wheel) revive the essence of Willie and Merle, The Louvin Brothers, Buck Owens, and Don Rich in a night of Texas two-step.

Latin music will also be prominent throughout the three weeks of Midsummer Night Swing this year. Come for a night of salsa led by Don Perignon y la Puertorriqueña and take in the band’s “music to make your ears smile” on June 28. The Latin theme continues on July 5 with Orquesta Aragón, one of Cuba’s most respected ensembles, which will take dancers through classic cha-cha, danzón, son, charanga, and pachanga hits in a rare New York appearance, and, on July 7, the legendary king of Latin soul, Joe Bataan.

Bronx-born conguero Eddie Montalvo brings salsa back to Damrosch Park on July 11, following his recent Grammy nomination for his solo album, Desde Nueva York a Puerto Rico. Then, on July 13, the Aces of Rhythm pay tribute to the innovative style of legendary Argentine bandleader Juan D’Arienzo, known as “El Rey del Compás” (“The King of the Beat”) for a night of passionate tango.
Midsummer Night Swing would not be complete without celebrating an eclectic array of styles, from disco to R&B to jump blues, sure to please any dance aficionado. The Loser’s Lounge returns on June 29 for Disco Night, honoring those solid gold disco hits of the ‘70s. And after this not-to-be-missed party, stay for a Silent Disco; when the sound system turns off, the dance party keeps going, with music broadcast directly to specially equipped headphones for 90 minutes. If you can’t get enough of this after-hours dance party, come back on July 8 for another Silent Disco, following a Nu Disco–themed evening with DJs Tommie Sunshine and The Golden Pony and featuring Body Language and French Horn Rebellion—LIVE!

And the dance floor is sure to stay packed on July 1 with An Evening of Swingin’ Rhythm and Blues with The Binky Griptite Orchestra, when the charismatic guitarist and bandleader for the late great Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings takes the spotlight to lead his own band in a night of jump blues and old-school R&B.

Let the kids in on the fun on July 15 at the popular annual LC Kids Dance, led by the visionary folks behind the social-emotional learning program Dancing Classrooms. Dancers of all ages will master a few merengue, tango, salsa, and swing steps before letting loose on the dance floor during this afternoon of family fun set to music.

As always, there’s something for everyone at this year’s Midsummer Night Swing. See you on the dance floor!

Kaitlyn Zafonte is associate editor at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

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