Lincoln Center’s annual toe-tapping, deep-dipping, smooth-spinning outdoor summer dance series Midsummer Night Swing is back for another sultry season. For three weeks Damrosch Park becomes the hottest dance club around as phenomenal international bands and orchestras take to the stage to perform theme nights that range from classic swing to sexy salsa to groovy disco, while visitors of all experience levels show off their moves on the giant al fresco dance floor.
Don’t worry if you think you have two left feet, or the idea of remembering steps sends you into a tizzy. Lincoln Center director of programming Jill Sternheimer, who curates the 15 dance parties, tells amNewYork that participants encompass all walks of life and levels of dance.
“It serves so many different purposes for so many different people,” Sternheimer said. “It’s something you can happen upon and you feel like you’ve made this really fun, cool discovery for the night. Then we also have regulars that come dressed up in their finest vintage clothes to accompany whatever era music we have.” She added, “I think it is the best people watching event in the entire city.”
As an added bonus, the cost of your ticket includes a complimentary dance lesson led by a top-notch instructor at 6:30 p.m., before the live music starts at 7:30 p.m. Sternheimer suggests you leave your purses (no bags allowed on the dance floor) at home with your inhibitions. “Tell people that you’re a beginner and ask them to dance,” she recommends. “Even though you’re shy and it feels weird. The dancers — they want to have new people in the scene, that’s how you keep dance culture alive, they want to dance with new people. That’s part of dance etiquette.”
You’re going to want to break out your snazziest, comfortable shoes for this event — here are a handful of highlights.
June 29, The Loser’s Lounge (Disco)
Though it might be a Thursday night, you’ll be feeling that Saturday Night Fever when New York’s favorite throwback cover band The Loser’s Lounge takes over. With horns, powerhouse voices, and boundless energy, this group will make sure to keep those ’70s hits stayin’ alive. Make sure you’re well rested — the performance is followed by a silent disco.
June 30, Margi & the Dapper Dots (Ballroom)
Making their Midsummer debut, this Brooklyn-based outfit provides beautiful renditions of Golden Age classics by the likes of Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter. Take a break from doing the fox trot or the cha-cha to watch how the masters from the American Ballet Theatre perform a romantic pas de deux on stage.
July 1, The Binky Griptite Orchestra (Jump Blues, Rhythm and Blues)
Though the world is still mourning the loss of late soul queen Sharon Jones, much of her spirit lives on through her former emcee Binky Griptite. As a singer, songwriter, and producer, Griptite is captivating as he leads his own rhythm and blues orchestra in numbers that will be impossible not to move to.
July 4, David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band (classic swing)
If you’re feeling patriotic on Independence Day, why not celebrate with the songs popularized by Louis Armstrong, a jazz musician so quintessentially American his birthday also happened to fall on the Fourth of July. Grammy Award–nominee and Birdland regular David Ostwald and his company will be celebrating Armstrong while also pulling a few favorites from other icons of his era like Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton and Bix Beiderbecke.
July 5, Issac Delgado Orchestra (salsa)
According to Sternheimer, salsa is always one of the most popular nights in the lineup and it’s no wonder — New York, with its vibrant communities of Puerto Rican and Cuban transplants, became one of the birthplaces of modern salsa in the first half of the 20th century. For decades, Issac Delgado, known by many as “El Chévere de la Salsa,” has been pleasing crowds with his Afro-Cuban rhythms and infectious melodies.
July 14, Texas Dance Hall Tour with Dale Watson & Ray Benson (Texas two-step)
Western swing is back at Lincoln Center for the first time in nearly a decade. Preserving his home state’s legacy is Asleep at the Wheel’s bandleader Ray Benson, who has been recently touring the hundreds of dance halls still operating across Texas. This partner dance is pretty easy to pick up, with lots of twirls and movement across the floor — plus it gives you an excuse to wear your cowboy boots.
IF YOU GO:
Midsummer Night Swing is at Damrosch Park, 60 Lincoln Center Plaza, through July 15. Individual tickets $17 in advance, $20 day-of. Multi night passes range from $60/4 nights to $170/full season. The full lineup and tickets are available at lincolncenter.org/midsummer-night-swing.