Central Park outdoor Swing music happens on weekends every summer. One of Central Park's many hidden charms each summer is the dispirate variety of outdoor music events, many of them relatively unknown except to their ardent followers and those who happen upon them by accident. Examples include Swing dancing, Tango and House music. For the most part they're held fairly close to the Bandshell, in the heart of Central Park.
Swing calendar, 2008 Season
Sunday May 11th 3:00pm - 6:00pm
Sunday June 15th 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Sunday July 27th 1:00pm - 4:00pm Band: Neon Swing X-perience! neonswing.net
Sunday August 31st 2:00pm - 6:00pm
Saturday Sept. 20th 2:00pm - 6:00pm (pending)
Sunday Oct 26th 2:00pm - 6:00pm (pending)
Location: BandShell in Central Park, NYC (72nd street, between East and West side)
Time: 3:00 - 6:30pm unless otherwise posted
Date: Selected Sundays Spring, Summer and Fall.
Cost: Free, but a $4 donation is suggested
Once the dour winter weather in Manhattan turns to spring and sunshine, Paolo Lanna gets e-mails from friends and strangers who want to dance in Central Park.
For five years now, Lanna has hosted Central Park Swings, a Sunday-in-the-summers event where he plays jazz and dancers do their thing. What originally began with little more than a boom box and some friends loitering by the steps of the Bethesda Fountain has grown into a weekly celebration with hundreds of dancers and live bands.
The ambience of the event extends to the passersby who are
drawn to the bandshell by the music and stay
for the dancing.
Lanna always loved swing dancing, but dances were held indoors and the dance teacher longed to be outside on warm sunny days or perfect summer nights. "I'm an outdoors kind of guy," Lanna, 39, of Inwood, said.
Frustrated with the city's limited venues for outdoor dancing (Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Sings series plays swing music for only part of its run, but only lasts one month), Lanna was determined to improve the scene. Today, Central Park Swings at the Naumburg Bandshell has become the city's preeminent destination for outdoor dance.
With Central Park Swings bustling more than ever, Lanna now plays recorded big band music during live band breaks. He tries to find music that projects well, he said. "The big bands work best," he said. Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Irene Reed are favorites.
Eli Pritykin, a 29-year-old freelance graphic designer from Brooklyn Heights, has been dancing at Central Park Swings for three years. He enjoys being outdoors, he said, even if the stone tile is not the most dancer-friendly. But dancing outside outweighs any discomfort his knees might feel afterwards. "It's great people-watching. And people watching you," he said.
Damon Stone, a 32-year-old dance instructor from Sacramento, Calif., tries to catch the park dance every time he visits New York. "You can't beat the park for friendliness," Stone said. The ambience of the event extends to the passersby who are drawn to the bandshell by the music and stay for the dancing. "That's my second favorite thing about the park," Stone said. "The spectators."
Stone plans to visit New York in September or October, in time to catch at least one Central Park Swings event, he said.
Central Park Swings typically runs from July through October, depending on how many permits Lanna is granted. The dances, which run from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., might happen anywhere from one to three times a month, also depending upon permit availability. Even then, the dance might be cancelled if there is rain, or "even the threat of rain," Lanna said.