For all its seeming squareness, the culture of swing dancing held San Francisco in its pinkie-ringed grip about a decade ago. Its uniforms were pinstriped suits and polka-dotted dresses seemingly plucked from film noir sets. Its cocktails were dry martinis and cosmos. Its heroes were jazz greats such as Louis Prima and Count Basie. The dances the Lindy Hop, the Charleston, the Balboa were feats of athleticism and stamina played out in nightclubs. The scene came and went with the same rapidity as any exercise in urban cool, but the dancing itself set it apart from others. And because the swing set has a faithful core that's still in motion, this weekend's San Francisco Balboa & Swing Festival is your chance to see and be part of it. Tonight's main event is the Mobsters Shanghai Dance, which starts with an hour of lessons for beginners. Because the venue is near Chinatown and the Barbary Coast, the theme is Polynesian circa 1919. Saturday holds the North American Swing Championships as well as a rare occasion to see the Queen of Swing herself, the legendary Norma Miller, at her 91st birthday ball. There are costume contests such as Mr. and Ms. Golden Gate Pin-Up, and dance contests for categories including intergenerational and same-sex. Performers include Lavay Smith, Kim Nalley, Stompy Jones, the Fil Lorenz Orchestra, and Emily Anne's Delights.
Dec. 2-5, 2010