Along with the high-energy dance action, the documentary tracks the evolution of popular culture
"Alive and Kicking" director Susan Glatzer makes the point this way: "No matter what troubles they face in their lives, swing dancers are filled with joy, exhilaration, and even giddiness while they dance. Boiled down to its core, Swing Dancing is about the pursuit of happiness."
AFRICAN AMERICAN ROOTS The film details the history of Swing and the Lindy Hop evolution – New Orleans, Chicago, the Harlem Renaissance – along with archival footage including the Savoy Ballroom and interviews with people like Frankie Manning and Norma Miller who were part of that scene.
In "Alive and Kicking" performance icon Norma Miller describes the essence of Swing: "Louie Armstrong gave us the sound. Count Basie gave us the beat. And Duke Ellington told us that 'it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing'."
Norma should know – her seven-decade career began in 1931 as a dancer at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom, where she interacted with Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and many other legendary artists.
The signature dance of whites – the Charleston – was adopted by black dancers in Harlem and morphed into the Lindy Hop – an exciting and frenetic combination of the organized and the improvised. As it evolved, swing music and its dance variations signified a youth culture revolution long before "teenage angst" of the 50-60s ever hit the radar. People flocked to Harlem for entertainment, and the Savoy Ballroom was well ahead of its time as the first American club admitting whites and blacks without racial discrimination.
'DISCONNECTED' AMERICANS The personal isolation and emotional disconnect attributed to extensive texting and social media use is a common lament these days. "Alive and Kicking" shows us the flip-side of this trend – people gathering together, dancing as partners and actually touching and talking to each other. And, it's not just young folks – people of all ages, races, ethnicities, political persuasions and life styles are coming together to enjoy swing music and dancing!