"Exuberant Yet Flirtatious"
What You Need To Know:
ALIVE AND KICKING highlights the positive aspects of swing dancing on both personal and social levels. Interspersing the personal stories of the swing dancers with their dance performances keeps the pace going. It also provides a natural ebb and flow of tragedy and triumph. At one point, Christians or “religious types” are referred to as a sub-type within the swing dance sub-culture. However, ALIVE AND KICKING contains some foul language, brief nudity and some suggestive dancing, which require caution and extreme caution.
(B, Ro, Ho, L, NN, S, A, M) Light moral worldview with a nod toward a Romantic viewpoint that extols the virtues of swing dance to build community and create harmony in a world shifting toward technology-enhanced isolation, plus a homosexual banner depicts two men kissing; several obscenities and profanities include the “f” word; no violence; brief image of subway banner depicting two men kissing and occasional suggestive dancing styles; brief image of upper female nudity and brief upper male nudity; brief reference to drinking alcohol; no smoking or drug use; and, and suggestive or somewhat revealing dance costumes.
ALIVE AND KICKING is an energetic documentary created to show the positive influence of swing dancing and reveal the development of the swing dance movement, which started in Harlem in the African-American community.
Several stars of swing dance are highlighted in the movie, including Norma Miller (aka “The Queen of Swing”), Frankie Manning, Evita Arce, Stephen Sayer, Chandrae Roettig, and Rebecka and Emelie DecaVita. Some of the personal stories are completely upbeat while others include many personal challenges. The people facing personal challenges made those challenges manageable and overcame them in part because the dancers took up swing dancing. In fact, some of the dancers assert that swing dancing gave them renewed hope and a new motivation to embrace life.
Stephen and Chandrae (Chanzie) are a charming dance couple who’ve been climbing the competition ladder in swing dance. Chanzie is delightfully cheerful, and Stephen is funny but inserts some spicy language occasionally throughout the movie. They claim they’re able to focus on their dancing more because they aren’t dating one another romantically. They hold other jobs to help pay the bills since swing dance isn’t a lucrative career. In fact, dancers at the elite level rely on teaching dance to make money. Additionally, swing dancers hope to be invited to other countries to perform so they can earn more money.
However, as Evita Arce describes, she dances for the passion of dancing, and it’s not really about the money. Most of the dancers in the movie echo the same sentiment. They love the swing dancing community and the healthy aspects that dance can provide. Sadly, even though Evita enjoys the benefits of a worldwide community of swing dancers, she herself feels isolated from having close relationships because of the demand for her to travel and teach.
Another lament in the movie was the absence of swing dance in Harlem and a noticeably low African-American participation in swing dance. A concern was shared that young African-American should understand the value of swing dance and be proud of its positive contribution to society.
A large portion of the movie covered the Lindy Hop, which is entertaining to watch with it’s fast footwork, aerials, creative interpretations, and fun costumes. A brief chapter was dedicated to Blues dancing which is more clingy and suggestive than the effervescent Lindy Hop. During the Blues chapter, three Christian girls with “Follow My Lead Jesus” shirts appeared with one of the girls giggling that not everyone was comfortable with Blues dance.
An enigmatic yet sweet story in ALIVE AND KICKING are the DecaVita sisters, Rebecka and Emelie from Sweden. Swing dancing is fairly popular in Sweden, and the DecaVita sisters perform at the elite level and teach as well. The point was clarified that even though the two women dance as a couple, they aren’t romantically involved. They are not blood-related but had years ago adopted each other as sisters. The sisters have remained close through life’s ups and downs, including Rebecka’s bout with cancer. Emelie documented Rebecka’s journey before, during and after her treatment with heartfelt photographs. As a caution, two of the photos in the montage included female nudity. At the time of filming, Rebecka was in good health and was grateful for the outpouring of love and concern from the swing dance community. Later in the movie, Emelie DecaVita goes on a date with Stephen Sayer, and they apparently have good time.
Several other swing dancers are interviewed in the movie with varying levels of skill. Every interviewee was very passionate about swing dancing. At one point, Christians or “religious types” were referred to as a sub-type within the sub-culture of swing dance. The movie’s reference to religion was taken as inclusionary rather than labeling.
Overall, ALIVE AND KICKING effectively translates the world of swing dance from a fairly moral and perspective, but there are a few elements, including brief nudity and suggestive dancing, that require caution and extreme caution.