Swingin' Hepcats to move Playhouse

"Not a techno beat to be heard, and a group of 45 kids are dancing like crazy. Swing dance is a freer form of expression to club dancing, says Ned Thorne, who's been performing with Bainbridge Island's Swingin' Hepcats since the group was formed in 1997. Once you've learned to do it, you feel a real connection with everyone moving around you.The Hepcats' varied repertoire of '50s-style Jitterbug, St. Louis Shag, West Coast and Savoy Style has earned them national recognition, including a fourth place finish in the 1998 U.S. Open National Swing Dance Championships in Los Angeles, Calif., and second place in the 1999 Pacific Northwest Lindy Hop Championships in Seattle.Now Thorne and the dancing friends he describes as a really important part of my life are rehearsing for a Friday benefit performance. They hope to raise funds for a dance exchange with Bainbridge Island's sister island of Ometepe, Nicaragua.We're a homemade group who do what we know, Thorne said.And their latest piece is particularly suited to the experiences of these budding performers. Mildred Won't You Behave is a teenage tale full of youthful energy, about the frizzy-haired cousin of a boy who twists his friend's arm into taking her to a dance - where she surprises everyone with her skills on the dance floor. The swinging story is told through the lyrics, said Andrew Joslyn, who plays the lead.The kids are looking forward to visiting their sister island where, according to Mark Cohen, the culture of dance is easier and more accepted than it is here. Of course, he is the first to say that the Hepcats take swing in their stride. Recalling how they danced on the pavement when waiting for the ferry after a performance at Seattle University, Cohen says, They attracted quite an audience - traffic naturally moved out of the way. The Swingin' Hepcats perform at 7:30 p.m. May 26 at the BPA Playhouse. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for those 18 and under. Information: 842-3566."

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