By Jordan Houston

Pasadena Weekly Staff Writer

The Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association is offering a night of live music, treats, handcrafted art, and the chance to dance the night away.

The association, which seeks to preserve and promote all forms of social dancing, is hosting “A Vintage Evening of Art, Antiques & Swing Dancing with the Riff Raff Vintage Swing Band” from 7:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20.

Located at the Pasadena Ballroom Dance at 73 N. Hill Avenue, the event will boast shop vendor booths of vintage clothes, artwork, handmade goods and holiday items made by PBDA students.

Tickets are $20 at the door and include a swing lesson from 7:30 to 8 p.m., as well as coffee, lemonade and door prizes, according to Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association co-owner and world-renowned swing dancer Erin Stevens.

“The vendors are students we’ve gotten to know over time and found out that some are incredible artists. That’s what makes it unique and fun,” Stevens said. “We have so much talent within the classes, it’s a nice chance to give them a chance to show off this other side we wouldn’t know otherwise.”

The Riff Raff Vintage Swing Band — an Orange County-based group with jazz guitars, violin, drums, bass and vocals — will perform between 8 and 11 p.m. The self-described vintage band plays tunes from the ’30s and ’40s.

“They’re very cool. They dress the part and they play vintage instruments,” Stevens said. “We thought it would be great to incorporate a vintage theme around them.”

The Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association, which is in its 38th year, was organized by Stevens and her sister, Tami, in 1983. Dedicated to “preserving American social dancing and spreading the joy,” PBDA offers classes that “generally run in a six-week, progressive series all year ’round.” The classes, priced at $90 per series or $18 per single admission, range from beginner through advanced group classes in all styles of swing and ballroom. Private lessons are also available at $95 an hour and are open for one or two people, as well as one instructor.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the association hosted swing dances on Saturday nights with 200-plus attendees enjoying the top bands from around the country. Group classes were offered most nights of the week for all levels of dancers.

PBDA’S “claim to fame,” however, dates back to the early ’80s, according to Stevens.

The organization has been accredited with coaxing famed swing dancer and “father of Lindy Hop” Frankie Manning out of retirement, she explained.

“We went in search of some original swing dancers when swing dance wasn’t as popular — it was a time when it wasn’t being done,” Stevens recalled. “We found some of the original swing dancers, mainly Frankie Manning.”

From 1986 forward, Manning made twice-annual visits to Pasadena, where he continued to teach the Stevens sisters in private lessons. He also conducted workshops for the association’s students, the website discloses.

Stevens and her sister are recognized for “their enormous contribution in ‘bringing back swing’ in the ’80s” — in which they largely attribute to the inspiration of their parents — before eventually seeing the dance genre’s peak resurgence in the ’90s.

“We grew up watching them dance, and it definitely affected us,” Stevens said of her parents, noting they were “amazing swing dancers.”

In 2011, the Stevens sisters were contracted to write a historical reference guide to swing dancing, “which has become a textbook at several universities around the country.”

The energetic genre was first discovered by a Black community during the ’20s, according to Dance America, through dancing to contemporary jazz music. Swing dance transpired in many styles, such as the Balboa, Lindy Hop, Lindy Charleston and Collegiate Shag.

Stevens — who has taught the Lindy Hop across the United States, Australia, Singapore, Japan and throughout Europe — said she is dedicated to preserving the art of swing dance because of the genre’s exuberant nature.

“It would be a shame to lose swing dancing, it enhances happiness and just joy through music,” Stevens expressed. “And because for so long it wasn’t available to us, I think we have a special appreciation for it.”

“I think it’s so available now that people take it for granted,” she continued. “You can turn on your computer and learn how to do the steps. But for so long, it was like a puzzle, and we had to piece it all back together — we treasure it.”

“A Vintage Evening of Art, Antiques & Swing Dancing
with the Riff Raff Vintage Swing Band”

WHEN: 7:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20

WHERE: Pasadena Ballroom Dance, 73 N. Hill Avenue, Pasadena

COST: $20 at the door