Southern Fried Swing (and a little Jazz) invades the area

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 90 views 


story and photos by Brittany Ransom

“It don’t mean a thing, if you ain’t got that swing…”

Swing was the thing in Fort Smith this weekend. Dozens of dance enthusiasts traveled from around the country to take part in the second annual Southern Fried Swing event held Sept. 24-26.

Marcus Coker, whose studio, Momentum Dance Concepts sponsors the events, put together a weekend packed with high-energy workshops, themed dances and legendary entertainment.

“I wanted this year to be something people left talking about,” said Coker. “We brought in some of the best dancers in the world and put together a series of classes that had a little something for everyone.”

Participants ranged from those in their late teens to those in their sixties. The event was designed for dancers of all skill levels, from beginners to the highly-skilled performers.  Workshops focused on several styles of dance including Lindy Hope, Jazz, Balboa and the Charleston. Other classes were geared toward bringing individuals out of their shell and helping them to feel at ease on the dance floor.

Along with local teachers Janie Austin and Coker, Southern Fried Swing featured Kenny Nelson and Tiffiny Wine of Denver, Colo. Todd Yannacone of New Orleans and Australian swing dancer, Ramona Staffeld also served as instructors for this year’s classes.

Many participants also traveled from out of state to attend the weekend event. A group of 10 from Tulsa, named T.O.S.S. (The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate), came in to participate in the workshops. First year attendee, Margaret Leighty noted, “I have really enjoyed being a part of this year’s Southern Fried Swing. The classes have been incredible and the dances have been so much fun for everyone in attendance.”

Other groups traveled from Wichita, Kansas City, Little Rock and Memphis.

The event kicked-off Friday evening with a Partner Charleston Challenge and an innovative movement class called “Becoming a Mad Scientist on the Dance Floor.” Later in the evening, a western-themed dance, complete with overalls, boots and cowboy hats, was held at Jack’s Skateland in Fort Smith. Saturday’s schedule was jam-packed with classes at Second Street Live! in downtown Fort Smith.

One of the more unique courses was the Inappropriate Dance Moves class that featured instructors Nelson and Wine. Participants were shown some of the instructors’ “dirty, little, tricks of the trade” and were taught how to add a little flair to even the most basic of dance moves.

After a full day of workshops on Saturday, a 1920’s inspired dance was held at Jack’s Skateland. The evening included several special performances featuring the event instructors and The Red Hot Lindy Hop Performance Team.

A highlight of this year’s event was Barbara Morrison, the renowned jazz artist. With more than three decades in the music business, Morrison has performed with some of entertainment’s greatest, including Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Etta James and Tony Bennett. At Saturday night’s dance, Morrison belted out classic swing and jazz tunes with the help of the Don Bailey Jazz Combo.

The group put their dancing shoes back on Sunday for a final day full of more classes and performances. Workshops focused on several advanced techniques and unique swing dance patterns. Dancers wrapped up the final evening of Southern Fried Swing with a “Soul and Blues” dance held at the Momentum Dance Concepts studio located in downtown Van Buren.