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Great Dance Music from the 50's and 60's - Eric Silvey's Swing Dance Party at Iguana

by Bonnie Rosenstock
March 15, 2009
Iguana
240 West 54th Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 265-3629
One of Eric Silvey's fans described the dances he organizes as going to a sock hop in someone's basement. That description is not far off base. The 50's and 60's dance party does take place in a basement, that is, Downstairs at Iguana, 240 West 54th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, an elegant club with a spacious wooden dance floor, low lights (no spinning disco balls), comfortable seating, great food and a polished wraparound full bar.

However, it is the egalitarian sock hop of your dreams, and definitely without wallflowers. Divisions among former jocks, beauty queens, nerds and smarty-pants are non-existent. "Everybody is here to dance and have a good time," said Phyllis Platin, in her second year attending. "I am not skilled. I dance from the heart and find so many of the people, both men and women, are very kind."

"Girls and guys complement each other," added Manny, who has been coming here since Silvey started these dances five years ago. "If you don't know how to dance, your partner is willing to help you out. I was taught by most of the females here," he stated.

Norah has been coming here for a year and credits Manny with teaching her most of her dance moves. She was dressed to the nines in a delicious combination of red and black and signature black lace gloves with gold threads. She likes East Coast Swing because it has "a hoppy, boppy feel, the happier the better," is how she put it.

Which is what Silvey, 59, raised on this music in the suburbs of Ohio, hopes people will experience. He and Carlos Cardona, who has been with Silvey since the beginning, take turns spinning those platters, now called CD's, alternating 50's and 60's doo wop, Motown, soul and rock n roll with a dash of rhythm and blues, made for East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Cha-cha and romantic slow dancing. Golden Oldie favorites like Bill Haley and the Comets, the Temptations, Dion and the Belmonts, Martha and the Vandelas. Bobby Darin, Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers, and popular requests like "Morse Code of Love," by the Capris (which they actually wrote in 1982 in their doo wop sound), "That House on the Hill" by Hank Ballard fill the room with nostalgia and energy. "It's so great to dance to, the harmonies, lyrics, brass and rhythms are so enticing. It fulfilled some deep-seated need in me to keep this type of music and dancing alive," Silvey said.

The atmosphere is informal and dress is casual although some dancers recreate the outfits of that bygone era. Silvey himself is sartorially splendid from starched navy blue and white striped shirt, pale yellow tie with a hint of red floral, sleek black pants down to his black and white German-manufactured Bleyer shoes, reminiscent of those must-have saddle shoes, but with spin spot sole for swing.

The event attracts people of all ages, from their 20's to 80's, with a preponderance of those who were around when they and the music were both young. Around 75% to 80% have been regulars since the first dance event. Over the last six months, however, Silvey has seen a rise in attendance, bringing the average easily over one hundred per dance. Perhaps the economic downturn has brought people out seeking to dance their troubles away while thinking back to a happier, more carefree time. Or word has spread that it's "wholesome fun dancing to this music," said Silvey. Whatever the reason, like those who attend his dances, Silvey can't wait for the next party, which happens every third or fourth Sunday of the month. "Hearing the music and dancing is the highlight of the month for me. It's my great hobby and great love."

Downstairs at Iguana, 240 West 54th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenues. Next dances: Sunday, April 19 and Sunday, May 10, from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Admission is $15, which includes coupon for free house liquor or wine or beer or two sodas or $5 off any food. Telephone: 212-486-9517. Website: www.nyswingdance.com
Dancing cheek to cheek

Dancing cheek to cheek

Photo © & courtesy of Bonnie Rosenstock


Dancing

Dancing

Photo © & courtesy of Bonnie Rosenstock


Carlos and Eric

Carlos and Eric

Photo © & courtesy of Bonnie Rosenstock


Fast dancing

Fast dancing

Photo © & courtesy of Bonnie Rosenstock


Fun dancing

Fun dancing

Photo © & courtesy of Bonnie Rosenstock


Good times

Good times

Photo © & courtesy of Bonnie Rosenstock


Norah and Manny

Norah and Manny

Photo © & courtesy of Bonnie Rosenstock


Slow dancing

Slow dancing

Photo © & courtesy of Bonnie Rosenstock


Eric Silvey and Carlos Cardona

Eric Silvey and Carlos Cardona

Photo © & courtesy of Bonnie Rosenstock

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