Alive and Kicking Review - A Mind Blowing Rush

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Alive and Kicking, from Magnolia Pictures, presents a definitive documentary on Swing Dancing, a lost art that is experiencing revival, with men and women in every corner of the world suddenly dancing to music long forgotten.

Directed and Co-written by Susan Glatzer and Heidi Zimmerman. Alive and Kicking stars Frankie Manning, Norma Miller, Hilary Alexander, Evita Arce, Kimberly Clever, Sharon Davis, Emelie DecaVita, Rebecka DecaVita, Rusty Frank, Augie Freeman and David Frutos.

Alive and Kicking also stars George Gee, Sommer Gentry, Andrea Gordon, Dawn Hampton, John Paul Helveston, Jo Hoffberh, Michael Jagger, Barbara Allison Jones, Meschiya Lake, Sim Lim, Mary Murphy, Judy Pritchett, Chandrae Roetting, Stephen Sayer, Dorry Sayer, Kevin St. Laurent, Erin Stevens, Tami Stevens, Krystina Torres, Jean Veloz, Lennart Westerlund, Chester A. Whitmore, and Chazz Young.  

Alive and Kicking begins with a collage history of the lost art of swing dancing finally settling on a beautiful, raven haired, New Yorker, as the camera pans her apartment, Evita Arce, tells her story of how she was introduced and hooked on Swing.

Its obvious as the camera moves that she is not the typical cookie cutter version of a 20 or even 30 something New York female. Her make-up, hair, shows, stocking and even dress is all very retro, the costume of a swing generation. "Swing dancing" she said, "is the pursuit of happiness."

The film also introduces the audience to the moment, historians say 1998, of resurgence, that brought Swing back into the mainstream. For those who can remember there were three separate events The Gap Khaki ad featuring Louis Prima's recording of "Jump, Jive and Wail" set off a domino effect as this 30 second spot was so well received, the actors were dancing with the Lindo Hop with authority, and expertise.

This commercial made it cool again to be a jump, jive and wail dancer and it looked fun. The kids looked like they were having a good time.  The second ingredient that went into aiding the revival of Swing came from Hollywood, as series of films, including Swing Kids, The Mask, Swingers, and Blast from the Past.

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Alive and Kicking covers the history of swing also and none better to discuss the dance style, its metamorphosis, origins and future were Frankie Manning, and Noma Miller both into their 90's they have danced in Negro only clubs, saw Swing slide to the wayside, lived to feel the uplifting resurgence again and now, no documentary would be complete without the Master's of swing and their knowledge and memories are invaluable.

The film continues to highlight pockets of swing clubs, some well-known and open, others semi-seedy looking and full of life inside. The swing dancers are an eager group with each person wanting to attempt the energentic dance style.

Let me add, Swing dancing in not ballroom dance, it is not the one, two, three, four rhythmic movement sashaying 'round the floor, it is and I quote "like having sex on the amphetamine." It is an immediate jump, no foreplay, hard charging, full on rush, with flips, mid-air somersaults, high stepping, toe tapping, knee sliding across the floor, over the top showmanship and swagger.  

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Always in groups the dancers are met with applause and encouragement as they continue to up the swing, adding the familiar 1940's steps to an supercharged active 2017 style.

I really liked Alive and Kicking. It was amazing to see the progression from the principals who gave their heart and soul to this genre and still had to keep that funding employment and finally being asked to teach as the revival brought such a high level demand that only the few that put the time in learning, when it wasn't sex on the amphetamine, when it was a passion that only a few cared about, were now able to earn a living, travel and find the passion brought respect.

Hearing Frankie Manning and Norma Miller talk about their lives. Hearing about heading to Harlem to dance in the clubs, hearing the marquee names when they were background, the changes in life, styles of dancing and of course, like Jazz itself the birth of West coast jazz and style.

A feel-good film, Alive and Kicking features the benefits of dance, along with the mental benefits the health benefits are off the charts. Stories were added of PSTD Iraqi Veterans who took Swing and was able to manage the mental disorder; the stories of dancers leaving the psych meds, laying down the cigarettes, just letting the thrill of the dance, the endorphin high grab hold and ride the incredible wave that never crashes. The dancers are showmen, and Swing is the ultimate show for both women who seems to end the dance always pulling their happy to follow guy.

Alive and Kicking is the ultimate thrill ride, an enthusiastic, hunger craving excitement craving infatuation filled with delight and desire. Or as Evita stated at the film's beginning, "Swing dancing is the pursuit of happiness."

Alive and Kicking is in theaters. Check local listings.

 

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