New York City is the birthplace of swing dancing, which emerged with the explosion of jazz during the Roaring Twenties. The swing-filled dance halls of the early 20th century have since been cast aside in favor of deafening nightclubs, but fortunately, a few hallowed safe havens remain to help to keep swing alive.
Yehoodi’s Frim Fram Jam
Yehoodi’s Frim Fram Jam, ‘Fram’ for short, faithfully captures the environment of swing’s earliest days every Thursday night at the You Should Be Dancing dance studio. The space is small, crowded, sweaty, and alive with the sound of a thousand young and old stomping feet that make the all-wood floor creak and move like it has a mind of its own. To add that extra special ingredient, Fram sports a rotating cast of DJs that play authentic recordings from the 1920s to the 1940s. Admission is just $10 ($7 with a student ID), and the drinks flow from the adjoining bar at reasonable prices.
Just by Restaurant Row lies Swing 46 Jazz and Supper Club – newly-renovated and ready to swing, so dust off that old flapper dress and/or zoot suit that you couldn’t bring yourself to donate to Goodwill. The club doubles as a top-notch restaurant with a full bar, which is separated from the dance floor, so you can easily transition from eating to dancing to drinking, and then right back to dancing again. The venue also books events, provides regular dancing lessons, and features regular live jazz music from an assortment of top-tier local acts.
This (rather literally) funky basement jazz club is exactly what it sounds like. Fat Cat is a modern do-it-yourself operation that boasts a basement that everybody wishes they could have. Local modern jazz bands play on a makeshift floor stage in front the comfiest barley-together furniture you’ve ever seen. Behind the ‘stage’ are billiards and ping-pong tables ready for you to enjoy. Right after you enter, you’ll find the bar immediately to your right; it features regular standards and house specials, most of which are under $10. Much like Fram, Fat Cat is consistently packed, but the patrons are always chill, and you and your partner will never have trouble finding your own little spot to swing to the music.
That’s right, ladies and gents – not only is Tavern on the Green a fancy restaurant with awesome turn-of-the-century architecture, it’s also a swing haven. During the warmer months every Friday night, this famous establishment’s center courtyard doubles as a dance floor. The tables are bunched together on the outer ring while a group of period-dressed resident musicians churn out solid performances of old hits like ‘Take the A Train’, ‘Song of India’, and ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’. There’s a healthy mix of young and old dancers most nights, and the mixture of the luminous décor with the fresh air and the beautiful city skyline in the distance makes for a night you won’t soon forget.
Last, but certainly not least, is Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. ‘In the spirit of swing’, as their mission statement reads, Dizzy’s is a temple of all things jazz, which includes the occasional swing dance night, when the tables are all removed and the club transforms from a restaurant/concert venue into a dance hall, much like the ones that once dominated the city’s landscape. Not to be outdone, Dizzy’s books only the finest professional musicians to play the stage and employs only the finest chefs to cook up some good, old-fashioned New Orleans cajun delicacies, alongside grade-A cocktails. This is an absolute must for anyone who takes their jazz and swing experience seriously.