Steps in time – swingtime – into the future

Vancouver's 50 and Better Program trots out traditional tunes for New Year's

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter



Revelers at the Firstenburg Community Center brought in the new year with a different kind of boom. Not with kazoos, booze or fireworks (you know those are illegal on New Year’s Eve, right?). Rather, with the booming sounds of big band music from the ’40s and ’50s.

About 100 people dressed in their finest garb and bejeweled dresses flocked to the community center for the fifth annual Swinging in the New Year’s Eve Dance — an event, many said, that harkens back to how they grew up celebrating the new year. It’s tradition and part of the city’s 50 and Better Program.

“We used to swing in the new year with Guy Lombardo,” Alice Rohan said. Lombardo, she explained, was like the Dick Clark

or Ryan Seacrest of New Years past.

As soon as the Beacock Music Swing Band played its first note, people got up from their seats and glided onto the dance floor. They showed off steps from ballroom to fox trot as the brassy sounds bounced off the walls.

Norm Reiber gushed about the complexities of big band music and the brass instrumental solos, calling them a rare find these days in the modern-day music scene.

Tunes that echoed Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw captivated the crowd. As the beat picked up, turning to tunes like “In the Mood” by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, people switched to swing dancing.

“When you get them off the dance floor, they might not walk so well, but they can dance like a butterfly,” said Kelli Lund, who organized the event for the age 50-and-better crowd. Dancing, as a low-impact movement, is good for arthritis pain, Rohan said.

Although the dance ended — at 10:30 — well before the midnight hour and the actual new year, Reiber said it’s better that way.

“Most of us are in bed by 9. Ten-thirty is late for us,” he said. It allows people to get home earlier, ahead of late-night traffic, or go out for libations afterwards.

The Swinging in the New Year’s Eve Dance is one of two major dances hosted by Vancouver Parks and Recreation. The Senior Prom, a long-standing tradition, is held in the spring.