It’s a zoot suit riot and the kids at Prosser Creek Charter Middle School love it.
It’s one of the latest dance crazes but it’s not new, it’s been around since the ’30s.
“Have you ever heard of swing dancing before?” asked Dominique Del Chiaro, a PCCMS teacher. “We call these kids the Tahoe Razzmatazz … they are going to show you what swing dancing is all about.”
The Tahoe Razzmatazz is a group of 21 seventh and eighth graders that started learning how to swing dance after their teacher, Del Chiaro, got them interested.
A few weeks ago, the Razzmatazz performed for Quincy Elementary School students. The group thinks exposing younger people to swing will get them interested in dancing at a younger age.
“When we were in sixth grade and Dom told us about it,” said Michelle Parker. “She got us to give it a try … and we’ve been doing it ever since.”
Del Chiaro first got into swing dancing after performing in “Work that Skirt,” at the Reno Hilton.
“I got the kids to come to the show and they decided they wanted to try it for themselves,” said Del Chiaro.
She started the group out on some of the more basic swing steps, like the Charleston and the Shim Sham. But the kids wanted more.
“I got into it because I wanted to learn how to do aerials, flips and stuff … it just looked so cool,” said Thomas Hill, a PCCMS eighth grader.
But convincing the boys to take up dancing took some time.
“It was kind of hard to get them to start,” said Kenzie Morris.
Danielle Shelton adds, “But after they figured out how much fun it was, now they love to do it just as much as we do.”
Swing is a dance style that was created to fit the music of the times: jazz. Learning the history of swing became important to Razzmatazz to make the experience of the show authentic.
Del Chiaro incorporates some of swing’s history into each performance.
“What you are about to see is a dance called the Shim Sham,” said Del Chiaro. “It’s a dance that was created in the ’30s … it’s really energetic, let’s see it.”
The group takes the stage dressed the part. The girls wear saddle oxfords, feathered hats and flowing dresses. The boys don fedora hats, highwater pants and suspenders. The excitement in the elementary auditorium builds.
With shuffling feet and shaking shoulders the dance team partners up and works the crowd.
“(Dancing) is like having a high energy drink,” said Emily Klesken, a Razzmatazz eighth grader. “When the audience has a lot of enthusiasm, you can’t help but get into it.”
There is no argument that the group puts on a great show.
After seeing the performance, Garrett Burnett, a student at Quincy Elementary School, said he would think about trying it.
“I think it looks pretty cool, those tricks were pretty neat,” said Burnett.
That’s exactly what the Razzmatazz hopes will happen.
“How many of you want to swing dance when you get older,” Del Chiaro asks the students.
Almost every hand in the house goes up.
The Razzmatazz hopes to take performing to the next level. Next year, although many of the students will go to different high schools, Del Chiaro thinks they’ll continue dancing.
“We hope to take this to the next level,” said Del Chiaro. “Hopefully we’ll start traveling and get involved with some competitions.”
The next Razzmatazz performance will be held on June 1 at Tahoe Truckee High School. For information or tickets call Sherrie Peterson at (530) 582-0948.
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