Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra Catches Dance Fever

Band to tour ballrooms with national swing-dance champs Janice Wilson and Paolo Lanna.

The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis is embarking on a For Dancers Only spring tour with national swing-dance champions Janice Wilson and Paolo Lanna.

"Throughout the last 100 years, jazz and dancing have been connected," Marsalis said. "There is nothing more stylish than the sensuous movements of bodies on a dance floor and no sound more soulful than the joyous motion of swing with the bittersweet cry of the blues."

From April 9 through May 19 the orchestra and dancers will set down mainly in halls set up for dancing. The band will play charts by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and others, as well as newly commissioned music by guitarist Doug Wamble, composer David Berger and members of the LCJO, including trumpeter Marsalis. The tour's title comes from a 1937 tune by the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra.

Since its inception in the early 20th century, jazz was music to dance to. But the economics of World War II combined with jazz's evolution into less dance-friendly forms conspired to end the era of big dance bands. In the past several years, though, swing dancing has made a comeback, with young men and women decking out in '40s fashions and hitting the nightclubs.

"Swinging is all about a conversation, and so is dancing," said Wamble, who has played and recorded with Marsalis and singer Cassandra Wilson. "I really hope to get past the retro thing. In the '40s, the relationship between the bands and the dancers was a symbiotic thing. Hopefully that will return. It seems to be."

The six-week swing will bring the band to concert halls, ballrooms and college gymnasiums throughout the country, and the May 19 performance at New York's Roseland Ballroom will be broadcast by the BBC.

For Dancers Only tour dates:

April 9; Williamstown, Mass.; Mass MOCA/Williams College

April 12; Santa Cruz, Calif.; Dance Cocoanut Grove Ballroom

April 13; Berkeley, Calif.; Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley

April 14; Stanford, Calif.; Stanford Lively Arts

April 15; Cerritos, Calif.; Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts

April 16; Las Vegas, Nev.; Artemus Ham Hall/UNLV Performing Arts Center

April 17; Phoenix, Ariz.; Symphony Hall/Southwest Dance

April 19; Lawrence, Kan.; Lied Center/University of Kansas

April 20; Minneapolis, Minn.; Northrop Auditorium/University of Minnesota

April 21; Chicago, Ill.; Navy Pier

April 22; Ypsilanti, Mich.; Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center

April 27; Bethlehem, Pa.; Johnston Hall/Moravian College

April 28; Boston, Mass.; Symphony Hall/Bank of Boston

April 29; Middlebury, Vt.; Kenyon Arena/Middlebury College

May 1; Miami, Fla.; James L. Knight Center

May 2; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Mahaffey Theater

May 5; Birmingham, Ala.; Alabama Theater

May 6; Jackson, Miss.; Thalia Mara Hall

May 7; Houston, Texas; Jones Hall/Society for the Performing Arts

May 9; Ft. Worth, Texas; Bass Performance Hall

May 11; St. Louis, Mo.; Powell Symphony Hall

May 12; Columbus, Ohio; Wexner Performance Space/Ohio State University

May 19; New York, N.Y.; Roseland Ballroom