He propels them forward and back, jiving to an optimistic ragtime tune, and with a hailing baritone voice inside a 5’6’’ frame, he greets a congress of novice swing dancers. At his side is his dancing partner Kelly. Together, they command the ballroom step by step:
“Try to do this with a serious face; you CANNOT. I dare you!”
“Don’t worry! This is happy yelling! You’re doing great!”
“Gentlemen, you are dancing with a lovely lady, so please DON’T KICK HER.”
On and on went the brief lesson of shuffling, awkward bodies. Just outside the ballroom’s doors, however, there awaited creatures of a different breed: women in black stockings and vibrant rousse, dapper boys in grandpa’s suspenders; elderly couples with elephant skin hands and watery wishing-well eyes, all arm-linked and mystified in attempts to redeem a nine-to-five grind for the danger and wild of Friday-night swing.
As this new blood enters, a celebration breathes in with titanium lungs, spattering the over-trodden wooden floors with colors from every shade of Crayola crayon, every cackle and croon of the human symphony lacking in this forgotten corner of Southern Californian suburbia.
“Dance is a conversation,” Chris contrives. “If I can make my partner feel like an absolute diamond, then I’ve done my job.”
He wanted to help people own the night, to help them shake the day off with the Charleston and Lindy Hop the same way one would shake a raincoat after a storm.
Hopping up to the DJ stand, he almost trips at the ripped hems of his dark-wash Levi’s. And beneath Chris’ titanic wonder, the Atomic Ballroom’s nightly swing scene suddenly and beautifully began.