Swinging In The Caves!

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Kelly is at it again.  This time she’s dancing her way into some fun.  She has been taking Swing Dance lessons all summer in order to try out for the high school dance team.  Well, she made the team and will be an official dancer once we buy the green dress and saddle shoes.

Last night the families got a sneak peek of their routine at the Junior High where they practice, before heading out to their venue where they were to perform.  I have never seen a swing dance show before and was looking forward to it.  Megan and I were so impressed and had such fun watching this group.  It was so entertaining and the music was fantastic!

I wasn’t sure what to expect or the type of music that would be playing all night, so I did some Googling again.  I found some fun and interesting facts about Swing Dance.”

Swing dance” is a group of dances that developed with the swing style of jazz music in the 1920s-1940s, with the origins of each dance predating the popular “swing era”. During the swing era, there were hundreds of styles of swing dancing, but those that have survived beyond that era include: Lindy Hop, Balboa, Collegiate Shag, and Lindy Charleston.   Today, the most well-known of these dances is the Lindy Hop, which originated in Harlem in the early 1930s.

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“Swing dance” was not commonly used to identify a group of dances until the later half of the twentieth century.   When referring to the dance, most of the participants of the original swing era would have used the term “jitterbug.”   Jitterbug  is an umbrella term that denotes all forms of swing dance.  The term was famously associated with swing era band leader Cab Calloway  because, as he put it, “[The dancers] look like a bunch of jitterbugs out there on the floor due to their fast, often bouncy movements.”  The Jitterbug consists of a bouncy six-beat rhythm.

After our preview, we all headed to St. Paul to a place called, The Wabasha Street Caves.  This was such a neat old building with lots of history, that I had to find out more about it.

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The Wabasha Street Caves is an event hall built into the sandstone caves located on the south shore of the Mississippi River in downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota.  The caves have been home to mobsters, speakeasies, and in more recent years have begun hosting a “Swing Night” on Thursday nights with live big-band music. The Wabasha Street Caves also provide historical tours of the sandstone caves in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

The caves, which technically are mines because they are manmade, are carved out of sandstone and date back to the 1840s.  Throughout history the caves have been used for a number of different activities, including growing mushrooms, storage of food and belongings, music, and dancing.

In the 1920s, the caves were used as a restaurant and nightclub venue known as the Wabasha Street Speakeasy.  The speakeasy was said to have been frequented by gangsters such as John Dillinger and Ma Barker, however there is no evidence that these visits occurred; thus, these stories are considered legend.

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On October 26, 1933, Josie & William Lehmann opened the Castle Royal, which was built into the side of the caves.  Castle Royal was closed in the late 1930s due to the start of World War II and went back to primarily being a place to grow mushrooms. Some time in the 1970s, Castle Royal 2 was opened as a venue for Disco music.  The caves have also been used as a place of storage for debris and belongings that were washed up from flooding. Some of these things can still be found in the caves today.  Nowadays, you can even rent this out for weddings.  How fun and unique would that be!

Back to the dancing…We arrived at The Caves around 7:00 and enjoyed listening to music by Moonlight Serenaders Big Band while watching the dance floor fill up with people of all ages..from teens to elderly couples, out having a good time on a Thursday night.

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When it came time, the Burnsville Team took the floor to show off a bit.  For the first set, the band actually played for the group and the second round, they took their break.  It was neat to see all the people in The Cave gather around the dance floor and cheer these kids on.  They clapped, screamed, and oohed & aaahed over their moves.  I thought it was very encouraging for the team to get such positive feedback while doing something they all love.   They were great and you could see it in their smiles all night long.

When Kelly and friends took a break, Megan and I did some more exploring of this place, mainly  because I wanted to take so many pictures.  The lighting was tough because it’s kind of dark in here.  There are so many nooks and crannies and many tunnels to walk through.  It’s much larger inside than it looks from the outside.   There were many neat wall carvings, brick tunnels, and even a bar.

Once the kids were done performing, some hung out and and continued dancing.  Megan was intrigued by all this and asked her sister to teach her a few dance steps.  I was still out snooping around and came across them in yet another dance space that I found through another tunnel.  ha!

They do have tours here and I would love to do this sometime with the family.  I think we’d enjoy it, along with the dancing.   It just makes you happy!

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Keep on dancing girls!

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3 comments

  1. Looking forward to seeing her perform they were at Sky Oaks in the spring and I love it
    So up beat great entertainment I had to refrain from jumping up and hollering !
    When Beccah went last fall she loved the atmosphere because everyone is there to have a great time.
    Can’t you just imagine the Fitzgeralds there back in the day

  2. I can’t wait to see the “Burnsville Bounce”. Knowing Kelly, she’ll come up with it!

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