In 1986, when I took a trip to New York to discover more about the Lindy Hop, Jiving Lindy Hoppers co-founder Terry Monaghan recommended that I connect with Margaret Batiuchok, who was one of the founding members of the recently formed New York Swing Dance Society. I attended one of her classes, and little did I think at the time that I would develop a professional relationship that continues to this day, and that at that first class I would meet a wonderful group of her students, many of whom I’m still friendly with today – over 30 years later – and who themselves have since made big contributions to Swing. Perhaps not so well known outside of New York City, Margaret has been an important witness of the transition between the lean times of the 1970s and the rekindling in the 1980s and beyond, she has played a major role in the revival of the Lindy Hop and we have a lot to thank her for.
Margaret is one of the true pioneers of the Lindy revival and I interviewed her recently whilst attending Norma Millers funeral in May 19. She considers herself a social dancer first and foremost, although she loves performing and won the prestigious Harvest Moon Ball in Lindy Hop at Madison Square Gardens in 1983 with veteran black dancer George Lloyd – a former Savoy Ballroom “400 Club dancer”. They were the first interracial couple to win. Coincidentally, that was the competition’s last year at Madison Square Gardens and also the last that had a Lindy division.
Charlie Meade & Margaret Batiuchok
Margaret describes her strength as a dancer as being an excellent follower in the social sense, rather than being an athletic dancer, for example, like many of the professional Swedish dancers we see today: “I adapt my style to each dancer I dance with. Dancing next to greats like Sugar Sullivan or Dawn Hampton didn’t make me want to be like them – none of us want to be like another dancer –we want to be ourselves”. When I asked her who she likes to dance with, she replied “Dancers with a light connection, I don’t mind being led if it’s comfortable”.
Whilst she had no formal dance training, as a youngster Margaret picked up a love of dance from her father who used to do the Polka, Foxtrot and Waltz. At college, she remembers seeing the Alvin Ailey dance company performing to Blues music and it left quite an impression on her. So at the age of 20, she began training in modern dance with Consuelo Atlas (a soloist from Alvin Ailey), African dancing with Bill Mackey and old-style tap from Stanley Brown (Jimmy Slide’s teacher). In 1978, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance from the California Institute of Arts. Socially, she started going to listen to Blues music at City Limits, a country and western club, and it was there that she started dancing country western, two step and Lindy on their Big Band nights on Thursdays.
She began dancing swing more seriously in her early 30s whilst a pre-med-student at NY University and met George Lloyd in 1983 at the North River Bar. Just six months later they entered and won the Harvest Moon Ball. From then on, Margaret was to be teaching, performing, promoting and writing about Lindy Hop, including a Master’s Degree from NYU which came out in 1988 with her ground-breaking thesis on the Lindy and four accompanying videos documenting Swing from the viewpoint of Frank Manning who at the time was in his 70s, George Lloyd in his 60s, Charlie Meade in his 50s and Tom Lewis (a student of Margaret) who was in his 30s.
In the next issue find out about Margaret’s influence on the New York Swing dance revival. Sign up for Simon's Swing Notes, a weekly rambling about life in the swing world, commentating on what’s going on and more often than not, the why & how you can get the most out of your dancing here.
Click here for Margaret's website
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