Hot Summer Swing Heatwave: Moments in Dance

 Posted by on Jun 26, 2017 at 1:17 PM
Jun 262017
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As I work on my new collection of short stories: Swing Shorts (look for release in late 2017 or early 2018), I came across this short story I’d written. Since temperature across the country are hitting the 100s and higher, I thought this the perfect start of summer blog posts. I’ve used Phoenix as my hot spot, but feel free to insert Austin, Dallas, San Diego, Miami, Oklahoma City, Salt Lake, Las Vegas, or Kansas City, any town that makes you wilt before you start:

Heatwave Summer Beach dance

Hot Summer Swing Heatwave

Sweat drips down my ass crack, surprising me that I’m sweating so much. I never sweat. I glow. I even perspire sometimes, but sweat, not me. I’m usually good at regulating my body temperature. Not tonight, tonight I’m dripping. The back of my neck feels like I poured water over it. Rivers of sweat course down the back of my thighs, carving rivers and canyons, tickling the back of my knees and pooling into my vintage shoes.

Never again, will I come to Phoenix in the summer. I must really love my niece, or Lindy Hop, or dancing to put myself through this. My face is as red as my garden tomatoes.

1940s summer heat water pail

Me and Marilyn

I stand in front of the fan, trying to regain some composure. My smile twitches the corners of my mouth as I pull a Marilyn Monroe with my vintage skirt. Thank God I wore cotton and not rayon—cotton is much easier to launder.

I flap my skirt at the fan one more time and glance around the room for my next quarry, my next sweat buddy.

My next victim finds me. I am definitely the victim. His button-down shirt is soaked with sweat and his thinning hair is plastered to his head like a blond Hitler. He dances a crazy Ballroom Jive and I thank God—for the second time tonight–that I never took up Ballroom dancing. I like the way Fred and Ginger ballroom danced, but there’s gotta be a social level of this dance that looks like the classic couple, though I’ve yet to experience it with any ballroomers. This guy is all sharp angles and poses.

For the Love of Fred and Ginger

His lead is actually good and solid, but the moves are weird and don’t really go with the music. He’s all hands, hands, hands, and pretzel arms. I hate the Pretzel move. He rock-steps, pauses, and windmills his arm around like a big league pitcher. My brain melts into putty, and I have trouble relaxing into the dance. I try to find the joy in the challenge of the unfamiliar, but it’s too odd. And too hot for thinking so hard.

With all the swing dance contests and international classes, will my beloved Lindy Hop become as homogenized and exaggerated as ballroom dance has become? Is that the future of anything that becomes commercialized? Has Lindy already funneled down this path?

I dance with another guy, cute, young, sideburns, stocky and a good fit in all the right ways. His lead is good, and his moves, not quite Lindy, are not really East Coast Swing, either. Maybe this is the new breed of swing dance that comes from too much amalgamation? I go with it, but yearn for a hot and fast swing-out with a solid three and four.

1920s beach dance couple

Paradise Found

I finally find my solid swing-out in three fellas, Mike, Dabney, and Tucson John. All different leads, but all good and fun. And it feels like swing. It feels like Lindy. It feels like love.

Dabney’s turn-of-the-century curling mustache gives him a permanent mischievous look. I do the best I can to keep my hands from slipping and my feet from sloshing around in my shoes. My mind dribbles into a boiling ocean as I try to keep up with the sparse, lanky man.

My follow skills feel a little delayed, maybe a quarter beat behind. The energy slips away with my sweat. Dabney grabs on and sends me out into sharp, snapping whips, just the way I like it. I only hope I don’t disappoint in my fizzled sizzle.

Mike feels like someone I’ve danced with for years, but I haven’t. I can’t figure it out, but I relish the homey feeling he provides. His coffee skin sparkles with a clean sheen. I stare into his warm brown eyes and find them smiling. Everything he does feels like butter—melted butter right now—but good, sweet butter. He dances us over to the fan, turning me in double spins. The air rushes under my skirt and cools my warm thighs.

30s 40s beach dance heatwave swing dance

Retroman Swings

Tucson John—that’s how I remember his name, he’s from Tucson—looks like he time-traveled from 1960s Manhattan. His horned-rimmed glasses frame his thin face, and his crisp crew-cut reminds me of pictures of my dad as a young man. John has a subtle Balboa bounce, and his 20’s Charleston is divine. As we dance, he throws more and more moves at me, ever complicated. I glide and tuck my hips under me, pulsing on the balls of my feet. His arm muscle twitches below my fingers. Most of his leads I catch, but some of them smear, sliding off my boiling brain. I struggle to keep up.

The three fellas try to convince me to stay an extra day and make one more dance venue the following night. I’m flattered and could dance with them to world’s end without becoming bored. They try to sway me with a promise of good old-fashioned, air-cooled refrigeration. I’m not entirely convinced that air-conditioning will hep my jive, and I very much miss my own home and my local love.

I opt not to stay, but take the memory of my hot summer heatwave home with me.


Have you ever danced anywhere too hot to dance? What kind of vintage do you prefer to wear in hot weather? What’s your favorite hot city to dance in? Do you have any suggestions for dancing in the heat?

Tam Francis, authorTam Francis is a writer, blogger, swing dance teacher, avid vintage collector, and seamstress. She  shares her love of this genre through her novels, blog, and short stories. She enjoys hearing from you, sharing ideas, forging friendships, and exchanging guest blogs. For all the Girl in the Jitterbug Dress news, give-aways, events, and excitement, make sure to join her list and like her FB page! Join my list ~ Facebook page

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May 082017
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First, I’ve had the extreme good fortune to be allowed a sneak peek at the new Mai Tai Manifesto recipe book from Tiki Torches band members J. Edward Preisman (writer) and R. Hamilton (illustrator). Second, I had recently seen and heard them play at my first Texas Tiki Round-up and was instantly smitten with their look and sound–vintage, fun, and danceable, not to mention sweet sounds to sip fancy cocktails to.

The Mai Tai Manifesto cover pageAbout Preisman

J. Edward Preisman has entered the sphere of mixology by way of many different roads. His musical journey brought him to love the sounds of exotica consequently sparking his interest in Tiki culture and the magic of tropical beverages and, most importantly…rum.

Getting intoxicated with style has been a lifelong passion, but the rum obsession that began just a few years ago changed everything. Escapism was fun again! With years of experience as a professional chef, a passion for quality, and an expansive collection of rare and vintage recipe books, he set out to share his own cocktail creations and a few other classic recipes with other cocktail enthusiasts.

About Hamilton

R. Hamilton, has been fostering his Tiki obsession as of late through drawing, painting, and performing with the exotica four-piece band, The Tiki Torches. Last year he participated in a three-man gallery show displaying colorful painted examples of Polynesian Pop.

About The Mai Tai Manifesto

The short recipe booklet takes you on a fun-spirited (pun intended) journey into some of the most beloved Tiki cocktails with original concoctions that will be sure to excite.

I already knew the simple secrets of simple syrup, but at the onset Preisman sets the stage and stocks the bar with the necessary building blocks aka Tiki tools.  You will learn how to make:

  • Coconut Rum
  • Cinnamon Syrup
  • Cardamon Syrup
  • Orgeat Syrup

Once you have mastered these basics, and you must, because most of the items you will find at the market are cheap imitations and will make inferior drinks. I’d heard of first three, and being the light-historical fiction writer I am, I had to find out more about Orgeat Syrup.

orgeat syrup Mai TaiOrgeat Syrup

From reading as many sites as I could find original information on, it seems like the drink may have origins in Cyprus and several of the Greek islands. They have a syrup named  soumádha. Its path can be traced to the Romans and is cited as an exotic delicacy given to King Casimir the Great of Poland by King Peter II of Cyprus as early as 1364.

Since then, orgeat syrup has made its way around the world with similar drinks. “In Tunisia and Libya, it is called rozata and is usually served chilled in wedding and engagement parties as a symbol of joy and purity because of its white colour and its fresh (flowery) flavor. It comes in many different flavours, such as traditional almond, banana, mango, pistachio, among others.”

One site suggested that Jane Austen era imbibers would have certainly partaken in this drink on its own or as a mixer. I even found a site that documents some of its usage in literature, though sadly no reference to Tiki culture–though I’ll keep looking:

  • The King is supposed to drink orgeat and elmonade to the value of 2.190 francs.
    ~ The Origins of Contemporary France ~ Hippolyte A. Taine
  • The night before he had taken several glasses of iced orgeat in the open air.
    ~ Delsarte System of Oratory
  • They treat thier company with coffee, tea, lemonade, orgeat, and cake.
    ~ Library of the World’s Best Literature
  • Would you like a good bavaroise, or a decanter of orgeat?
    ~ The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
  • Blean was in the act of handing a glass of orgeat to his wife.
    ~ Le Cocu ~ Charles Paul de Kock

And I couldn’t help but notice that the etymology from Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary was:
F., fr. orge, barley, L. hordeum.

One can help but wonder if the orgeat soothes or incites the ogre in us.

tiki cocktail girl in glassThe Mai Tai Manifesto Recipes

Of course, I cannot give you any of the special ingredients, measurements or secrets, but I can give you some idea of the wonderful recipes that await you. The wonderful thing about these recipes, is they not only are they tried and tested, but they’re mostly original. Sure you can google some of the names and might find something similar, but these are true mixologist connoisseur originals and that alone is worth the price. One of my faves I have to mention is the Papa Doblé. I too have experimented with Papa Hemingway’s famous concoctions and felt I’d met a kindred soul in Preisman when I saw this recipe and description on the page. Besides the Papa Doblé, you will learn how to make:

  • Mai Tai
  • The Tiki Torch
  • Green Fire
  • Lava Luau
  • Rum Old Fashioned
  • Thurston Howell
  • The Movie Star
  • Papa Doble
  • Fuzzy Charlie
  • Black Stripe
  • Milk of Paradise

Vintage-Trader-Vics-Mai-Tai-AdWhat is Tiki Culture

Tiki culture is a 20th-century appropriation and amalgamation  inspired by Polynesian art, mythology, and Tiki carvings that evolved into a subculture encompassing music, fashion, food, cocktails, decor, and architecture.

We see the beginnings of Tiki culture with the first Polynesian-themed bar and restaurant in 1934 Hollywood: Don the Beachcomber, opened by proprietor Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, later known as Donn Beach. Three years later, Victor Bergeron, known as Trader Vic, glommed onto the theme, turning his incarnation into a worldwide chain of restaurants. On a side note, no one has settled who really invented the first Mai Tai. Both men lay claim to the original.

Since I write in these eras, I was thrilled to find the origins in the 30s and 40s. As WWII servicemen returned from war, they brought with them textiles, decor, and taste buds for exotic flavors. Savvy businessmen were quick to fuel the Tiki flames.  James Michener‘s 1948 Pulitzer Prize short story collection, Tales of the South Pacific, spawned the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein South Pacific continuing to whet the country’s appetite for island exotica.

Several factors cemented the public’s fascination with Island cultures:

  • The Kon Tiki expedition held the world rapt as the vessel made its journey. I’ve read the book and found it compelling. The movie’s not bad either.
  • Air-travel become more prevalent therefore easier to visit exotic locations.
  • Hawaiian became a state in 1959, thus shedding light on the people and culture.

Mai Tai Manifesto Overview

This small volume is ideal for a hostess gift, birthday present, and a must have for any mixologist. With its cartoon pop art original illustrations the Mai Tai Manifesto is bright and cheerful, perfect to grace a coffee table, bar, or bookshelf. Overall, the unique, original recipes are sure to be a hit with any Tiki or vintage enthusiasts! Get it here!

Mai Tai Original DrawingOr check out these events where you can pick up the book for the $10 in person. Hamilton will also have many of the original art sketches for sale:

MAY 17, 2017

The Mai Tai Manifesto Cocktail Book Release Party!
Wed 19:00 · Green Door Public House

MAY 21. 2017

Lei Low presents an evening with The Tiki Torches
Sun 18:00 · Lei Low Bar


What’s your favorite cocktail? Have you been to any Tiki events, if so which ones. What’s your favorite part about Tiki Culture: Fashion? Cocktails? Music? Decor? How do you work Tiki into your everyday vintage? Where have you had the BEST Mai Tai cocktail? Please share any of your successes or failures of Tiki mixology. Let’s learn from each other.

Tam Francis, authorTam Francis is a writer, blogger, swing dance teacher, avid vintage collector, and seamstress. She  shares her love of this genre through her novels, blog, and short stories. She enjoys hearing from you, sharing ideas, forging friendships, and exchanging guest blogs. For all the Girl in the Jitterbug Dress news, give-aways, events, and excitement, make sure to join her list and like her FB page! Join my list ~ Facebook page

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