Emily Gardner and Brian Gardner
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Mehmet "Sky" Orun
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Julie Felice Barman and Douglas Shepard
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Damien David Gonzalez
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It’s a whirlwind of fur, feathers, and metal: ’20s-style swing dancers spinning in vintage frocks and suspenders; steampunks and retro-futurists decked in corsetry and leather holsters; tatted-up burners with neon locks; and burlesque performers strutting in fishnets and bustiers. They’re all after the same sound, variously called electro-swing, boomswing, and retro-electro.
Originally born in Europe, it’s an up-tempo collision of electronic music and the lilting brass of the 1940s—“house with horns,” as Brian Gardner, an organizer in the local electro-swing movement, puts it. “When the ’90s revival hit, I was taking swing-dancing classes and going to goth clubs,” he remembers. “I started something called Swing Goth.” While that particular offshoot never really took off (“Turns out the swing world and the goth world were mutually scared of each other,” he sighs), he met a coterie of like-minded dance enthusiasts.
The boomswingers convene for a monthly party called the Electric Swingset at Balançoire in the Mission, where a Moulin Rouge–style swing dangles from the ceiling. “Boomswing is a subgenre that’s been defined in San Francisco,” says Gardner. “My mission in life is to bring partner dancing back into the modern world.”
Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco