Getting their swing on: Swing dancers will be taking centre stage at the Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall next week during the inaugural Arrowtown Spring Swing Dance. PICTURE: MATT BENNELL

The inaugural Bayleys Arrowtown Spring Swing Dance is set to get the village hoppin’ and a-boppin’ this coming Friday.

Cancelled last year due to lockdown, the event brings together the Queenstown Jazz Orchestra and local vocal powerhouse Emma Pullar to perform big-band and swing classics for a good old-fashioned dance and a good cause.

Event organiser, orchestra secretary and saxophonist Sarah Lyttle says she’s thrilled to get the event going again and is particularly excited to see the community come together post-pandemic to enjoy the arts.

“It’s just really pure joy and fun that comes out of dances like these and I think Covid really caused people to return back to their passions, and a lot of our passions actually come from the creative arts,” she says.

While the orchestra is renowned for its sit-down concerts, Lyssle says it has paid heed to the toe-tapping and body-swaying that ripples through the audience during their shows.

“We’ve had really good sold-out concerts over the years and we’ve always had people that come along and love hearing us play, but just want to dance.

“A few years ago, we did a museum fundraiser [dance] and we’ve done one for Alzheimer’s Society – so we know that people love them and we know that people want them.”

She says playing with the 16-piece orchestra, which features the region’s top jazz musicians including a number of players from the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, while people are jiving and jitterbugging is an exciting experience.

“It’s full-on music – you’ve got to focus a lot as you’re reading it, and it’s fast-paced, so it’s hard to try and keep playing and not watch the crowd dancing.

“We love it and we get such a high off it and we’ll hopefully be getting a whole bunch of local swing dancers to come along to get the crowd inspired to get up there and dance away.”

While the experience provides the perfect environment for the orchestra’s younger musicians to develop their playing, the heart of the event lies in supporting the community – 100% of ticket sales are to be donated to Arrowtown Preschool.

“The evening represents both past and present pulling together for the community,” Lyttle says.

“It was really important for us to have an event that brings the entire community together and at the preschool you’ve got parents, past parents, grandparents and children.

“We wanted an event that all demographics felt welcome at and that could bring that culture of dance to the younger generation.”

As guest vocallist, Pullar will present classic 1920s-’40s tunes from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald.

Supported by Bayleys Arrowtown, Amisfield, Chard Farm and Todd & Walker Law, the dance will feature a cash bar, light refreshments and a live auction.

Bayleys Arrowtown Spring Swing Dance, Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall, Friday, 7pm. Tickets $65 from Arrowtown Pharmacy, Unichem Frankton or online at Humanitix

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