Monday night program unites Lindy lovers

What do Monday nights, Ella Fitzgerald, a Garden Street church and eight-count Lindy Hop have in common?

Five guys named Mike.

Yes, there are five of them. And yes, they are all named Mike.

For several years, fans if the swing dance variant from across Boston have flocked to the First Church of Cambridge auditorium every Monday night to meet, greet and dance their hearts out. And among the Monday night crowd mingle five men in red shirts with numbers stitched onto their chests.

Four years ago, Mike Jonas, Mike Smith, Mike Hibarger and Mike Muno happened to meet in the same swing class. Jonas’s friend Ellen Shapiro—fondly referred to as “Mike 5.1”—found it hilarious that she danced with four Mikes every week, and gave each a numbered nickname to keep them straight.

After progressing from East Coast six-count swing to the more difficult eight-count Lindy Hop, the Mikes began to practice their moves every Monday night in Cambridge. Smith—Mike #2—brought a boom box, and danced with a dozen or so regulars. One of these was Mike Puschak, who brought the “Mike count” to five.

Tragedy nearly struck when Muno became too busy to lindy hop every week—but an answer was found when yet another, Mike Richter, began to come to practices.

And then, they had a name as they began to compete and put together a regular Monday night dance, Mike Smith dubbed the group “Five Guys Named Mike” after the ’30s Lindy Hop hit “Five Guys Named Mo.”

An activity for all skill levels

Nowadays, up to one hundred dancers, ranging in age from 18-40, attend the Monday night “practices” in Cambridge.

Whether the dancers are national competitors or just go to have fun, it’s obvious they know what they’re doing. Many wear souvenir “Swingin’ New England” or “Boston Swing Exchange” T-shirts.

Smith—Mike #2—still mans the DJ equipment.

“Tastes change rapidly,” he says. “I have to get a library of completely new music every month.”

Though he has become a nationally recognized swing DJ and competes at Lindy Hop competitions through the country, Smith hardly misses a Monday night in Cambridge.

“This is one of the best social dances around,” he says. “Of course I’m a little biased.”

Jonas (Mike #1) and Hibarger (#3) also compete national

“This is one of the best social dances around,” he says. “Of course I’m a little biased.”

Jonas—Mike #1—and Hibarger—#3—also compete nationally, but say they love lindy first and foremost for its social aspect. “Swing in general is a nice social outlet,” Hibarger says. “You get to meet other people, listen to great music, and really establish a connection.”

Six Hops or Eight?

Hibarger calls Lindy Hop “the only proper way to dance.”

Six-count East Coast swing, popularized by movies like “Swingers,” is easier to learn than the eight-count rhythm and complex steps of Lindy Hop.

Part Charleston, part European partner dance, with a twist of African rhythm, Lindy Hop is anything but low energy.

Mike #1 says the potential for creativity adds to Lindy Hop’s appeal: “It’s the only purely lead-follow dance where you can really add in improvisation.”

Dancers at a recent Monday dance displayed the anticipated twists and dips, but many threw in hip-hop moves that wouldn’t be out of place at a Saturday night Quad party. One dancer showed off a moonwalk that would put Michael Jackson to shame.

Recent Dartmouth grad and Monday night devotee Ann Smith says he appreciates Lindy Hop for its spontaneity, but points out that “you really have to take cues from your partner.”

Mike #3 says that the partner aspect of Linidy Hop makes it a great way to meet people of the opposite sex: “It doesn’t matter what you look like, if you’re a good dancer people will be clamoring to dance with you.”

Lindy Hop has become less trendy in recent years, but it’s still a strong presence in the Boston social scene. Workshops and classes can be found all over the city.

“Every time I think swing is going to fade, it just keeps getting bigger,” muses Mike #3.

And they say beginners are welcome at any time.

The Mikes realized that being in a room full of experienced Lindy-hoppers can be intimidating, so decided to make one Monday everyone month a “newcomer night,” urging the regulars to meet and dance with newbies.

Harvard Medical School student Sarah Reh says there’s an approachable atmosphere at the Mikes’ Monday night dances.

“This is one of the coolest swing places around,” she says. “I really feel encouraged as a beginner.”

—Lindy Hop practices Mondays at 8 p.m. at First Church of Cambridge on Garden St. Cover charge $4.

—Staff writer Kristi L. Jobson can be reached at

Tags