Parlour Noir teams up with Rittenhop for an evening of swing


Get ready to step back in time as Parlour Noir, a Philadelphia-based jazz ensemble, teams up with Rittenhop, the city's free Lindy Hop social dance group, for a memorable evening of music and dance at Germantown's Mennonite Church on Washington Lane.

On Friday, May 24, from 5:30 to 9 pm, the church will be transformed into a vibrant jazz club, reminiscent of the roaring 20s and swinging 30s. The event begins with a 30-minute swing dance lesson led by Rittenhop's skilled instructors, offering attendees the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of Lindy Hop, the original swing dance that emerged from Harlem, NY, during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Lindy Hop, named after the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, is a dynamic and improvisational dance that combines elements of jazz, tap, and Charleston. It gained popularity during the Swing Era, when big bands led by the likes of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman dominated the music scene. The dance's infectious energy and creativity continue to captivate dancers and audiences alike, with its influence still evident in modern dance styles.

With class time over, the music takes center stage, and the real enchantment begins. Parlour Noir, an eight-year project featuring three to six Philadelphians (several hailing from Mt. Airy), will showcase their passion for jazz-age music, performing classics like "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" and the playful "I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jelly Roll." The band draws inspiration from the black American experience and the music that emerged from New Orleans in the 20s and 30s, which laid the foundation for much of today's pop and rock.

New Orleans, often referred to as the birthplace of jazz, played a crucial role in shaping the sound and style of early jazz music. The city's unique cultural melting pot, which blended African, European, and Caribbean influences, gave rise to a distinctive musical tradition that emphasized improvisation, syncopation, and collective interaction among musicians. This rich heritage is evident in the music of legendary artists such as Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, and Jelly Roll Morton, whose contributions continue to inspire and influence musicians like Parlour Noir.

Ever since the pandemic, Parlour Noir's cornet player Timothy Hill said he’s noticed an increasing demand for social encounters like those created by live music and dance. 

"I've played in a lot of bands at bars where people are drinking, talking, and not really paying attention, and it's really different and more intense to play for people who are dancing," he says.

He’s also noticed that while many young people are learning viral dances from TikTok and Instagram, they’re not seeing dancers on social media improvise or upload their mistakes. So the personal interaction that comes when a group of people dance together is what makes for a thrilling evening.

“The ideal audience member,” he says, “is someone who likes to dance.”

Rittenhop's weekly dance-ins at Rittenhouse Square attract a diverse crowd, with participants ranging from 5 to 75 years old and coming from all walks of life. The group's mission is to bring people together through the joy of dance, foster a sense of community, and celebrate the timeless appeal of the Lindy Hop.

Parlour Noir's popularity shows no signs of slowing down. From now until November 2024, they have 14 shows lined up, including private weddings, appearances at the Elmwood Park Zoo, and various music series. Their music, available on Bandcamp, showcases an upbeat and sometimes humorous style that pays homage to the early days of American music.

The collaboration between Parlour Noir and Rittenhop is not the only effort to resurrect the music and spirit of old Philadelphia. The Germantown Historic Society is hosting a summer music series featuring musicians with roots in jazz and blues, further highlighting the enduring influence of these genres on the American sound.

In an era of digital music production and auto-tuned vocals, folk, jazz, and blues continue to captivate audiences with their raw, human element. Events like the upcoming Parlour Noir and Rittenhop collaboration offer a chance to experience the genuine, ecstatic joy that can only be found in live music and dance, set against the backdrop of a rich and tumultuous history.

Parlour Noir and Rittenhop's May 24th event promises to deliver just that – a night of music, dance, and community that celebrates the enduring spirit of the Jazz Age and the power of human connection.

So, dust off your dancing shoes and prepare to swing into summer with Parlour Noir and Rittenhop. Whether you're a seasoned Lindy Hopper or a curious newcomer, this unforgettable evening is sure to leave you with a spring in your step. 

A sample of Parlour Noir’s music can be found on Bandcamp.