“Now you’re singing with a swing!”
This week, in honor of the start of the 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration at the Disneyland Resort, we’ll reflect on the original park’s past and present with just an extra touch of class – in fact one could call it downright dapper…
As you can probably tell from my Club 33 flashback post, I’m a big fan of those experiences in the park that connect directly back to the days of Walt Disney. And one of the quickest ways to step back into that era is with the long-time tradition of swing dancing at Disneyland on Saturday nights.
What is The Royal Swing Big Band Ball?
This wonderful form of entertainment and recreation has been a staple of the park since 1958 – and even Walt himself was known to occasionally cut a rug to the sounds of famous big bands and jazz musicians back in the day! However, the event and its venue started with a less regal and more small town feeling that continued for several decades.
So when it was announced a few years ago that the classic Carnation Plaza Gardens location was being transformed into the princess-themed area of Fantasy Faire, a lot of the swing dancers, big band fans, and park history enthusiasts were understandably upset! But it was promised that the swing dancing would return in some form.
There was a bit of a rough road for swing dancing to get back inside Disneyland park. Construction of The Royal Theatre took the venue away for a significant amount of time, during which the dancers were forced out onto a makeshift dance floor in Downtown Disney. I don’t think anyone liked this option, but it was a placeholder until swing dancing could return to its home in the new/old location.
But happily once again you can swing on the dance floor at the rechristened Royal Swing Big Band Ball to the sounds of big band music (or just watch and listen from the sides if you prefer) in Disneyland park and it is a very welcome weekend evening entertainment option!
Who are the performers?
A rotating succession of swing bands plays the standards from the American songbook along with some more modern swing hits as well. The last time I went to visit, I saw The Tim Gill All-Stars and I felt like I’d stepped back in time to a club in the 1950’s or 60’s. They were terrific!
The dance floor here hosts all levels of dancers from beginner to advanced – I’ve seen everyone from parents with toddlers to clearly very experienced swing dancers (east coast and west coast swing) out on the floor.
Mousertainment Tip: I would advise the swing dance beginners to stay towards the outside edges rather than trying to jump into the middle of the floor where the more advanced dancers are doing their thing. No one wants to accidentally bump into someone else, so please try to give everyone some space as swing can be a very energetic dance form!
When and where can I find it?
In its current iteration, The Royal Swing Big Band Ball takes place starting at 7pm each Saturday night under the Royal Theatre canopy in Fantasyland’s Fantasy Faire.
Why spotlight it?
By keeping up this tradition from Walt Disney’s era, it is another connection to the origins of the park and a gesture of appreciation for its place in American pop culture history.
I suspect this weekly event was also an influence on the creation of Dapper Days in the park (to be spotlighted later this week) in providing the modern generation an opportunity to dress up in a more glamorous way to go to Disneyland than the current culture does on a daily basis.
You don’t need to pull out the suspenders or high heels to go dance the night away at the Royal Swing Big Band Ball, but it sure is a fun opportunity to do so if you’d like to!
Have you gone swing dancing at Disneyland? Do you miss the old Carnation Plaza Gardens or do you like the new Royal Theatre venue?
Update 9/13/16: I’ve uploaded some swing dancing videos – Check out some of the performances here on the Mousertainment YouTube Channel
Update 2/5/17: I’ve uploaded some videos of The Tim Gill All-Stars playing at the Royal Swing Big Band Ball – Check out some of this band’s performances here on the Mousertainment YouTube Channel