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Dancing on Air

Hangar dances bring swingin’ and stylin’ into the spotlight

By Kristy Kuhn. Updated. This article originally appeared in VALOR May 2019.

It was a different time. A time when the country was united — in common goals, against a common enemy, and in a shared patriotism that put love of country above all else. A time when GI’s gathered at local dance halls to let loose, hear some big band music and Lindy Hop with a beautiful woman. Perhaps it’s a sense of nostalgia, but a whole new generation is Lindy Hopping to the big band music made popular in the 1940s.

Smooth sounds and moves at a hangar dance by Commemorative Air Force Utah Wing in Heber. The CAF-Utah Wing hosts two events a year in June and August. (courtesy image)
Smooth sounds and moves at a hangar dance by Commemorative Air Force Utah Wing in Heber. The CAF-Utah Wing hosts two events a year in June and August. (courtesy image)

James Humpherys often performs with the band — dancing, singing and playing music. He grew up listening to his grandparents’ stories about big band music and swing dancing. For many of World War II generation, town-hall dances were some of the last things shared before shipping out to distant and war-torn lands. Hangar dances recreate that atmosphere. The intent of these nights is to share the iconic culture. Humphreys explains that veterans, and those of the 1940s, are given front row seats to the live show. “There’s a discernible change in energy as these same people who could hardly walk, not only stand, but begin to dance as if it were 1944 again.”

Humpherys wishes for that energy to transcend time. “Hopefully, dancing with such fervor and dressing in vintage clothing gives younger generations a chance to make personal and emotional connections with those who sacrificed so much,” he says. Our parents and grandparents tell us the stories, not in textbook facts, but in what they remembered and how they felt, and that’s how my generation makes a personal connection with the war. They’ll relay to us the music, the celebrities, movies and pastimes of their day.

He adds that one of the things many enjoy about the dances is talking to the veterans who actually served during that time. They are often surprised that the younger generation likes the big band music of their youth.

Volunteer, Beth Ann Schneider, coordinates the shows for the Commemorative Air Force-Utah Wing in Heber, echoes that sentiment. She says the swing dances, which are part of larger events, have grown exponentially over the years and people are really looking forward to being able to get out. She says it’s not just a party. “We do this to honor the veterans.”

For a chance to swing the night away, these groups are known for big band music and dancing. Please check with them to see when events and dances are scheduled.

  • Cache Valley Aviation Association, USU Flight Program Hangar, Logan-Cache Airport, 2500 N. 900 West, Logan.

  • Commemorative Air Force-Utah Wing, Russ McDonald Air Field, 1980 Airport Rd. Hangar 38-D, Heber.

  • Wendover Historical Airfield, 345 S. Airport Apron, Wendover.

  • Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum, 4196 S. Airport Parkway, St. George.


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