Arrived at Hot Jam: 2019
Fun fact: Francesca grew up across the street from the Savoy Ballroom
When she’s not dancing: Event planner; works at concert venues
Favorite jazz song: Anything by Louis Armstrong or BB King
“I think I was born into it,” Francesca says when asked why she began dancing. “When I was really young, my parents took me to a dance group when I lived in New York City. And my mother said I had some talent.
“But then later on, I didn’t do a certain dance move right and she said I didn’t have any talent, so she stopped the classes.
“But throughout the years, I kept being picked to be part of dance productions and dance groups. So I just stayed with it.”
Growing up across the street from the Savoy Ballroom, Francesca was never far from dance.
“Every day I would go out and look and see [the Savoy] across the street. And my father used to go. And he danced—matter of fact, he gave me a lesson when I first started doing this. He calls it the Jitterbug. He said Lindy is one dance; he said the Jitterbug is the whole style.”
Her mother told her she was too young to dance at the Savoy, so she never learned Lindy Hop. But that didn’t keep Francesca from the movement of dance, though it would be years before she encountered Lindy again.
“R&B was big [when I was growing up]. And then Hip Hop came at the same time. And so nobody was doing [Lindy Hop]. It sort of faded out because it was a new genre.
“And so people used to laugh and make fun of [Lindy Hop dancers]. They said they were stuck in the thirties. And I used to watch people laugh at them. Because it was these old—probably it was Norma [Miller] and all of them. But I didn’t know who they were.
“My father said, ‘Those are some legends! You stupid kids, you don’t know who those people are?’ I said, ‘No!’ I said, ‘You people doing that old stuff!’ I said, ‘Nobody dance that stuff no more.’”
What does Francesca dance? Everything, really.
“You should ask, what don’t I do? I’ve danced everything but Hip Hop and straight Tap. So I did Jazz, I did Modern, I did Ballet, I did Belly Dance, Pole Dance, Swing Dance, Salsa, all the Latin styles. I did all of that.”
From Harlem to Spanish Harlem, Francesca has lived and danced her way across New York City.
“New York was nothing but a dance haven. So I was in every dance scene there was; everybody knew me in different scenes.”
For Francesca, dance is vital. It’s more than a hobby—it’s a form of self-expression, a language all its own.
“I [express myself] through color, I do it through clothing, I do it through art imagery, and I do it through movement, by moving my body and telling a story.
“I’m not very good at words, but I’m good at movement and imagery. So I can create an image for you better than I can say it in words.”
Every dance style has its own vocabulary, and Francesca is fluent in a wide variety. But her favorites are the partner dances.
“I prefer to dance in tandem, with another person or in a group of people. Because it’s about everyone communicating the same language and learning how to listen to each other.”
In fact, the communication of partner dancing has informed her relationships off the dance floor, too.
“I use dance in relationships. You know, how we lead; how we follow. How we listen for the pauses; how we listen for the cues. How you spin; how they know how to turn you.
“Which is also the same way they know how to work with you when you’re dealing with certain issues. How they know how to listen to you and help you get things done, and how not to get things done.
“All that I learned through dance.”
Partner dancing, she says, is an unspoken language, and when two people speak it together, the connection is almost magical.
“I was married a long time, and my husband passed away. But he was a dancer, and I met him dancing.
“And when we would have certain issues, we would go onto the dance floor and we’d dance together. And he’d stop and say, ‘Oh. So you want me to take out the garbage more.’
“And then we’d go back on the dance floor. And he’d say, ‘Oh. So you want me to come home by a certain time.’
“We never yelled; we never screamed; we never argued. We would dance it, and after we danced it, I knew just what he was asking for and he knew just what I wanted.
“It’s like a spiritual language. It’s like an ancient language.”
How did Francesca find Hot Jam? She’d wanted to learn Lindy Hop ever since she was a child, watching her father go dance at the Savoy. But her journey to the dance was a circuitous one.
“What happened was my mother had passed away and I was really depressed, and my sister said, ‘You can’t stay in the house anymore,’ so she went and she put me out. She said, ‘You need to go out and find something to make you happy, but you’re not going to stay in here and stay depressed.’
“So a friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook. She said, ‘Why don’t you come over to class? We’re having Zouk class.’ I said, ‘Zouk? I’ll go.’ So she got me to dance.
“And this guy was there, and he said, ‘Oh, I see you dance Zouk pretty well. Why don’t you come to West Coast Swing?’ And I said, ‘When is that?’ He said, ‘It’s tomorrow; just come tomorrow.’ So I went and I hung out with him tomorrow.
“And then right in the class, there was Cari. And Cari sat next to me. She said, ‘I really like that outfit you wear, and you dance pretty funky. Why don’t you come to Hot Jam?’ And I said, ‘Hot Jam? What’s that?’ She said, ‘That’s the Lindy.’
“I said, ‘Oh I’ve been looking for you! I’ve been wanting to try that!’ I said, ‘I grew up in an area where that’s all they did when I was growing up, but I didn’t ever learn it!’ She said, ‘We have it every Monday!’
“And I came here and I fell in love.”
Francesca discovered Hot Jam in March, and she’s quickly become a vital member of our community.
“Here, people here love the music, they love the dance, they love the whole experience. And that’s what I like about it.
“You know, it’s very genuine. It’s very comforting when I come. . . . I don’t feel like I’m an outsider.”
What keeps her coming back to Hot Jam?
“The people! The dance. The music. The whole experience. I just love it.
“Matter of fact, nobody gets in the way of my Monday night. Everybody knows this is my Lindy Hop, my Swing night; nobody interrupts it. There’s no activity that can go on on Monday night, because this is my night.
“I’ll change my Zouk night, I’ll change my West Coast night, I’ll change my—now there’s Hustle on Wednesdays that I’m going to, and I can be flexible. But not Monday. You know, I’ve gotta do just Monday.”
If she’s not on the dance floor, you’ll find Francesca volunteering at Hot Jam’s front desk. She’s always up for a heartfelt conversation, a new friendship, and a fun dance.
“What I love about [volunteering] so much is that I get to meet the people when they come in. I get to give some hours of service just to help out.
“When I like a group and it means a lot, I spend a little extra time. To say that I want to give back to the community that I enjoy so much.
“I’m available to listen, too, and not only that, I’m available to dance, also!”