Last year was the 37th annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade in Brooklyn, New York. The event drew over 800,000 people and is the largest art parade in the United States. The Mermaid Parade is so big it overloads cell towers.
Last year was also the first year the NY Sea Findyhoppers, a vibrant troupe of swing dancers, performed in the Mermaid Parade. The new Lindy Hop performance group placed 3rd out of 750 marching groups.
This year the fate of the parade is still to be determined. Usually, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade takes place on the first Saturday of summer to celebrate the change of season. 2020’s parade was scheduled to happen on June 20th, the summer solstice, but has since been postponed to an undetermined date due to pandemic regulations.
NY Sea Findyhoppers co-organizer Seth Harris has not been deterred.
“It’s like summer camp for us, you know, everyone getting together, seeing each other. It’s something that’s very important to all of us,” Seth explains. “So we decided we were just going to make it virtual until we know what the plan is with the city, when we can socially dance, when we can perform.”
Seth Harris is a Brooklyn resident. By day he works in construction and by night he’s an avid swing dancer. He’s been a serious swing dancer for the past five years. Seth dances mostly Balboa but also loves Charleston, Lindy Hop, and St. Louis Shag.
Seth enjoys sharing his love of swing with others. Alongside collaborating on the choreography for the Findyhoppers, he’d been working on starting a monthly beginner class for swing dancers. He’s hopeful it’s still something he can do in the future.
But for now, he’s focused on figuring out how to adapt to and overcome the current situation. He’s worked with Findyhoppers co-organizer Jeri Lynn Astra Herbert to tailor the routine for different scenarios.
“Swing dance is a partner dance, but there’s also something called solo jazz which is a lot of swing dance moves that are just done solo,” says Seth. They decided to create a partner routine for people who are quarantined together as well as a solo jazz routine. The two routines are synchronized together so that the dancers are stepping at the same moment.
“We can do a routine where everyone is six feet apart. Generally, people are closer together for chorus lines but we could still do our routine. We kind of took the idea of what they do for flash mobs in how we choreographed this and how we strategized what moves we were and were not going to do.”
Seth is hosting regular NY Sea Findyhoppers rehearsals on Zoom. He has high hopes that the parade will still happen this year and that the Findyhoppers can perform live.
Seth Harris has participated in the last nine Coney Island Mermaid Parades and has so much passion for the event. He loves that they dance past historic sites like the original Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand, Luna Park, and The Cyclone, a nearly century-old wooden roller coaster.
He also loves looking out in the stands to see people who are 80 years old, snapping their fingers, remembering how they used to dance to that same jazz music.
Over the years Seth has noticed that “there’s a lot of people who aren’t really artistic but become artistic for the parade. It brings out the inner artist.”
While Seth would prefer a live parade, he still thinks they would still have a good time with a virtual event.
“We would do a music video or something like that,” says Seth. “We’ve got enough friends as musicians, we could probably have the song performed in the video and dance to the song.”
While Seth Harris waits to see what will become of this year’s Coney Island Mermaid Parade he continues to work on his Balboa skills with his wife Briana. Seth also invests in his other passion, visual art. He can’t spend time dancing with friends or at his favorite jazz clubs, but he can sketch them in charcoal or paint them with oil.
Want to explore online dance opportunities for swing dancers? Check out our digital dance class roundup!