You can get a day’s worth of live music and dancing on Cherokee Street on Saturday - all for free.
Beginning at noon, local jazz musicians will take to stages all along the street for the Cherokee Street Jazz Crawl, a part of the annual Nevermore Jazz Ball and St. Louis Swing Dance Festival. The four-day celebration draws nationally renowned swing dancers and enthusiasts from out of town for its nightly dance parties and competitions, all set to live music from local and national artists.
Passes for the festival’s ticketed events sold out in record time, but co-directors Christian Frommelt and Jenny Shirar made sure Saturday is packed with free performances and lessons for anyone and everyone. The pair added a second set of music to the jazz crawl and a series of free dance lessons.
“The jazz crawl has always been our way to really make the festival accessible to all St. Louisans,” Frommelt said.
He and Shirar danced together when they were students at Washington University in St. Louis and often traveled out of town for different dance events. After founding local nonprofit Lindy Hop, which preserves and promotes local, historic jazz dances, the pair established the festival to emphasize the St. Louis community and its local dance heritage.
Attendees can take part in that local dance heritage by learning the city’s own historic St. Louis Bop on Saturday. Local dance instructors from studios like Lindy Hop and The St. Louis Bop Preservation Society will teach beginner classes in a variety of genres from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cherokee Performing Arts Center. The local acts taking over Cherokee Street include The Gateway Jazz Project and festival favorite, Miss Jubilee.
This year’s additions to the festival were due in part to the growth along Cherokee Street, which has always been the festival’s home base.
“The dances and music are the attractions, but our real purpose is not only to celebrate what we do as dancers but to bring the community together,” Frommelt said. “We wanted to bring people to St. Louis to showcase what we love about the city and create a ripple effect.”
That ripple effect includes supporting local musicians like pianist Ethan Leinwand, who now plays regularly at Yaqui’s on Cherokee after first performing at the festival. Leinwand will host an all-star jazz jam at Yaqui’s featuring the musicians who performed throughout the day, while local duo Kelly Wells and Ryan Spearman will spin records for a swing dance party down the street at Foam Coffee and Beer. The night will end with an after-party at Art Bar, with entertainment from the Saint Boogie Brass Band.
Frommelt said he expects about a thousand people to walk Cherokee throughout the day.
“We think of dance as a very formalized thing,” Frommelt said. “You take a class, you learn the steps and guidelines – but it’s truly a social event set to great music. It’s really about having a good time.”
The festival is made possible through a partnership between the nonprofit Lindy Hop dance studio and the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis. Visit the Nevermore Jazz Ball’s website for the weekend’s complete schedule.
- What: Nevermore Jazz Ball and St. Louis Swing Dance Festival, Cherokee Street Jazz Crawl
- When: The Cherokee Street Jazz Crawl takes place 11 a.m. through 8 p.m. Saturday; The Nevermore Jazz Ball and festival host events Thursday through Sunday
- Where: The jazz crawl takes place at venues all along Cherokee Street; The festival hosts dances at various locations around St. Louis
- Festival website