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(Photo courtesy of Irina Amzashvili and Anthony Chen) Utah swing dancers Irina Amzashvili and Anthony Chen, dancing at home in a clip that’s one of dozens included in the music video for “Dance Song (for the End of the World)” by Lizzy & the Triggermen, a Los Angeles retro-swing group.
Nothing like a global pandemic to get one thinking about the apocalypse — and then setting those thoughts to music.
That’s what Lizzy Shapiro, lead singer and songwriter of the retro-swing combo Lizzy & the Triggermen, has done with her 10-member band’s new single, “Dance Song (For the End of the World),” a grooving song for dancing at the edge of the abyss.
The video for the song, released on YouTube on April Fool’s Day, features Shapiro, her bandmates, and more than 60 swing dancers from 15 countries, from Argentina to Vietnam — including a Salt Lake City couple doing the Lindy Hop — all filmed last month in their social-distanced homes.
“I just took the most extreme example of, like, ‘What if the very worst thing happens and the world does end?’ Well, there’s something freeing about that. Then there’s nothing left to worry about. All we have to do is connect with people, and dance and listen to music,” Shapiro said this week from her home in Los Angeles.
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(Photo courtesy of Lizzy & the Triggermen) Lizzy Shapiro, lead singer and songwriter for the L.A. retro-swing band Lizzy & the Triggermen, performing in her home for the band’s video “Dance Song (For the End of the World),” which features swing dancers from 15 countries, all filmed in March 2020 in their coronavirus-isolated homes.
The coronavirus wasn’t on Shapiro’s mind — or anyone’s — when she wrote the song last August.
“I had been feeling a lot of anxiety about the world, just feeling really precarious in this way that I don’t remember feeling in my lifetime,” Shapiro said. “Globally, nationally, personally … and I was trying to find a way to find joy, even though I was facing a lot of scary things.”
That feeling, Shapiro said, “is something that we all experience at different times in our life, many times. What’s unique about right now is that we’re all feeling it together. And while that’s scary and awful, there’s also something beautiful in connecting about it.”
Shapiro sought that connection through the video, which she produced with Nikki Marvin, owner of Atomic Ballroom, a swing-dance venue in Orange County, Calif. Through Marvin’s connections in the swing-dance community, and the dancers who have become regulars at the Triggermen’s L.A. gigs, Shapiro and video directors Justin Njim and Jack Bishop sought video of people performing their moves wherever they were sheltered in place.
Among the dozens who took part were Salt Lake City dancers Irina Azmashvili (who used to work at Atomic Ballroom) and Anthony Chen, who performed their specialty, the Lindy Hop. (Look for them at the 1:47 mark on the video.)
“We got the song beforehand, recorded ourselves dancing a few times, and sent it along,” Chen said in a phone interview this week.
It was a opportunity to swing dance, something the coronavirus largely has denied the couple, who are partners in life as well as on the dance floor.
Azmashvili is a full-time dance instructor, and is “basically losing her job for the moment,” Chen said. (Azmashvili was camping this week in southern Utah and out of communication, he said.)
Chen still has his day job, as a genetics counselor for Myriad, the Salt Lake City molecular diagnostic testing company. But the nonprofit Chen founded, Salt City Swing, had to put its weekly social dances and partnered classes on hold until social distancing rules are lifted; solo classes are still available remotely.
The drive to stay at home to avoid spreading the coronavirus also hit Shapiro and her band. Lizzy & the Triggermen had been scheduled to perform at the SXSW music festival in Austin in March, before it was canceled. They’ve also postponed a string of concerts in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and other cities, timed to the May 14 launch of the band’s first EP, “Good Songs for Bad Times.”
Making the video gave Shapiro something to cut through the quarantine-imposed boredom. “I’m an extrovert, so being cooped up in my house all day long is extra strange,” she said. “Normally, I’m a complete control freak … and there was just no way to control [this], so we just decided to embrace how decentralized the whole process was going to be.”
Making the video — finding the dancers, collecting their footage and editing that into a final product — came together within a week or so. “Honestly, I was really loath to have the process end, because I have nothing to do right now,” Shapiro said. “I probably did more rounds of notes [to the directors] than were necessary, because I didn’t want it to stop.”
Chen said he appreciates the “Why not?” vibe of Shapiro’s song. “[It’s] saying there really isn’t anything else you can do but dance,” he said. “It really takes us away from all the other, darker things that we could be focusing on.”
And the video, he said, delivers its own hopeful message. “Even though we’re all in our own places at home, the video takes all of that and puts us together,” Chen said. “In a sense, we’re all alone together.”
It’s that human connection — “a lot of what you can’t do right now,” he said — that Chen loves about swing dancing.
“It’s like a language, where you don’t even need to know the person, or even speak the same actual language as the other person,” Chen said. “You get to dance with them for three or four minutes — however long the song is — and it’s a special type of connection that I feel like transcends cultures and languages.”