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Swing dancer, 91, gets New Orleans ballet for Father's Day: What about your Dad?

Ballet dancer and choreographer Marjorie Hardwick Schramel dances with her father, James Hardwick, at his 90th birthday party. She recently choreographed a work for New Orleans Ballet Theater, that reflects her father's style as a swing dancer. (Marjorie Hardwick Schramel).

Some daddies get ties and fishing gear for Father's Day; James Hardwick is getting a new ballet from his daughter. That's what happens when your child is a nationally noted ballerina-turned-choreographer, and you're a 91-year-old swing dancer who still clears the floor at parties.

Marjorie Hardwick Schramel didn't set out to make a holiday gift for her dad, but it's a nice accident of timing that her New Orleans Ballet Theatre, (co-founded with husband Gregory Schramel) will kick off the Father's Day weekend with a world premiere that reflects her father's influence.

"I first learned to move with a partner by dancing with my dad in the kitchen – and a lot of that comes through in my new piece," Schramel said. "I don't actually have a girl dancer standing on the feet of her partner – you can't do that in toe shoes – but you can feel dad's style all through the piece."

Schramel sets her dance, "7 Mose Pieces," to music of Mose Allison. The pianist's loping, Beatnik-style groove came out of Greenwich Village in the 1950s – and it feels like a natural extension of the hip dance music that got young bodies moving in swing era ballrooms.

Schramel's father did a lot of swing dancing, both before and after his combat experience in the Pacific during World War II. And he never lost his moves.

"At every wedding, all the girls dance with my dad," Schramel said. "People clear the dance floor and watch him. He's so fluid, so connected to the music. When he danced at his 90thbirthday, it was hard to believe that he had parked his walker before stepping out."

Schramel's father won't be present at Friday's premiere in New Orleans – he lives in Dallas – but he'll be clamoring for a video, she said. From what we can tell, he's in for a treat.

New Orleans got an early taste of Schramel's approach in 2014, when she presented "Seventh Son," a brief duet set to Allison's music. To stage her expansive new suite, which closes a program of four dances, NOBT has recruited dancers from San Francisco's Smuin Ballet, Atlanta Ballet and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

Happy Father's Day, Mr. Hardwick!

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