There's no better indicator of a trend's death than when Hollywood gets its grubby little hands involved. By the time the latest craze finally makes its way onto the studio heads' cultural radar, it has usually been long since abandoned for something else. Take swing dancing, for example. The Gap started the fad's demise with a commercial featuring a Louis Prima soundtrack and a cast of shiny, happy, Gap-clad swing dancers that appeared on more television screens than dust. Now the other shoe is about to drop in the form of New Line Cinema's Blast From the Past, starring Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Sissy Spacek, Christopher Walken, and Dave Foley, opening on February 12. To hype the film's release, New Line has organized swing-dancing competitions, cleverly titled the Blast From The Past Atomic Swing Thing, in several cities, with the winning couple from each city flown to the film's New York premiere to perform. The first round of the competition gets into full--uh, sorry--swing this week at Red Jacket, 3606 Greenville, on Thursday; Club Clearview, 2803 Main on Friday; Jet Lounge, 2813 Commerce, and Sand Castle, 2629 W. Northwest Highway, on Saturday; and the Old Crow, 1911 Greenville, on Sunday. The city finals happen at Grapevine Mills Mall on January 23. Maybe now breakdancing can make its long-overdue comeback. Contact one of the participating clubs for more information.
Baseball couldn't have had a better run of luck this year, with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's home-run duel headlining a season many observers breathlessly refer to as the best season ever, followed by an off-season that kept the league on the front page of the sports section, thanks to the NBA lockout and a few embarrassingly rich contracts. The canceled World Series of a few years back is mostly a pale memory now, mentioned only to underscore the point of how far the league has come since then. To keep younger fans interested until spring training, The Ballpark at Arlington's Legends of the Game Museum and Learning Center is sponsoring a special event on Friday, featuring Texas Rangers radio announcer Vince Cotroneo reading Margaret Blackstone's This is Baseball, which walks young fans through the game. The museum also contains three floors of baseball memorabilia, as well as interactive exhibits. It's nice to see the Rangers are taking the time out to nurture another generation of fans who will have their hearts broken when the union's contract runs out in a few years. The event happens 10 a.m. Friday at the Legends of the Game Museum, located at The Ballpark at Arlington. Admission is $3. Call (817) 273-5087.
Jeff Liles has been in Deep Ellum longer than most of the buildings, booking bands at the Prophet Bar, Theatre Gallery, and Trees, producing other ones (including Three on a Hill), and performing with the various incarnations of his own Decadent Dub Team and cottonmouth, tx. Lately, he's added a few new gigs to his considerable resume, running his own record label, HEIRESS-Aesthetic, and hosting his own Internet-only radio show, Heir Guitar. But his own music has always been his top priority, and on Saturday, he'll perform with labelmate Brian Houser as part of The Whistlin' Alex Moore Songwriters Series at PaperBacks Plus Bookstore, 6115 LaVista. The show happens at 8 p.m., and admission is $5. Call (214) 821-9671.
Quilting is a lost art, forgotten in the impatience of modern society. It takes time to make a quilt, because they are more than just decorations, or something to keep you warm at night. Most of them are like storybooks, especially the ones contained in Fabric 4 Life: Quilts by Anita Knox, Carolyn Mazloomi, Aundia McCoy, and Edjohnetta Miller. The quilts contain strong references to their African ancestors, myths, and ancient and contemporary symbols, using a variety of materials, including painted canvas, African fabrics, and traditional cotton. Fabric 4 Life opens on Sunday at James Kemp Gallery in The Black Academy of Arts and Letters, 650 South Griffin. The exhibit continues through May 1. Call (214) 743-2440.
A Merry War, starring Richard E. Grant and Helena Bonham Carter, landed on many critics' Top 10 lists in 1997, but somehow it never made its way to Dallas. On Monday, the USA Film Festival finally presents the local premiere of the film as part of its Independent Showcase series. Based on Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell's satirical 1936 novel, A Merry War is a tale of two Depression-era lovers working toward opposite goals. Grant is a would-be poet who leaves his comfortable job to be a struggling artist, upsetting his girlfriend (Bonham Carter), who wants to settle down and get married. It's a witty, charming film, deserving of the acclaim it received. Unfortunately, the Monday screening is its one and only in the area, unless you can pry the review copy out of our hands. Don't try us. The screening happens at the AMC Glen Lakes Theatres, 9450 N. Central Expressway, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $7, $6 for USA Film Festival members. Call (214) 821-FILM.
Many artists never receive the opportunity to see their work in an art museum. The Dallas Museum of Art, however, will give 34 students from 12 Dallas area high schools that chance. The exhibit is part of the Advanced Placement Incentive Arts Program, which was developed to raise the standards of teaching high school art, motivate students, and involve them more in the arts community. For some, this is only the beginning of their careers. But if even only one of the students goes on to pursue a career in art, then the Incentive Arts Program will be considered a success. Maybe it already should be. The exhibit is free, and happens January 16 through April 11 at the Dallas Museum of Art's FINA Foundation Gallery, 1717 N. Harwood. Call (214) 871-5800.