Thoughts on swing dancing and Lindy Hop, one word at a time…

A Look To The Past (Part 1):Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers

Something that I have always appreciated is when people in the swing dance community take performances/routines from the past and attempt to recreate it.  This new series I am starting is focused on online clips of those who have chosen to take the route of bringing the past to the present and posting their performance next to the original performance. Personally I see their endeavors as a great service to the community because it reminds us of our roots as swing dancers.

For this first installment I am going to focus on the recreation of two classic clips by the troupe admired by many Lindy Hoppers, Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers.

Hellzapoppin (1941)

For the plot of the movie you can check this wikipedia link. However the significance for us is the performance by Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in probably one of, if not the most iconic Lindy Hop scene of all time. At Frankie 95 a recreation of the original Hellzapoppin clip was performed to pay homage to Frankie Manning the Ambassador of Swing in celebration of his 95th birthday. Tragically he passed away before the celebration, but I think he would have been proud. The level of detail the dancers put into the recreation of this original choreography is amazing, this can be especially seen in the mash-up clip below which shows both the original clip and the Frankie 95 performance side by side.

Original Clip:

Frankie 95 Performance:

Mashup-Clip Showing Both Performances Side By Side:


Original Dancers: (Provided by hellzapoppin.net) + Counterparts in Frankie 95

William Downes (overalls) – Dax Hock
& Frances “Mickey” Jones (maid) – Alice Mei

Billy Ricker (chef’s hat) – Davis Thurber
& Norma Miller – Claudia Joyal-Laplante

Al Minns (white coat, black pants) – Max Pitruzzella
& Willa Mae Ricker – Annie Trudeau

Frankie Manning (overalls) – Ryan Francois
& Ann Johnson (maid) – Lana Williams

Keep Punching (1938)

A movie about a boxer nicknamed Kid Dynamite which the plot can be found at this IMBD link. However again for us swing dancers, it is the nightclub scene which features a performance which is known as “The Big Apple” by Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers which is significant.  This same performance was later recreated by the Houston Hep Cats at ALHC 2002. More detailed information about this can be found in Jerry Almonte’s “Artistry in Rhythm” series on his blog Wandering and Pondering, found at this link.

The Big Apple today is taught all over the world as a swing dance routine, shoot you can even learn it online from Patrick and Natasha if you want. However the comment by a user named sbbbjm from the ALHC youtube clip shows the original work the Houston Hep Cat folks had to do when breaking down this routine,

yeah, the cool thing is we didn’t just take a class to learn it all bc the jazzline wasn’t being taught by anyone at the time.

fritz broke down every part and taught it to us after watching the scratchy video clip (no youtube at the time) – even with the original audio not lining up with the video.

thats why this was so awesome at the time . . . we practiced this just as much as you would practice any other team routine to make sure our spacing and styling was authentic to the clip.

Original Clip:

Houston Hep Cats (ALHC 2002):

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2 responses

  1. David L

    As a note a bunch of us collegiate shag dancers in DC did a recreation of the group dance in the Arthur Murray shag which was danced to the tune “Mr Ghost Goes to Town” . There is one version that stops where the orginal routine ends that was reengineered by Joe & Tabitha Robinson. For the performance routine we added choreography to the end of the original routine to finish the song.

    October 20, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    • Thanks for mentioning that, I may throw that in a future installment!

      October 20, 2010 at 3:41 pm

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