A jazz step I like because of its kooky name and look is known as a “Tabby the Cat”. I was casually chatting about it with my friend Annabel the other day and she mentioned its rather popular in the swing dance community these days, apparently due to Sharron Davis.  I do not know the exact origins of this move (besides it coming from the song “Tabby the Cat”  Edit: See Peter Loggins comment below for details.), however I do have a feeling it has something to do with Dean Collins.

They are still working on getting the move down.

Dean Collins: The Cat’s Meow

First reason is Dean seen doing the move with fellow dancers Johnny Duncan,  Jenny Duncan, Jack Arkin, and Irene Thomas in a 1945[1] soundie Tabby the Cat, which also featured comedian/pianist Eppy Pearson.

The move is first shown at 0:36, then Dean strolls in and does it with the gang at 1:05

Second is it is a featured move in his shim sham, the Dean Collin’s Shim Sham. You can him do it himself below in a 1983 impromptu performance at about 1:25.

A more modern demo of the Dean Collin’s Shim Sham is below with our friends at the London Swing Dance Society. They do the move at about 1:28.

Modern Uses:

The move Tabby the Cat is great for partnered, solo dancing and a necessity if you want to learn Dean Collin’s Shim Sham. One of my favorite examples of it used in partnered dancing is below by Juan Villafane with Carla Heiney at this past year’s Lindy Focus. He hits it perfectly at 0:33, BAM.

Sharon Davis seems to have adapted it for the blues ascetic.

How to Learn It?

A skim notes version for you fast learners, check out this video from the Houston Swing Dance society.


[1] The interesting thing about the Tabby the Cat soundie when I was attempting to do research for it was IMDb has 1945 as the year of the clip and only lists the pianist and vocalist. Whereas whoswhoinswingdance.com lists the full cast of dancers but has the year listed at 1939??. I chose IMDb’s date, because the song is listed in wikipedia coming out 1944 {Tabby The Cat (Arr. Dave Matthews) Broadcasat Hollywood Paladium, Hollywood, Ca.}

5 thoughts on “Tabby the Cat

  1. Dean Collins called the step the Leg break, because the timing is that of what is known as a “Half Break”. “we” Los Angeles dancers, are the ones that named it the “Tabby” after the clip because at the time we didn’t know the real name. My Partner Lisa and I were the first to perform Dean’s Shim Sham, since his passing (nobody knew the routine other then him), and we performed it as well at the London Lindy Hop Festival around 1999, which is on youtube. His shim Sham was a performance piece, NOT for social dancing, and just as important was the “Body” movement, not just “steps” which could be improvised on, like other shim shams such as Leonard Reeds original, the Savoy Shim Sham (Al and Leons) or Frankie Mannings.

    If you want more history of any of this, im just an email away…Peter

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