Tranky Doo What Are You?

This past week with a couple of friend at Penn State I spent about 3+ hours polishing up my Tranky Doo. It is a jazz routine that I have taken a lesson on the first third of the routine from Shesha Marvin and learned the rest half-assing it in public online. However like most people in the world with the second half of the Big Apple, I could get through it albeit looking at someone more experienced and presenting it myself sloppily at best.

For those of you unfamilar with it Atomic Ballroom has a great description as follows,

“The Tranky Doo is even more fun than it sounds! A silly series of mostly jazz steps, this line dance was choreographed by Pepsi Bethel in the Savoy Ballroom during the 1940’s. Lindy hoppers will often spontaneously begin this routine and, much like the Shim Sham, individuals will join in once they recognize its beginning moves. Traditionally the song was danced to Erskine Hawkins Tuxedo Junction, a mellow tune, but the routine’s versatility allows it to be danced to a number of more upbeat songs such as Ella Fitzgerald’s Dipsy Doodle. The Spirit Moves, a widely studied video record of vintage dancing, has popularized the Dipsy Doodle because it was the score used for the Tranky Doo.”

One of the things that I love about the Tranky Doo is the room for self-expression or in some cases cohesion. Philly always looks adorable when you see sometimes they have certain quirks that most of them do together when they perform it. Yet some individuals can bring out a plethora of crazy creativity when it comes to the simplest of movements like the mambo-step.  Anyways here are a long list of videos that I think are great if you are looking to get some Tranky Doo creative inspiration.

Below I have listed many different recorded Tranky Doo performances vintage & contemporary that have inspired me and I hope it does the same for you.

Vintage Tranky Doo Videos

Spirit Moves (Al Minns, Pepsi Bethel and Leon James)

The 1950’s documentary produced, directed, edited, and narrated by Mura Dehn shows the choreographer of the routine Pepsi Bethel and two legendary dancers Al Minns and Leon James performing the Tranky Doo.

Al Minns and Leon James on DuPont Show of the Week (1961)

Al and Leon start with the Tranky Doo but go into other dances such as shimmies and snake hips. Mike Faltesek & Nathan Bugh did a wonderful tribute to this performance at Lindy Focus 2010.

Al & Leon Performing During American Musical Theatre Credits

Al and Leon perform during the closing credits for American Musical Theatre to the song “When the Saints Go Marching In”. This was part of the promotional campaign for Marshall Stearns’s book “The Story of Jazz” that they both were interviewed for.

Unknown ??

Unfortunately I am at a loss when it comes to the historical information to this version of the Tranky Doo. However the performance is smooth as butter and is the only other performance I have seen to a live band. If you know any information about this please provide it to me and i’ll tack it on here and give you credit.

Contemporary Tranky Doo Videos

CCX 2008 Tranky Doo by Mike, Stefan and Bethany

The funny thing about this clip is I had friends in two different states (Pennsylvania/California) say that this is best performance of the Tranky Doo they have seen hands-down. I couldn’t agree with them more. My friend Annabel Truesdell insightfully commented the other day something to the effect that while they are all doing the steps, they are adding in their own personalities. I’ve noticed when a lot of people try to add their personalities in routines, they sometimes err into the region of going off on a tangent. None of these three make that mistake, on top of that they bring a truck-load of energy to the performance.

The Tranky Doo Performed by Shesha, Emily, and Mikey

This was the first version of the Tranky Doo I ever saw online a few years back. I just love how all their personalities shine through. Jo is yelling and hip shaking, Mikey makes a eagle caw noise on the eagle slide and uses his face to accent movements, and Shesha really uses his height to create some good lines.

Austin Swing Syndicate’s 10th Anniversary Dance (Sorry embedding will not work for this clip)

What I particularly love about this clip (besides that it is in high-def) is the way that Laura Glaess really uses her dress to its full effect in accenting her motions. In addition a lot of them are ‘selling it’ to me and not just going through the motions.

New Years – Tranky Doo-Lindy Focus VII

Bobby White owning every shimmy, rock, and box steps. I know I overstress this in my blog, but it is the key point that separates someone from doing choreography and performing.

MoKanSwing (Nina Gilkenson and Mike Faltesek) 

Most teachers when reviewing a lesson at the end of class usually glaze over the topic. They give a good review but lacking the energy they had in the class. Nina and Mike give it all in an end of a class review and bring a lot of energy to the table in this Tranky Doo. It is also one of the few videos shot at the rare side angle.

Hat Trick Tranky Doo (ILHC Cabaret Division 2010)

Props for the dapper hats, extra props for doing the Tranky Doo while using them for hat tricks. Also 1:14 is simply magical, the level of coordination that takes is impressive.

Sving du Nord 2007 (Dax Hock & Jojo Jackson)

What I like about this one is they seamlessly transition in and out of social dance during it and they are both paying attention to each other and using that within the performance. Some useful comments from the danceprimer blog where they note the smoothness of the performance and the inclusion of Shim Sham & Big Apple steps.

SHSC 2009 – Jazz Root Week – Dax & Alice Tranky Doo

This is a good example of a Tranky Doo performance in a class that from appearances literally just learned the routine. In addition I am a sucker for the beautiful shadows shown in this performance. Watch at 1:40 for how Alice accents the “When you think you’re crazy” lyrics in the Dipsy Doodle, hilarious.

Solo swingtanzen mit Ali&Katja aus Darmstadt un Heidelberg

If you couldn’t figure it out by the title, this is a Tranky Doo performed in Germany. Ali & Katja lead what appears to be a class of recently taught students. At 0:50 there is some pretty fancy footwork for the break by the gentleman in the front right. He does a fun walk variation at 1:48 as well. Also love the blue/red lighting as well.

Mike & Frida – Chevy Chase Ballroom (2003) 

Unfortunately the person filming this clip only give us less then a minute of this Tranky Doo performance. However it is to probably the fastest song I’ve seen it performed to, and both Falty and Frida bring their A-Game, I don’t know how Frida does it but her applejacks look so controlled yet wild simultaneously. The commentary on the clip while slightly obnoxious, is also particularly hilarious.

KBF2011 Line Dance #1 Tranky Doo (Korea Balboa Festival)

Last but not certainly not least our friends from the Korea Balboa Festival throw down. Watch the girl in the red skirt and bow; she uses her skirt to accent her movement, looks like she is having the time of her life, puts her personal touch into the routine, and even has time to tease the guy in front of her at 0:37.


I watched around 30+ Tranky Doo videos and still had a hard time narrowing it down to the large amount of ones I posted. If you want to look at the rest that are not linked on here, check out this following link.

If you want to learn the Tranky Doo you can check yehoodi or an OC Swing Dance Club page for a list of printable choreography. In addition here are a bunch of youtube videos as well that you can follow along.

If you need an extreme detailed breakdown gives you what you need in these seperate videos.
So if you know the routine already take a gander through the videos and try some new things out. If you don’t know it yet, you now have more then enough resources to learn it. Carpe Noctem folks.

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