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

Hal Takier: The Ultimate Jitterbug (1917-2012)

Recently Southern California lost a dance legend, Hal Takier. Words cannot even begin to describe the debt that the swing dance community owes this man, or how much he was cherished by his community, especially by those in Southern California.

Marcelo from yehoodi gave me permission to edit and re-post something he originally wrote on Yehoodi for Hal 90th birthday, that I think is a well-put tribute.

Hal Takier, is a man whom many (including myself) call the greatest swing dancer who ever lived.

Hal is an incredible man, full of life, insight, and wit. With his wife Marge at his side, Hal has helped those of us who have sought to learn about Los Angeles’s local history and the invention of Balboa come to discover and appreciate this amazing dance and its unique contribution to American history.

Hal’s dancing is now the foundation for hundreds upon hundreds of young dancers (including myself). We are all shameless imitators of Hal’s innovative dancing style, which combined pure Balboa with the rollicking moves of Swing:

Along with the drop seen here, Hal also invented the infamous “Merry-go-round,” several drops, and his singular three-wall flying lindy basic is now known as a “flying Hal.” Hal was one of the dancers in the famous “beach clip,” showing off his insanely fast Balboa style.

Hal was never a professional dancer like Dean Collins. He worked all his life in a rubber factory down in the southern part of LA, driving up to Hollywood to compete in the weekly cutting contests, which he won regularly (much to Dean Collins’s dismay). He belonged for a time to the group the “Ray Rand Dancers,” known for their Balboa and swing combinations. At one point he was considered so good that contests tried to keep him off the floor! That inspired him and his friends to protest the contests that would try to keep them out:

In addition to tons of feature film appearances, Hal’s most famous appearance in movies was in The Maharaja Soundie short from 1943. It’s available on YouTube here:

Hal is also credited with inventing this classic swing pose, in this legendary photo which has appeared in magazines, album covers, and posters:

I had the absolute pleasure to interview Hal and Marge for a documentary I made in film school about his contribution to swing dancing.

I will never forget the one thing he said that is to this day the single most important piece of advice I’ve ever heard from anyone about dancing:

Enjoy the music. It’s all about the music. When that music gets going….boom. I’m gone.” -Hal Takier

Clips of Hal:

On the same thread Marcelo talks about a few clips of Hal.

Hal dancing with his partner at the time, Betty in the famous “beach clip.” Hal’s the one in the black pants. Randomly: The girl in white who dances with the guy in white before Hal and Betty appear, she’s Vanna White’s mom

– Marcelo

Scroll to the two minute mark and you’ll see Hal dancing with Alice “Scotty” Scott, doing among other things an absolutely dynamite Merry-go-round. Scottie’s drop dancing thing is still super popular. Hal’s in the horizontal striped shirt:

– Marcelo

Hal and Betty Takier dancing at Bobby Mc’Gees, an old school venue in Southern California.

Hal and Marge dancing to the song ‘Avalon’ at the Disneyland Carnation Plaza in 1987. Check out those quick successive spins at 1:23.

In Memorandum

Through the generosity of the scholarship program Balboa Rendezvous had at the time, I had the privilege of meeting Hal and his wife Marge at the Balboa Pavilion two years ago. A role model and a master of his craft, I always saw Hal as the quintessence of what it meant to be a Southern California dancer, a jitterbug. A quote from Marcelo’s documentary gives one of the many reasons I sincerely believe that,

“He’s the best swing dancer of all time ever. 84 okay, and up to last year he was whopping all of us. Everytime he went out, he would dance longer and harder then all of us.”

– 2001 L.A. dancer named Christian on Hal Takier

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5 responses

  1. Just wanted to let folks know that I have started a Facebook page for my grandfather. We would love for there to be discussion, photos, memories, etc. posted there!

    February 11, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    • Almost forgot!

      http://www.facebook.com/haltakier

      February 11, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    • Thank you for sharing, I will re-post this information on my facebook page as well.

      Your grandfather was a wonderful man, I consider it a privilege I had the opportunity to meet him.

      February 13, 2012 at 4:28 am

  2. Cookie Smith

    Dear Chris, your grandfather was really something. I loved seeing the videos and reading about him, thanks so much.

    March 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm

  3. Pingback: The Twenty Most Watched Lindy Hop Videos | Lindypenguin

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