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

ILHC: Update During the Madness

So for those of you who have been living in a cave, this weekend is ILHC (International Lindy Hop Championships). Being my first time at this event, it is a blast and I am glad I chose it as my last hurrah before the college semester swallows me whole.  But I will post some quick things that stood out for myself from the event below:

  1. LED (Lindy Enlightment Dialogue) talks have been a nice break from classes. They have ranged from Skye Humphries explaining why Charlie Chaplin inspires him to Mark Kihara giving away free booze and having open mic karaoke.
  2. Hearing people in the crowd cheering/heckling their friends in different languages. My attempts to learn French paid off when I somehow was seated in the middle of the French-Canadian section for the heckling/cheering en Francais during Pro-Am division today.
  3. Dancing to live music from an assortment of musicians/dancers from 2 am – 4 am in the morning. Part of keeping the “street dancers” cred is apparently dancing in carpet next to the elevators instead of the main floor.
  4. Learning a move called “The Bernie” from Stephen and Bethany, who learned it from Minn Vo, which is named after a dancer from San Francisco. How everyone in the scene manages to know each other never ceases to amaze me.
  5. Having everyone in the Open J&J/Advanced J&J/Pro|Am/Balboa J&J for the day competitors meeting attempting to cram into a room intended for only about 70 people.
  6. Hearing Bobby White Robert E. Lee the Third’s from Swungover full name pronounced in every other competition.

Anyways, Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five featuring Hilary Alexander will be playing tonight so I have to go prepped for that. Exciting since Josh Callazo will be in the mix after his hiatus this past summer!

Camp Hollywood XIII

Camp Hollywood XIII
Camp Hollywood XIII

For those of you who were not in California this past weekend, it was the thirteenth annual Camp Hollywood. A three day, four night camp with; daily workshops, live bands every night (and spontaneously during the day and in the halls after midnight), an underground contest at 2 AM, and even a vintage bathing suit contest this year.

What I have always liked about this event is it features something for everybody. You want to learn? A variety of workshops for Lindy Hop, Balboa and Collegiate Shag. You want to compete? Competitions galore. You want to party? You can catch people in the jacuzzi or poolside pretty much 24/7.

Anyways this year I felt attendance was smaller, but there was a lot more energy at the camp. Having Jonathan Stout and whoever had a musical instrument jam during lunch and after live bands ended, in the hallways, brought a great dynamic to the event. Also the classic division (a competition with more emphasis on quality of dancing instead of on flash) was a step in the right direction in my opinion.

Competition this year was pretty intense though, especially in the Pro Lindy, Team Division, and Showcase Division. The placements for all the contests are listed here. Also I would like to share some videos with you below from the event.

Team Division

1st Place: The Fly Rites

I have literally seen every performance these guys did before Camp Hollywood and always found something new to enjoy about it everytime. If you notice at the end of their performance they recieved a standing ovation, the judges noted it as well because they were unanimously decided as first place on the score sheet posted afterwards.

2nd Place: Swing ConneXion

It seems like Canadians are getting everywhere these days in the competitive world of swing dancing. This video, courtesy of Patrick and Natasha shows a great piece in which there is a nice contrast between the beginning and end of the performance. Also note the tricks that involved transfers between two people.

(Note: There were a total of seven teams in the division, if you would like to see the rest they are easily found on youtube)

Pro Lindy


All Skate

One of the youtube comments said it right when they wrote, “For this comp in particular though – this is a contest won in the air.” Due to Camp Hollywood judging 50% the three T’s (Timing, Technique, Teamwork) and 50% showmanship, you will probably not see more flash or air thrown in any competitions in the US.

The placements are listed below:

  • 1st – Nick Williams & Laura Keat
  • 2nd – Mike Pedroza & Nikki Marvin
  • 3rd – Kevin St Laurent & Angel Jenkins
  • 4th – Marty Klempner & Delilah Williams
  • 5th – Ceth Stifel & Tiffiny Wine


1st Place: Jo Hoffburg & Kevin St Laurent

Great song choice combined with a clean and entertaining performance (especially in the solo section).

2nd Place: Patrick Szmidt and Natasha Ouiment

If you have ever taken any of Patrick & Natasha’s online lessons, you will be very familiar with the beginning of this song. Notice at 1:31 the double cartwheels, this was one of the visuals that was stuck in my head all weekend.

François Paré & Nadine Gagnon

Even though this couple didn’t place, I though enjoyed how they did a Balboa showcase that was enjoyable to watch and it seems they really put themselves into it. I hope to see more from this couple in the future.

The placements are listed below:.

  • 1st – Kevin St Laurent & Jo Hoffberg
  • 2nd – Patrick Szmidt & Natasha Ouimet
  • 3rd – Doug Silton & Angel Jenkins
  • 4th – Marty Klempner & Delilah Williams
  • 5th – Joel Plys & Valerie Salstrom

(Note: Like the team division there were several showcases, if you would like to see the rest they are easily found on youtube under Patrick and Natasha’s channel)

François Paré & Nadine Gagnon

Swing Dance Avec Le Moderne Twist

A friend of mine from college was kind enough to send me the clip below that she recorded when she was attending a Caravan Palace concert in Quebec, Canada.

At the beginning couple on the right is Max Pitruzzella and Annie Trudeau, the couple on the right is Thomas Blacharz and Natasha Ouimet.

What I find inspiring about this clip is the fact that they combined Lindy Hop, Charleston, classic Jazz steps, and Balboa all into one routine that won over the crowd. They did an amazing job at bringing swing dance to a modern audience.

Edit: Thanks to MQAvatar on Yehoodi, the second couple was not just identified but also we now have a full clip of the performance.

Edit Deux (Two): Apparently I made a rookie mistake and didn’t search out the world wide web to see if this was covered already. Lindy Dandy already beat me to the chase on this one. Instead of deleting this post, I will leave it up because I figure Max, Annie, Thomas, and Natasha will not mind extra advertisement for them.

What Basic?

During the Balboa Rendezvous this past April, I absorbed a lot of new information during the workshops. However the time that I learned the most important lesson of the weekend was not during the actual workshops, but after the Q & A session watching many of the original Balboa dancers during their jam in the Balboa Pavilion.

The one thing that stuck out to me (besides watching a 97 year old man tear up the dance floor) was the fact that none of them used the usual up-holds or down-holds in repetition the way most people are taught during most Balboa workshops, each of them had their own unique steps.

Take a look at this clip provided by onlybalboa.com of Bobby Mcgees, a venue for Balboa dancing a few years back in Southern California to see my point:

One thing I have been doing in result is trying to dance without relying on a certain “basic pattern” for Balboa, constantly switching between different variations of holds.

Sadly though, this had lead to me being annoyed when people claim there is a basic for Balboa or ask me what the “basic step” is.

Event Review: The Balboa Rendezvous

Growing up in Southern California one of the hangout spots I had was the Balboa Peninsula. With a beautiful beach, a fun zone with rides and respective arcades, and several shops to eat at and explore it was a great place for myself, friends, and family to visit and enjoy. When after a few months in swing dancing in Pennsylvania I learned a dance originated from the same place that I had many happy memories of, I was ecstatic to put it lightly and knew I had to learn this dance.

Normally I would not be able to afford going to the Balboa Rendezvous, but luckily enough this year I won one of the scholarships provided for college students and international attendees.


At Balboa Rendezvous they have something called Balboa University, which they have six different tracks from absolute beginner to invitational only track. I took the Junior (Level 3) track which ended up being a good fit for me. The majority of the classes challenged me enough but by the end of the class I could get a significant amount of the material. Only one of the classes was an absolute breeze for me and I also only had one extremely difficult class. For levels 1-4 they had in class instructors. They were advanced Balboa dancers that are thrown into the rotation and give people individual feedback. While a great idea in theory the problem was some of the classes rotated so slowly that you might only get one of them once or in some cases not at all. However when I did get them in rotation they often gave advice that was very helpful. Like any workshop they also had the problem of people placing themselves in levels above what they should have been taking.

Q&A With The Masters

Before the dance started there was a Q&A session with as Joel Plys calls them “the masters” but as many in swing dance community refers them to as the “old timers”. They told great stories like how they used to sneak in the dances via the fire escapes and camp on the beach. One of the quotes from the session that stuck out in my head was one gentleman said something to the effect of, “You know you are truly a great dancer when you have moves that nobody can steal.” On a slightly related note this session gave me the privilege to meet Hal Takier, a dancer I look up to who was featured in many film clips such as Maharaja.


The funny thing is at the dances this year I noticed a large contingent from the usual southern California crowd I run into when I am back home. However I think it is due to this year with Fleur De Lindy, DCLX, and The Hawkeye Swing Dance Festival it would be a tough call for people not close to California to skip out for this event. While the Friday and Saturday night dances were fun, the noteworthy one was the Sunday night dance held in the Balboa Pavilion itself.

The historic Balboa Pavilion
The historic Balboa Pavilion.

Knowing the history of the pavilion and have visited the Balboa Peninsula area many times growing up, dancing inside was a nostalgic and exciting experience for me. Playing that night was the Solomon Douglas Swingtet which featured a killer version of Jimmie Lunceford’s “White Heat”, the floor was on fire when that song hit the pavilion. I am not sure if it was the music, the atmosphere or combination of both but I felt like I danced the hell out of that night and left very satisfied after midnight.


After attending the event though I would say if you are looking for a unique balboa experience (especially if you are a dance history geek like myself) I recommend you check it out.