Jitterbug! has encouraged choreographers to reach into the future for dance steps never seen before in order for the dancical's heroes Billy Rhythm and Tharbis Jefferson to win the climatic 1931 dance contest at the legendary Savoy Ballroom. Since they are professional dancers working in a Cotton Club revue, it's also a plausible way to bring tap dancing down onto the Savoy floor, executed in tandem during the Jitterbug break. In this example by Lana Williams and Ryan Francois, we are reminded that keeping the choreography real to that period can also win the contest when both dancers can dance like this. Extending the breakaway to this length would have been a radical benchmark in itself 86-years-ago which is one of the primo ingredients for the creation and growth of art: Disruption of the status quo.
"On August 11, 1973, an 18-year-old, Jamaican-American DJ who went by the name of Kool Herc threw a back-to-school jam at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, New York. During his set, he decided to do something different. Instead of playing the songs in full, he played only their instrumental sections, or “breaks” - sections where he noticed the crowd went wild. During these “breaks” his friend Coke La Rock hyped up the crowd with a microphone. And with that, Hip Hop was born."
Sometime in 1911, 106-years ago, the first film of a "breakaway"
dance move was recorded in San Francisco. Dancers were doing something called the "Texas Tommy" and would "breakaway"-- but still hold onto each other-- to strut their stuff. That dance made its East Coast debut in the 1913 premiere of Darktown Follies at the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem and probably hit the Harlem dance floors within hours of the show's premiere.
But the world outside of Harlem would have to wait until June 17, 1928, 89-years ago, to see the "break" in a new dance called the Lindy. That's when George "Shorty" Snowden used it to show off his impressive foot-work. Shorty was dancing with his partner Mattie Purnell in a dance marathon at the Manhattan Casino ballroom. The breakaway brought the audience-- and the band-- to life. Before long, Shorty and Mattie were getting press and newsreel coverage. The cat was out of the bag. What had been a Harlem thing had now become a world thing.
Just like what happened in the Bronx, a NYC borough across the Hudson River just east of Harlem, 44-years ago today.
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Multi-hyphenate with a penchant for writing.