Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Savoy Ballroom 2

video
Lindy Hop legend Frankie Manning leads a Shim Sham line dance at the Savoy Memorial "re"dedication in 2006. The memorial now marks the site of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, NY, the "Home of Happy Feet" from 1926 to 1958. Video also features Norma Miller, Chazz Young, and Chester Whitmore.
More Savoy history from streetswing

The Savoy was known as the "Home Of Happy Feet" and had the best Lindy Hop dancers in the Nation with the Lindy Hop being said to originate at the Savoy. The best of these dancers would hang out together in the N/E corner of the Savoy, known as "Cats Corner." The Savoy was allowing interracial dancing of Blacks and Whites, and was widely done, which was really frowned upon by both races at the time at other night spots, and if they did allow it, but not at the Savoy. Some Clubs such as the Roseland Ballroom would put a rope down the middle of the floor, Blacks on one side and whites on the other on their mixed nights. The Savoy hardly had any problems with fights or trouble makers due to racial issues.
The roots of the Lindy Hop was the Breakaway and the Breakaway was the main dance of choice in the late 1920's early 30's at the Savoy whose main exponent was "Shorty George " Snowden. Shorty was to name the Breakaway the Lindy Hop, but a slower, smoother version would soon take over the popularity being called "Savoy Style Lindy," (which has roots in today's West Coast Swing. ) Dean Collins and Hubert (whitey) White and the Whites Hopping Maniacs (a.k.a. Whitey's Lindy Hoppers) would help promote this smoother form of Lindy as we know it today thru motion pictures.
There were different types of entertainment at the Savoy such as the famous "Battle Of The Bands" pitting one band against the other, usually Chick Webb's band would compete against another famous band while the dancers would pick the winners. This usually brought the biggest crowds. Ella Fitzgerald won a singing contest up the street from the Savoy and was dancing at the Savoy when someone told Chick Webb about her, he auditioned her and signed her to his band. After his death, Fitzgerald continued Webb's band.
Dance Contest's were also popular at the Savoy Ballroom and the contests were generally held on Wednesdays with prizes going up to third place. First place was around $40.00 in the early days and a chance to perform a solo dance exhibition at the Savoy. The Harvest Moon Ball held it's prelims for the Swing division at the Savoy Ballroom, then later at the Savoy Manor. In the 1950's there were many Mambo contests held at the Savoy as well as Jitterbug.

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