Women’s History Month: Sandra Gibson!

aka Mildred “Boogie” Pollard, aka Lindy hopper!

In Radio City Revels in 1938, the second couple in the jam, but the first couple after the cut from the singer at the beginning (ie there’s another couple in the jam before Gibson and partner ‘Shorty’ Davis).


In Spirit Moves in 1950 with James Berry:


Women’s History Month: Norma Miller!

Norma Miller: author and lindy hopping queen.

Miller and Leon James are the second couple in this sequence from Day at the Races (1937):


Miller (dancing with George Greenidge) is half of the sixth couple in the jam during the jitterbug contest section of Keep Punchin’ (1939):


Miller dances with Billy Ricker, as the second couple in the iconic scene fromHellzapoppin’ (1941):


Miller is in the Hot Chocolates/Cottontail (1941) soundie, but I’m not sure which dancer she is:


There are some interesting photos of Norma Miller, Frankie Manning and other dancers in the Getty Images collection.

[Once again I’m using Bobby’s article about iconic clilps to identify dancers.]

Women’s History Month: Dawn Hampton!

Ryan Swift’s Photo of Dawn Hampton at LindyFest 2011 decided me on Dawn Hampton for today’s Woman Jazz Dancer.

Hampton played a bundle of instruments in her family’s band and has had a long career in music and dance. But she’s best known today for her musicality classes, and there are a couple of clips of her scaring teaching dancers about musicality at Lindyfest this year. I really like these clips because she does the sort of nuanced dancing that reminds me of dancers like Leon James – stillness and minimalism combined with sharp, dramatic movements.

A demonstration dance with Virgine Jensen, Steven Mitchell and Frida Segerdahl:


Teaching a musicality class:


Women’s History Month: Big Bea!

I have a fondness for female dancer-comedians. Bea was an excellent dancer, and the ‘shorty’ part of George ‘Shorty’ Snowden’s joke wouldn’t have worked without her.

(from the 1937 film ‘Ask Uncle Sol’)

Women’s History Month: Esther Washington!

Whitey’s Lindy Hopper of awesome!

Second couple in this scene from the 1947 film Boy! What a Girl!:


At 3.00 dancing at the Savoy with Leon James (from 1950 Mura Dehn docoSpirit Moves):


In a whole series of sequences from Spirit Moves, wearing a shiny skirt and strapless shirt:

  • at 2.00 doing the California routine
  • at 4.16 doing the Big Apple routine


[Thanks again to Peter Loggins for helping me figure out who’s who in the clips, AND for suggesting Esther!]

Women’s History Month: Pearl Primus!

I know very little about Pearl Primus, but I’ve been fascinated by this photo since I found it on the Google Life photo collection (you can see more photos here.
She’s not a ‘jazz dancer’ in the strictest sense – she probably fits a little more comfortably into the concert dance or even ballet basket. But she was very much an activist, with a passion for African and African American dance, and she was definitely active as a dancer, performer and choreographer during the 1930s and 40s.

I did a bit of googling and came up with very few actual videos of her dancing on youtube, but I did find this little doco about her that only fuelled my interest:


Then I found this video of her dancing, which isn’t too great – you can’t really see what she’s doing, and I’m not sure it really does her work justice.

NB that first photo is from a series called ‘Jam Session’ by Gjon Mili in the Life Magazine collection on google, which features many other amazing pics.

Gjon Mili is interesting because he directed ‘Blues for Greasy’ jam session film which starred:
Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison: trumpet
Lester Young: Tenor Sax
Flip Phillips: Tenor Sax
Bill Harris: Trombone
Hank Jones: Piano
Ray Brown: Bass
Buddy Rich: Drums
Ella Fitzgerald: Vocals

Mili worked with Norman Granz on this film, and Granz owned the Verve record label as well as organising the Jazz At The Philarmonic concerts and being hardcore anti-segregation.