Swing Discussion Boards > Whats this dance?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by thebrianschott, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. thebrianschott

    thebrianschott New Member

    Hello all.

    Having learned to dance (jitterbug?) in teenage girlfriends' basements in Washington DC around 1960, I have very fond memories of dance parties and of meeting afterwards at the Silver Springs, MD, Hot Shoppes. I am providing all that detail and some more, in hopes that you can tell me what the dance we did was/is called. Here is some more information. I think the dance teacher/inventor was called "Groggy", but I have only heard his name when by chance I "free danced" once or twice with a rather woman in the 80's at a local contra dance (don't ask why we weren't contra dancing, because I can't quite remember). Anyhow, she danced exactly the way I did and she mentioned Groggy, who may have really been named Maurice Gervitz, according to a Googol search for "Groggy Washington DC".

    The beat of the dance is very much like Carolina Shag (CS) with 6 beats and the same kind of starting move from a ballroom position start. But CS is much smoother and CS couples dance in a "slot", but not "my" dance. Also in my dance most often the couple touches both hands (rather than just one hand each). In both CS and my dance, except for during turns and other special moves, the footwork of the lead and follow mirror one another. Also, the music that the local CS dance club plays is perfect for the dance we do, but the dance is different, as I have explained, I hope.

    My dance partner, who never danced that style before we met, has over the years been able to pick up the follow moves extremely well, but we have our problems because she has had to just reconstruct the follow's steps and moves herself, because I am completely in the dark about the dance's mechanics except what I instinctively remember. We suspect that one of the main problems we have in dancing this dance may result from some of the moves being 4 or 8 beats, instead of 6 beats, which we have now discovered happens in CS having found some CS web tutorial videos.

    I would like to learn the name of this dance so that we can get better at doing it.

    I have searched the archives of this forum, but cannot find a better place to post this message.


  2. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member


    D.C. "Hand Dancing" occurs to me. The time period is right.
    But I really have no idea!

    Hey, welcome. Sorry I can't be more more help. I've been concentrating on the LA area.
  3. thebrianschott

    thebrianschott New Member


    Thanks so much for your reply. I have never heard of Hand Dance. I would like to follow up and learn more about Hand Dance or whatever it was.

    If others believe they know about the dance, please say.

  4. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Maybe some videos would help?

    I found one that demonstrates different styles of "old school" hand dance.

    For comparison, here's a video of current top-ranked pro hand dancers in a competition. I was at that competition, and saw it in person; they are amazing dancers.

    Also, less likely, but there is an old school swing dance in Philly, called Philly Bop.
  5. thebrianschott

    thebrianschott New Member


    Those videos really helped. Thanks.
    The Philly Bob was actually the closest, but did not seem quite right, EITHER.

    The basic step is mirrored by the lead and follow. The sequence we have developed, using our own terminology is this.

    sweep, step (the sweep is a foot sweeping behind the other)
    kick, step, step

    Does that, help with the description?

  6. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    That sounds awfully similar to the hand dance basic.
    Here is a teaching video of it - it's a step-by-step instruction, so go about 5 min. in, to see him do the full 6-count basic.
  7. thebrianschott

    thebrianschott New Member


    Yes, Alvin Prather does a great video there Hand Dancing, but...

    His foot sequence seems to be the reverse of ours.


    sweep, step (maybe sweep should be called "slide")
    kick, step, step

    kick, step, step
    slide, step

    So Prather's "slide" is done with the right foot, my slide is done with the left foot, for example.

    I danced almost exclusively with whites, and mostly Jews, btw. Is that an important clue?

  8. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Hmm, don't know...I am not an hand dance expert, though my understanding is that it evolved in the African-American community of Baltimore & DC. So maybe someone else has further ideas as to what dance you learned?
  9. LindyKeya

    LindyKeya Member

    This is not meant to offend, but is it possible you are doing hand dancing, and your partner just remembered it wrong?
    (Because that was my immediate guess too.)
    Again, not saying it to be rude or offensive, but I've seen plenty of instances where one person "learned" a dance somewhere, attempted to teach someone else, and both partners (and even a whole community) ended up doing something not quite right (and this could be many years after, or contemporaneously, just in a different location).
  10. thebrianschott

    thebrianschott New Member


    [This is the third time I have replied to your message, but each time something has happened to destroy the reply. I did not even notice the last glitch till just now.]

    No offense taken.

    My partner has imo done a fantastic job in figuring out the follow steps based entirely on mirroring my steps which are all based on my muscle memory from my teens. We have studied some tutorial shag web videos because we have felt that shag is so close to our dance and to try to determine why some of our moves are not working out. Our basic dance moves work perfectly with the 6 beat pattern that I have laid out earlier in this thread, but in a couple of moves where I turn my partner, she says I am dropping the beat and going to a 4 beat pattern. I trust her instincts more than my own, and suspect that I am doing just that: 4 beat pattern sometimes. What I/we do not know is whether I am changing the beat because that is the way I learned it, or because I am messing up. So we would like to learn from others who dance this dance, what is correct.

    A related issue is that it seems to us that shag and other swing dances are based on 4/4 time and so we are somewhat perplexed over the 6 beat pattern that is so dominant; it just seems more logical that 4 or 8 beat patterns would be more common. But the shag tutorials all show a few moves that are not 6 beats, but 8 beats (and maybe others). I suspect that this issue has been discussed in these forums, but I cannot find any discussion, so would appreciate any pointers to such, please.

    Brian [hoping that this reply somehow makes it to the forum]
  11. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    Sounds a lot like Hand Dancing. Maybe you learned a slightly different basic step than is taught now? Dance does evolve. If you really want to solve the mystery, you could try asking one of the DC swing dance gurus. I can find some names for you.

    Or if you still live in the area, you could drop in on a Hand Dance class and see if the "feel" is the same.
  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I believe that the way western music is written is the root of this concern. It's divided into "bars" or "measures" and give a time "signature", and 4's are very common.
    Think of how you would talk or write if you were restricted to 4 words per sentence for some reason, or had only X seconds for each sentence.

    If you look at music, or listen to it the right way, it's obvious that the "sentences" or phrases are much longer than a bar or measure. If music isn't stuck with 4s, except as a handy way to communicate about it, why should dancers be stuck with them?
    Music is WAY more complicated than the time signature.
    But, of course, how you communicate about things shapes how you think about them and how they end up being.
    In this case, it would be helpful to think past it. Hey, obviously lots of people already have, otherwise there wouldn't be "6 count" patterns.
    Some teachers can teach you about phrasing in music and how what you dance can go with it, but that's more advanced stuff.

    This may not be helpful, but the same thing happens with waltz (more than one way to step on the beats), where you can step on each of the 3 beats in the measure, as the vast majority of us do, or you can dance a "canter" rhythm, which is 2 steps to those 3 beats.

    There's a story that, in Texas one city learned to do triple two step "wrong" because one guy got it wrong (no names to protect the innocent) and everyone learned from him. So, hey, maybe you'll start a trend.
  13. thebrianschott

    thebrianschott New Member

    Thank you for the offer of names. For now, let me think about it, tho.

  14. thebrianschott

    thebrianschott New Member


    Thank you for that explanation. That is very reassuring.


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