"Dickie" Harris, director of Mama Lu Parks Dancers

This is from Terry Monaghan:

"Dickie" Harris, Artistic Director of the Mama Lu Parks Traditional Jazz Dancers, passed away early on Monday morning. Dickie was the backbone of the company as well as being an extraordinary dancer in his right having won the Harvest Moon Ball in 1966 and Star Search in the 1970’s. Dancing professionally all the way from 1960 through to 1990 when Mama Lu died, which was almost the same length of time the Savoy Ballroom was open, he probably held a record for professional Lindy Hopping that will remain for a long time. He remained the youngest, oldest figure in the business, leaving many of those who came across his list of performances for the first time extremely sceptical because of his apparent youthfulness. Yet the many musicians, vocalists and different types of dancers who knew him well testified to his record.

Dancing everywhere in the North and South America, all over Europe many times and right across the middle of Africa in 1969 it was an extraordinary record. Without the Mama Lu dancers, who in reality were the fourth generation of Lindy Hoppers, it is extremely doubtful whether the new interest in the dance generated since the 1980’s would every have got to the size that it did. In New York the annual "Harvest Moon Ball" organised by the Mama Lu Company after the official Harvest Moon Ball dropped the Lindy as a competition category (apart from a momentary relapse in 1982 and 1983) from 1980 onwards became the place where old and new timers met up. Larry Schultz for instance came across Al Minns there and got him teaching again which led to the founding of the New York Swing Dance Society. The Mama Lu Company danced each summer in Stockholm throughout the 1970’s, which must have influenced the founding of the Swedish Swing Society in 1977, out of which the Rhythm Hot Shots and the Herrang Camp developed. The Mama Lu dancers visited the UK in 1983 and 1984 from which the Jiving Lindy Hoppers, including Ryan Francois and the British UK swing scene emerged. The Mama Lu Company also impacted on Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland and many other countries, and invariably Dickie was there at the centre of it all. His big welcoming smile and the ferocious speed with which he executed his footwork never failed to attract and impress.

Dickie was always around. He put together an epic ten minute routine in 2000 for Mid-Summer Swing to commemorate Mama Lu. He shared some fascinating insights into competition dancing at this years Harlem Jazz Dance Festival and linked up with his old Africa tour buddy "Brownie" of the legendary comedy jazz dance team "Cook and Brown," as well as many other former co-performers, at the following Tap City Festival in July. There will be a service for him at the Benta’s Funeral Home on St Nicholas Avenue, in Harlem on Saturday.

Terry Monaghan
Very interesting stuff...I've never heard of "Dickie" Harris, but maybe it's time I expanded my knowledge. Are there any pictures or video clips available on the web?
I don't know. I have footage in my persobnal library, and I have access to footage in our archive for the California Historical Jazz Dance Foundation, but I have never run across any on the web.

As Terry says above, Dickie and the Mama Lu Parks dancers are largely responsible for the Lindy Craze through out Europe. He was an incredibly engaging man both on and off the dance floor.

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