The men learned how to lead women masterfully, without sexual connotations… being compelled with discipline and good judgment. And the woman learned how to trust respectable guidance from a man… and follow gracefully.
In Harlem the art of ballroom dancing is experiencing a phenomenal revival, and two individuals, Barbara Jones and Jihad Qasim, are making their mark as guides in a movement for Harlem’s multiple dance legacies to be cultivated in
Barbara Jones is Executive Officer of The Harlem Swing Dance Society (THSDS), a new
- Formalize and preserve Lindy Hop and Swing Dance culture in its
- Reintroduce the historic dance art of Lindy/Swing to the Harlem Community
- Teach Harlem’s youth that
Harlem’s cultural dance is revered the world over
Harlem’s famed dance of Lindy Hop return as a intergenerational activity
THSDS also aims to clarify that Swing dancing was originally called Lindy Hop, as in when Lindbergh flew or "hopped" across the Atlantic (legend has it that people started joyfully hopping around the Savoy ballroom). When the word finally reached downtown it was said that “they’re swinging uptown”. Thus the term “Lindy Hop” was in time nicknamed Swing dancing, and this phrase became more popular in years to come.
Jihad Qasim is President of the non-profit organization Consolidated Block Association. Its principal fundraising arm is "The Committee to Preserve Ballroom Dancing.” Its mission is to appeal to the music industry and other corporate sponsors for resources to open venues and teach the ballroom arts to
As a promoter of ballroom dance, Jihad is following the footsteps of his grandfather William (Willie) Teachy, who promoted ballroom dance before and during the Harlem Renaissance (and was also president of the famous 98th/99th Street Association). Jihad is proficient in the dance styles of Lindy Hop/Swing; Mambo, Son, Merengue and teaches these. Also noteworthy is "The Harlem Walk": This is a slow, suave drag-walk across the dance floor done to smooth R&B tunes reminiscent of the Doo Wop music of the '50s. This is one of Jihad’s specialties that he wants to revive.
Jihad also advocates that the benefits of ballroom dancing:
- Bring people of all ages together for mutual intergenerational communication
- Helps combat Youth violence and teaches life skills
- Promotes good hygiene habits and a healthy/modest dress code
- People learn to appreciate live music
- Encourages our youth to keep the dance cultures alive
- Good fun exercise, and helps fight obesity
Both Jihad and Barbara frequently work together to restore this respectable art form. Since Winter 2011 they, along with dedicated dance instructors, have made available Swing dance classes and workshops. These have been free or of modest cost in the
Quite a number of community organizations have lovingly assisted with the cause of promoting and preserving
NYC Public Library: Hamilton Grange Branch
Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Community Center
New Song Community Corporation
Abyssinian Development Corporation
The Harlem Children’s Zone
Keeping the art of Ballroom dancing alive and thriving in
For more information, Barbara and Jihad can be reached here and updates can be found at theharlemswingdancesociety.blogspot.com, Facebook under The Harlem Swing Dance Society and Twitter under “HarlemSwingBack.”
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