The Lindy Line Dance -- scroll to the bottom to Exit this Page
The Shim Sham
In Phoenix (here) but you can do it anywhere that Lindy Hoppers congregate
We wrote this in 1997 when it was impossible to put video on the internet. All the things on this page will still work and they do reflect the way that we did Shim Sham in DC in the late 1990s. Since then, many things have changed and there are at least five separate versions of the Shim Sham around. Read on if you want, but take this in its historic context. There are lots of other websites that teach other shim sham variants, many of them with video. However, the point of Shim Sham is getting together, any way you do it is just fine with us.
Shim Sham is the Lindy Line Dance. Here is the legend that surrounds it:
LEGEND: The Original Lindy Hoppers at the Savoy Ballroom had a considerable background in Tap and jazz dance. They used to warm up for dancing by doing traditional jazz and tap steps. Eventually, their warmup became standardized and a group of them could be found on the floor warming up as the band was tuning up.
The rhythm of the feet was very distinctive and stuck in the mind of arranger Edgar Sampson, who was a close associate of drummer-bandleader Chick Webb. Sampson wrote a song called "Stompin' at the Savoy" based on the distinctive rhythm of the dancer's feet. The warmup exercise became the Shim Sham dance (named after its first step) and the song became a tradition. Sampson sold the song to Benny Goodman for $100 during a period of particularly lean times in the Depression.
That is the Legend. It makes a great story, although it is disputed by many, most recently by Frankie Manning. Take a look at this segment from his recent interview on the Washington Post website:
It is undisputed that the Lindy revival of the late 1980s also brought back Shim Sham. People all over the world think that a Lindy event is not complete without a Shim Sham.
Click here to read more about the history of the Shim Sham
About the Photo: Mario Robau and Sylvia Sykes lead the Shim Sham. Photo courtesy of Maxie Dorf
Here is a video of Frankie Manning and Erin Stevens demonstrating the Shim Sham.
Shim Sham Road Map
Here is the road map to the Shim Sham (the steps are done in this order). Click on the name of the Step to see a breakdown and to learn more about its history. Except where noted, each step takes one bar (8 Counts).
All of the concepts and Steps are explained below, so you can just keep scrolling
All of the steps in the Shim Sham are Jazz steps and they begin on the count of "8" The leader kicks off the dance at the right point in "Stompin at the Savoy" and everything else follows. These movements are NOT Mirror Symmetric and you do not need a partner. Everyone does the same step.
Shim Sham Step (3 Bars)
The first bar starts with the Right Foot
The Next Bar Reverses this
The next bar is the same as the First:
This step gets used a lot in the dance, and is sort of the "Punctuation Mark" for Shim Sham. This part is very much like the Tap Break. Later versions of the Shim Sham use the TOBA Break.
Side Push Suite
For this, it helps if you say a little Mantra to yourself. The "Mantra" will help you get the timing right. There are four bars in the Suite.
Bar 1 - Push Right
Bar 2 - Push Left (the reverse)
Bars 3 and 4 - Push Right plus two extra crossovers
We have never heard a full explanation of how this movement got its name, although we presume that it memorializes an otherwise-forgotten dancer named "Tacky Annie." Although Jazz steps usually start on beat 8, this movemet attains drama by starting on an upbeat, something like 7 1/2, since we hold the last beat of the Side Push Suite for only half a beat. The best way to get this is to say "And Eight".
The Tacky Annie is followed by a Full Break as outlined above
This is a very familiar tap dance movement --- almost everyone has seen it. It is a little tricky, so we will present the Correct Way and then an Acceptable Substitute:
Half Breaks the Correct Way
Note that this has the same pattern repeated twice within the eight beats, and thus the name "half" breaks
A good mantra for the Half Breaks is:
The Half Breaks are followed by a Full Break. In the dance, this pattern is repeated twice (i.e. Half Breaks, Full Break,Half Breaks, Full Break)
Completely Acceptable Substitute
If you are not in the front row, this will work just fine:
Second Time Through
After you complete the Half Breaks, Full Break pattern, we go through the dance from the top, starting with the Shim Sham step. However, in this second pass, we DO NOT do the Full Breaks and replace them with an eight count hold. Yes, it's complicated --- just follow the leader
After we have gone through the dance twice, we switch over to a new pattern, which can be described as "Clap Backs" followed by a jazz step. The "Clap Backs" are fairly simple:
Yes, it's just clap and jump back. Don't jump back more than six inches or you'll clobber someone and the people in the back row may hit the wall.
This is fairly simple, provided that you can strut with attitude:
Strut away -- the more outrageous the better. You can also replace the pivot with a movement that looks like you are writing the letter "C" in the sand.
This is a fairly complex movement in which you "Duck Waddle" for 8 beats. It is named for "Shorty George" Snowden, one of the Original Whitey's Lindy Hoppers who was quite diminutive. It was very humorous when the "giants" around him (including his VERY LARGE dance partner named Big Bea) would crouch very low and duck walk at his level.
After the last "Shorty George", it is customary to grab the nearest Leader (or Follower, depending on your role) and dance. The leader periodically issues commands:
Enjoy the Shim Sham!
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