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Interesting and Fun Facts about Savoy Ballroom, historic Swing Era dance hall

Search engine giant Google celebrates the Savoy Ballroom, a notorious Swing Era dance hall that flourished from the 1920s to 50s in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, with multiplayer Swing Dancing game Doodle on May 26, 2021.

celebrating swing dancing and the savoy ballroom
Google Game Doodle for Celebrating Swing Dancing and the Savoy Ballroom!

30 Interesting Facts about Savoy Ballroom

  1. The Savoy Ballroom was a legendary dance hall on Lenox Avenue somewhere in the range of 140th and 141st Streets in Harlem, New York.
  1. It was known as “The World’s Finest Ballroom” and “Home of Happy Feet”.
  1. Owned by Moe Gale, a Jewish man, and managed by Charles Buchanan, an African-American businessman, the Savoy Ballroom opened its doors on March 12, 1926 right in the center of the Harlem Renaissance, when the arts prospered among African Americans in the United States and Europe.
  1. The club was a center for jazz music and dance, where some of the most significant people performed what was called “Swing Dance.”
  1. The Savoy was known as the “Home Of Happy Feet” and had the best Lindy Hop dancers in the Nation with the Lindy Hop being said to originate at the Savoy. The best of these dancers would hang out together in the N/E corner of the Savoy, known as “Cats Corner.”
  1. The Savoy was permitting interracial dancing of Blacks and Whites and was generally done, which was truly disliked by the two races at the time at other nightspots, and on the off chance that they permitted it, however not at the Savoy. A few Clubs, for example, the Roseland Ballroom would put a rope down the middle of the floor, Blacks on one side and whites on the other on their mixed nights. The Savoy barely had any issues with battles or troublemakers because of racial issues.
  1. The roots of the Lindy Hop was the Breakaway and the Breakaway was the main dance of choice in the late 1920’s mid 30’s at the Savoy whose main example was “Shorty George” Snowden. Shorty was to name the Breakaway the Lindy Hop, yet a slower, smoother version would soon take over the notoriety being called “Savoy Style Lindy,” (which has roots in the present West Coast Swing. ) Dean Collins and Hubert (whitey) White and the Whites Hopping Maniacs (a.k.a. Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers) would help promote this smoother type of Lindy as far as we might be concerned today through films.
  1. Dubbed the “Home of Happy Feet,” the Savoy Ballroom was Harlem’s first and most prominent swing-era dance palace; for over three decades it was the debut showcase for the best of the swing big bands and dancers.
  1. The Savoy was pink on the inside and had a decent size hall as you entered the building, was all around ventilated (Air-conditioning not yet invented), and had modern furniture of the times and mirrored walls. The ballroom itself was immense, had two bandstands, colored spotlights, and a dance floor that was rectangular in shape (nicknamed the track) and was more than 10,000 square ft. of the spring-loaded, wooden dance floor. The floor must be supplanted every three years because of the enormous use it went through.
  1. The Savoy highlighted two mirrored flights of marble stairs, leading from road level up to a chandeliered lobby, and to the orange-and-blue room itself, which measured 200 by 500 feet and could hold up to 7,000 individuals.

Read More: Google Interactive Game Doodle is Celebrating Swing Dancing and the Savoy Ballroom!

  1. From 1926 to 1958 its twin bandstands displayed the world’s best jazz musicians. The dances born on its mahogany dancefloor would sweep the world and live on right up ’til today. The Savoy was the heart and soul of Harlem.
  1. There were two bandstands, a disappearing stage under multicolored spotlights, and a huge dance floor, which was worn down and supplanted every three years.
  1. Notwithstanding the elegance of the setting, the ballroom attracted a working-class audience who paid low-priced entrance fees for an evening of swing dancing. In any case, none of the Harlem ballrooms that opened after the Savoy ever approached the Savoy’s opulence.
  1. Opening night featured Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra, and in the late 1920s Duke Ellington, King Oliver, and Louis Armstrong brought their orchestras to the Savoy. In 1932, Kansas City swing made its New York debut at the Savoy, as Bennie.
  1. During the 1940s the Savoy experienced competition from the Golden Gate, the Apollo, the Alhambra, the Rockland Palace, and the Audubon Ballroom. Regardless, in the early years of the decade, Coleman Hawkins, Erskine Hawkins, Benny Carter, and Louis Armstrong all led big bands there.
  1. In 1942, Jay McShann’s appearance at the Savoy and on radio broadcasts from the dance hall acquainted the saxophonist Charlie Parker with a wider audience.
  1. In the summer of 1943, the temporary closing of the Savoy was a precipitating factor in the Harlem revolts that August.
  1. Above 250 bands eventually performed at the Savoy, including those of Earl “Fatha” Hines, Don Redman, Jimmie Lunceford, Teddy Hill, and Andy Kirk. Dissimilar to the Cotton Club and Connie’s Inn, which authorized a strict whites-only clientele, the Savoy invited both black and white patrons and performers.
  1. The dancing at the Savoy was just about as surprising as the music. The ballroom was the middle for the advancement of Lindyhopping, the vivacious and acrobatic style of swing dancing that made a dramatic break with the past conventions of famous dance during the 1930s.
  1. During the 1920s and 1930s dancers like Leon James, Leroy Jones, Shirley “Snowball” Jordan, “Killer Joe” Piro, and couples like George “Shorty” Snowden and “Big Bea” (and Sketch Jones and “Little Bea”) made and perfected patterns, for example, “The Itch” and “The Big Apple.”
  1. During the 1930s a new generation of Lindy hoppers, including Frankie Manning, Norma Miller, Al Minns, Joe Daniels, Russell Williams, and Pepsi Bethel, favored leaping “air steps, for example, the “Hip to Hip,” “Side Flip,” “Over the Back,” “Over the Head,” and “the Scratch,” which came to dominate the older, more earthbound “floor steps.”
  1. During its thirty-two-year existence, the Savoy represented a remarkably successful example of an interracial cultural meeting place, an embodiment of the wide-scale acceptance of black urban culture by whites during the 1930s and 1940s.
  1. Dance Contests were likewise popular at the Savoy Ballroom and the contests were generally held on Wednesdays with prizes going up to third place. First place was around $40.00 in the early days and an opportunity to play out a solo dance exhibition at the Savoy.
  1. The Harvest Moon Ball held its prelims for the Swing division at the Savoy Ballroom, afterward at the Savoy Manor. In the 1950s there were many Mambo dance contests held at the Savoy as well as Jitterbug.
  1. Different dances, for example, the Suzy-Q, Big Apple, Charleston, Shim-Sham, and Truckin’ were performed at the Savoy. Other neighborhood clubs in Harlem were the Renaissance, Small’s Paradise, Connie’s Inn, Original Cotton Club, Dixie Ballroom, and the Alhambra.
  1. The Savoy’s doors shut in the late 1950s, and the building was destroyed in 1958 to clear a path for a housing project.
  1. Albeit the building ultimately offered a route to a truly necessary housing complex, the Lindy Hoppers from the Savoy and their beneficiaries dominated the annual Harvest Moon Ball in Madison Square Garden until the 1980s. The Savoy tradition of the Lindy Hop keeps on flourishing to this date because of movies and other documented accounts as well as living legends like Norma Miller and Frankie Manning.
  1. On 26 May 2002, Frankie Manning and Norma Miller, members of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, divulged a commemorative plaque for the Savoy Ballroom on Lenox Avenue somewhere in the range of 140th and 141st Streets.
  1. Albeit legendary Lindy Hopper, Frankie Manning died in 2009, his soul lives on in the hearts and feet of swing dancers around the world. Frankie is remembered and venerated for his vital role in the history and restoration of swing dancing, as well as for his radiant and charismatic personality. His heritage is enormously significant and generally influential.
  1. In 2019, Landia Egal launched the virtual reality project Welcome to the Savoy to bring the ballroom back to life.
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