Our FMF Ambassadors are special people. They are talented dancers, of course, but they are also trailblazers – they are introducing Lindy hop in new communities which may not have even heard of it before. They are naturally curious and they are lifetime learners. And they are also very generous teachers, sharing what they know.
While they have a lot in common, our Ambassadors are also very different individuals, coming from very different backgrounds. This spring we had a new Ambassador who comes to us from a very unique path: Kevin Harris is the grandson of Savoy Ballroom and “Hellzapoppin’” Lindy hopper, Al Minns. Kevin is a professional hip hop dancer, performer and choreographer who is just learning about Lindy hop. He had a good first exposure as an Ambassador at Camp Jitterbug in Seattle, along with Ambassador Traci Bartlow.
His grandather Al Minns also had a very special and unique role among the original Lindy hoppers. He was the first of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers to teach the new generation of dancers who spearheaded the swing dance . In the early 1980s, Minns met Anders Lind, Lennert Westerlund, and Henning Sörensen of the Swedish Swing Society when they came to New York to look for him. He accepted their invitation and went to Sweden to teach the Lindy hop! Al Minns was the first teacher of the dancers who became the Rhythm Hot Shots and who founded Herrang Dance Camp in Sweden.
It is amazing that these three young Swedes – fired with passion for the Hellzapoppin film clip – actually found Al Minns on their trip to New York, but that they did, identifying him out on the dance floor when the Count Basie Orchestra was playing. Minns later told Frankie Manning that he kept seeing these “blonde guys” staring at him all night long and thought that they were from the FBI or CIA. Imagine how astonished he must have been when they finally got the courage to go up to him and introduce themselves and their mission.
Independently, New Yorker Larry Schulz also discovered Al Minns during the early eighties and invited him to teach Lindy hop at his wife’s dance studio, Sandra Cameron Dance Center. In this first class were Margaret Batiuchok and others, who went on to form the New York Swing Dance Society and to establish classes and dancing to live big bands not long after Al’s passing in 1985.
No question that Al Minns gave a jumpstart to the swing dance revival which is flourishing worldwide today. It is a shame they he did not live to see the fruits of those early encounters, but it is certainly a pleasure to share that excitement with his grandson Kevin.