Profiles of Original Lindy Hoppers
Robert P. Crease, swing dance researcher, university professor, and prolific writer has played an important role in the Lindy hop resurgence in New York and beyond since the early 1980s.
Commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution as part of their Jazz Oral History Project, Bob conducted an extensive interview with Frankie Manning in 1992. Recorded on July 22-23, this was the first in-depth, chronological look at the dancer’s life.
In “Profiles of Original Lindy Hoppers,” Crease had the foresight to chronicle the lives of fifteen Savoy Ballroom dancers, all of whom have since passed. Based on personal interviews with each subject, the series appeared between 1986-91 in Footnotes, the newsletter originated by Editor Gabby Winkel as a communication/educational tool of the New York Swing Dance Society.
The profiles include: Pal Andrews, Eunice Callen, Wilda Crawford, Mildred Cruse, Elnora Dyson, Sandra Gibson, Willie Jones, Al Leagins, George Lloyd, John Lucchese, Frankie Manning, Norma Miller, Billy Ricker, Harry Rowe, and Naomi Waller Gay.
Crease enjoys a successful career as Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University in Long Island, NY. He has written, translated, edited, or contributed to over a dozen books on science, history, and dance. http://www.robertpcrease.com
Bob was a founding board member of the New York Swing Dance Society and original performer with the Big Apple Lindy Hoppers. He was also one of the first swing dance researchers out there, along with Ernie Smith, Lance Benishek, and the late Terry Monaghan, all of whom helped to inspire my own interest in swing dance history, which emerged soon after I started Lindy hopping in 1984. As my own investigation progressed, the fine work of Jacqui Malone, Judy Pritchett, Lennart Westerlund, and Peter Loggins also proved tremendously valuable.
His articles and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsday, and elsewhere. The following will be of special interest to jazz and social dance researchers:
The Atlantic Monthly
“Dance: Swing Story” (February 1986, pp. 77-82)
“Dance: The Return of the Shag” (September 1988, pp. 86-88)
“Dance: In Praise of the Polka” (August 1989, pp. 78-83)
In American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 1999.
Entries on African American jazz dancers:
“Leon James & Albert Minns”
“Earl ‘Snake Hips’ Tucker”
“Jazz and Dance.” In The Cambridge Companion to Jazz, ed. Mervyn Cook and David Horn. Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 69-80.
“Jazz and Dance.” In The Oxford Companion to Jazz, ed. Bill Kirchner. Oxford University Press, 2000, 696-705.
“Divine Frivolity: Hollywood Representations of the Lindy Hop, 1937-1942.” In Representing Jazz, ed. Krin Gabbard. Duke University Press, 1995, pp. 207-228.
Bob’s wife Stephanie Stein Crease, is also an avid swing dancer—that’s how they met—and an accomplished author with a focus on jazz. In the Spring of 2023 she released Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America to critical acclaim. She also wrote Gil Evans: Out of the Cool; Music Lessons: Guide Your Child to Play a Musical Instrument (and Enjoy It!); and a children’s book, Duke Ellington: His Life in Jazz, with 21 Activities.
The impetus for posting these articles came about recently. I had several inquiries for information about the many dancers who contributed to Lindy hop history, more than is contained in the brief “Biographical Sketches of Lindy Hoppers” section in the appendix of Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop. The requests came from people working on various projects, including Karen Campos McCormack (a Spanish-Irish swing dancer and jazz dance historian), Josephine Langbehn (a Nebraskan swing dancer and fine artist), and Barbara Jones (founder of The Harlem Swing Dance Society and a Lindy hop/swing dance activist). When I asked Bob if it would be okay to scan and share his articles, not only did he say yes, but he generously offered to let them be posted online. Gabby Winkel heartily endorsed this.
Along with my own interviews with Frankie, Bob’s profiles and interview served as important resources for Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop. His passion for Lindy hop history and his high standards for scholarship helped kindle my wish to collaborate on the book with Frankie, and continue to inspire me today.
The Frankie Manning Foundation is delighted to make these lively and informative accounts accessible to dancers everywhere. We know the international swing dance community will enjoy the fruits of Bob Crease’s superb research. We present these articles to acknowledge the lesser-known but very significant players in Lindy history, to motivate our community to find ways to honor them, and to encourage research into the history of the dance we all love so much.
Thank you Bob Crease, and kudos to all who are dedicated to bringing forth and sharing the glorious history of swing dancing.