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“Twistmouth George” Ganaway

“Twistmouth George” aka “Susquehanna” aka George Ganaway.

The dancer known as “Twistmouth George” –no doubt to distinguish him from his rival, “Shorty George“– was one of the great dancers and innovators from the earliest days of the Savoy Ballroom. He went on to become a professional solo dancer and did not frequent the Savoy Ballroom as much in the thirties as George Snowden and Leroy “Stretch” Jones, whose dancing had so much influence on the 30’s generation of dancers.

Twistmouth is credited with inventing the twist step that women do–he claimed he taught it to his partner. Frankie Manning remembers a time that he and Herbert “Whitey” White were watching Twistmouth and his partner Edith Matthews do the basic swingout step with the woman twisting instead of doing the backstep. Whitey slapped Frankie on the knee and said “get that” so Manning could teach it to the other Lindy Hoppers in Whitey’s group. Whitey then asked Twistmouth to repeat it a few times presumably because he enjoyed it so much. Frankie got it.


Twistmouth used to boast that he was such a good dancer that he could win the big Saturday night competitions at the Savoy with any partner. Indeed, Norma Miller tells a story in her delightful book, Swingin’ at the Savoy: She was dancing on the sidewalk outside the Savoy Ballroom because she was too young to go in. (Dancing on the sidewalk outside of ballrooms was not an uncommon sight in Harlem in those days.) Twistmouth, rushing in to enter the dance contest on time, grabbed her, dragged her inside and danced with her. They won first place! This brought Miller to Whitey’s attention and launched her career as a dancer at age 14.

Image is Twistmouth George Ganaway as a dancing bootblack, from a 1931 newspaper story which suggests that he was the inventor of the the Lindy Hop.

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