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The Shim Sham.
Two very strange words I had only heard in the ‘window cleaner’ context before now. Definitely never heard the two used in the same sentence! It was originally created by Leonard Reed, but the version I learnt was choreographed by Frankie Manning. Originating in the 1920’s, this dance encompassed everyone available at the end of a show… where they would all get up, some dancing and some stumbling through it at the end of the night. This routine is a tap/lindy dance which although appearing quite tricky and technical, should look (when performed correctly) very laid-back and effortless. A round up of the moves in order:

Step Slides x3
Full Break
Push it! x 3 followed by cross overs
Tackie Annie
Full Break
Half Break
Full Break
Half Break
Full Break

Repeat with no full breaks.

Boogie Backs, Boogie Forwards
Boogie Backs, Boogie Forwards
Boogie Backs, Shorty George
Boogie Backs, Shorty George.

And here it is in action, performed by Frankie Manning and Erin Stevens:

I learnt this dance at a 4 hour workshop, which was organised by the teachers of my Lindy Hop class. There was a refresher session a week later, to go over what we had previously learnt. Although hard work, it was certainly a good way to learn such an elaborate routine! It took a while to comprehend that ‘full break’ did not mean ‘coffee break.’ It was a great day, however, and I enjoyed the challenge! Before I went to bed that night, I persuaded my sister to walk through the Shim Sham again to try and hold it all in my head. We both definitely panicked when we realised the full break was completely obsolete and out of time! I began to get frustrated, having understood the routine that afternoon. I went to bed, and even as I laid in the dark carried on muttering … ‘left, right, left, left…’ (believe me, if you ever learn the Shim Sham, this is what will happen to you.)

After another practice in the kitchen the following morning, however, it ‘clicked’ and all came together. After running over it a few more times, I began to be able to do it without really thinking. The ‘concentrating face’ had been replaced with a smile (no jazz hands, NEVER!) I advise those who are learning:
-Knees bent
-Small, comfortable steps
-Arm co-ordination

At the end of the day, just enjoy it and have fun. This is what the Shim Sham is all about!

Oh, and to deviate, there is a story that my lindy hop teacher Caron told us about how the name ‘Lindy Hop’ came about.

At a charity dance marathon in 1928, a reporter saw famous Shorty George break from the group of dancers in the hall, and asked him: ‘What is this dance you’re all doing here?’ George, shrugging, replied ‘No idea, it’s just what we do.’ The reporter insisted upon a name so George had a look at a newspaper cover laying on the next table about Lindbergh’s famous ‘hop’ across the atlantic in a plane. So, naturally, George replied ‘Lindy Hop.’

The performance at Skegness was last night and although not too enthusiastic to join in, the crowd seemed to enjoy it. Even if they didn’t, we did and it went very smoothly.

I would recommend to any Lindy Hopper, Jiver or jitterbugger to learn the Shim Sham… it’s a necessary part of swing and it’s good fun. Maybe not a dance that appears regularly at the clubs but it’s a really nice dance to be able to get up and do on your own without needing a partner.

Good luck and enjoy it!