“Old School,” “New School,” “The Skate,” “The Bop,” “The Walk,” “The Birdland”—hand dance forms are as diverse as their practitioners. A form of swing, hand dance came out of the Lindy Hop, one of the most recognizable social dances of the 1920s. It is characterized by smooth footwork, improvisational styling, and sustained hand contact between partners. The swing craze, which hit big cities during the 1940s, brought hand dancing to Washington, D.C. And through the decades, generations of local dancers have kept it vital—tuning into Teenarama Dance Party on WOOK-TV and flocking to Turner’s Arena, located at 14th and V Streets, N.W., for R&B dance parties. Once a Turner’s regular, dancer Lee Ware recalls, “When you went to Turner’s Arena and you got up there in the middle of that dance floor and the crowd got a circle around you, you knew you were there.”
The Rhythm and Blues program is produced in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.