Friday, November 4, 2011

Shim Sham

Leonard Reed
The Shim Sham Shimmy, Shim Sham or just Sham originally is a particular tap dance routine. It is credited to Leonard Reed, who originally called it Goofus, or to Willie Bryant. For swing dancers, today it is kind of line dance that recalls the roots of swing.
The Shim Sham routine created by Leonard Reed and Willie Bryant in 1927 uses four popular steps of the period: the Shim Sham, the Pushbeat and Crossover, the Tackie Annie or Tack Annie, and the Half Break. There are several variations of the Shim Sham - one developed by Frankie Manning, another by Al Minns and Leon James (also called the "Savoy Shim Sham"), and a third by Dean Collins.


The Shim Sham is 10 phrases of choreography (each phrase lasting four 8-counts), so it does not usually take up an entire song. After the Shim Sham was over, the dancers then would exit either stage left or right, depending on what was agreed upon for that show.

Today in the Lindy Hop scene, once the Shim Sham choreography is over, dancers typically grab a partner and break into lindy hop for the remainder of the song. During this portion of the song, the band or a DJ may call out "Freeze!" or "Slow!" instructing the dancers to either stop where they are or dance slowly, then call out "Dance!" to tell everyone to resumes normal dancing.

The Frankie Manning version adds a Boogie Back/Boogie Forward phrase and Boogie Back/Shorty George phrase to the end of the basic choreography, then repeats the basic choreography before the Lindy break—but in repeating adds a pause or break at the end of each 8-beat phrase/dance move. Only after the repeats are ended do the dancers break into free Lindy Hop with swing-outs.

The Shim Sham goes best with swing songs whose melody lines start on beat eight, as does the choreography. An obvious choice is "The Shim Sham Song" (Bill Elliot Swing Orchestra), which was written specifically for this dance and has musical effects (e.g., breaks) in all the right places. However, today the Shim Sham—particularly the Frankie Manning version—is danced more often to "'Tain't What You Do (It's The Way That Cha Do It)" by Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra, or "Tuxedo Junction" by Erskine Hawkins. In fact, it is typical now at a Lindy dance party for dancers to start up a Shim Sham whenever "'Tain't What You Do" is played. There is also a recording of "Stompin' at the Savoy" with the George Gee band where Manning himself calls out the moves.  

Finally, I suggest you visit DJ Chrisbe's site to learn more about Jimmy Lunceford's version of the song "'Tain't What You Do": Song of the Week #91

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