“Shorty George” Snowden
Happy Birthday to Shorty George Snowden!
A little swing history for you all today!
Shorty George was born July 5, 1904. Shorty George was a top dancer in the Savoy Ballroom from its opening in 1927 into the early 30’s, when he formed the first professional Lindy Hop troupe, the Shorty Snowden Dancers. They performed with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra at the Paradise Club downtown through most of the thirties.
Although he was barely five feet tall, Snowden made his height an asset rather than a liability. With comic genius, he parodied himself in his signature “Shorty George” step, in which his bent his knees, swinging from side to side, exaggerating his closeness to the ground.
Shorty’s partner, Big Bea, towered over him. They often ended their routines in a comic move in which she carried him off the dance floor on her back. Frankie Manning says that this move inspired him to create his first air step, in which his partner started out on his back and then she flipped over his head and landed on the ground.
Shorty George is often given credit for giving Lindy Hop its name. As the story goes, there was a charity dance-marathon in New York City in 1928, shortly after Charles Lindbergh’s (known as “Lucky Lindy”) triumphant “hop” across the Atlantic. A reporter saw Snowden break away from his partner and improvise a few steps in a style that was popular in Harlem. “What was that!?” he asked. Snowden thought for a few seconds and replied, “I’m doin’ the Hop…the Lindy Hop”. The name stuck.
Count Basie, always attuned to the dancers, honored Shorty with the swing hit song called “Shorty George”.
Snowden retired in 1938, the only Lindy Hopper commemorated in a dance step, the “Shorty George.”
His unique reversal of the ballroom tradition, that was copied by many others, in which Big Bea tossed him in the air, opened the doors to any and every innovation in the dance.
Video clip of Shorty George and Big Bea: