This innovative documentary, DANCING THE BIG APPLE 1937: African Americans Inspire a National Craze, explores the Big Apple dance in the context of American history. A closer look at the roots of the Big Apple takes us on a journey back to Africa, through slavery, and into the fascinating account of the Ring Shout ceremony practiced by the African-Americans – sometimes secretly, sometimes openly -- for several centuries.
Fast forwarding to 1937, we see the nation struggling to recover from the Great Depression. The Big Apple dance provided helpful medicine in hard times. Americans from every walk of life let loose in this infectious circle dance. Cued by a caller, dancers did moves from the Lindy Hop, Shag and Charleston, and popular jazz steps like Trucking and Pecking. Individual dancers or couples were invited to "Shine" in the center of the circle.
The dance craze was put in motion by an encounter of cultural traditions. One night, three white teenagers entered an African-American nightclub, in Columbia, South Carolina, housed in a former synagogue. They saw a called, circle dance done to popular swing music which they named the “The Big Apple” after the night club. From this remarkable multi-cultural collision, it was only a matter of months before Americans from coast to coast and from every walk of life, including FDR’s family in the White House, were doing the Big Apple dance. As the final badge of popularity, The Big Apple was featured in Life Magazine in 1937. As viewers will learn, it was more than just a dance, it was a unifying experience that provided healing and joy at a time when there was little to be happy about.
In this intriguing documentary, rare archival dance film footage illustrates the ingredients of the Big Apple, demonstrating many of the steps. Historic documentation uncovers its deep roots in the African-American community. Extra features include: leading Big Apple historian Lance Benishek teaching Big Apple steps and holding a Big Apple contest; and the full Big Apple routine from the film “Keep Punching”.
The documentary’s Writer-Director, Judy Pritchett, has spent the last 6 years researching The Big Apple dance and has lectured around the world on the subject. In addition to her twenty-plus years of experience as a swing dancer and historian, she brings a unique insight into the material because of her experiences as a civil rights worker in Mississippi in 1965 and, later, as a graduate student in anthropology at Columbia University.
Produced by Dancetime Publications in Association with Savoy Style