Black Expressive Culture Narrative Stage: The Scanner Boys; Willie "Ashcan" Jones


Web Video Text Tracks Format (WebVTT)


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Speaker 1: Renny, this is Renny Harris, better known in Philadelphia as Prince of the Ghetto.

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Renny is the organizer of the Scanner Boys, and what he can do is introduce the crew, tell us a little bit about their history, and then we'll begin to look at a few of the dance moves.

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Renny Harris: Hello how you doing? Hello how you doing? Alright, I'ma introduce you to my crew.

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I’m gonna give you a little background on them as I introduce you to them.

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Right here to my left, we have Dave the Renegade. He was formerly in a group called Short Circuit.

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Next we have the Hip-Hop Kid originally from the New York Bronx now living in Philadelphia.

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He was formerly in a group called the Furious Rockers.

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Next we have Wild Style, formerly the captain of the Twenty Five Starjammers, a very, very big group in Philadelphia.

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Last we have Shalamar, formerly in a group called Short Wave- was that Short Wave, or...? Did I get it right?

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Oh, I must have got it wrong, because he was in a lot of groups, you see.

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Speaker 2: [Muffled] It was Shockwave.

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Renny Harris: Oh, it's Shockwave, I'm sorry.

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Um, I know a lot of you are probably wondering how do you pop or how do you breakdance,

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right? That's what I'ma try to do today, I'ma try to explain how you do that, okay?

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Um, Be-before we do this, I'ma have everybody here say hi to you, because they think I dog the show, okay?

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So, we're gonna have them pass the thing down and say hi to you. And you say hi back, okay? Okay?

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[Crowd] Okay!

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Renny Harris: Alright!

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Speaker 3: Hello? [Crowd] Hello!

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Speaker 4: Hi! [Crowd] Hi!

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Speaker 5: Hello, how are you today? [Crowd] Hi!

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Speaker 6: Hello? [Crowd] Hello!

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Renny Harris: Now wasn't that nice? Alright. Hello? [Crowd] Hello!

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Alright, now since we got all acquainted now, we're gonna start to learn how to pop.

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I want you to know that popping isn't very hard. Isn't very hard if you're very coordinated and if, if you're not coordinated, it's still, it's still is not hard, okay?

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All you have to do is remember to put one part after the other, alright? So, I'ma gonna give you a lil' quick lil' demonstration with my arm

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and if you want you can stick your arm out to the side, but don't hit your partner next to you, okay?

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Alright. It's like this, you have your arm out, the first thing you would do is put your hand down like this.

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Speaker 1: Come on, let's get some hands out over there in the audience!

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Renny Harris: Elbow. Yes, you can do this and it doesn't mean your funny or nothing.

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Speaker 1: alright

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okay,

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your hand,

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elbow

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shoulder

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just bring it up like this and if you can just touch your head with your shoulder okay then it comes around to your head okay.

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Now we're gonna go to the other arm and now everybody's stuck for a while, we can just wait it out.

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Alright now we're gonna bring it out back to the elbow, back to your wrist, your hand.

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When you bring it out on the other side it's like almost like a ballet move, you be like this, you'll come like that, okay?

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Just bring up the shoulder first, elbow, hand. Remember, it's hand, elbow, shoulder, your head.

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And then bring it over, reverse it all the way around. I'll do it for you real fast, then imma show you how it looks in a uh um the first I show you how it looks in a waving motion then I break it down for you okay.
[SILENCE]

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Wave, break it down for you. [[Clapping]]

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Alright, it's very easy to do.

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All you have to do is remember, the hand, elbow, shoulder, your head, and reverse it on the same way on the other side.

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You do that in the mirror for like a week or two, guarantee you'd be the best poppers in DC.

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Bet, alright?

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Now, I want you to know that we are the most educated group in Philadelphia about street dancing.

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We know almost over 50 styles of popping.

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We can't master all of those, because it takes a long time to master a lot of styles.

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But the ones we did master I'm going to tell you about.

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The ostrich, that's ostrich, your ape, uh King cobra

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That's all of that is animation moves, they're very superior in Philadelphia.

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The King Tut, California tick, breakdown, the panic, your arm waves, electric boogaloo, master boogaloo.

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You have um, foot glides, body control, body waving.

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You have pantomime, uh lemme see, you have
Speaker 2:

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Comedy pop
Speaker 1:

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Comedy pop, you can't forget the comedy pop.

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Comedy pop is what a lot of New Yorkers do.

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New Yorkers smile, at you while they dance.

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In Philadelphia they do not smile when they dance, they look serious.

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They very. They concentrated.

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You will see some of that concentration today, on Shalamar, because he never smiles when he dances.

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Only once in a while. But that's that Philadelphia concentration, cause Philadelphia takes popping very seriously.

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{Speaker 1="Renny Harris"} A lot of Californians smile when they dance, that's Comedy Pop, when you do your moves and make people laugh.

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Ok? Um, let's see what other styles we have, did I forget any styles? Peanut gallery over there, be quiet. Oh, I can't forget the, uh, the Oriental Pop. It's something that Shalomar and I invented a couple months ago, actually August.

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We won a big contest over there just the two of us, we went against fourteen groups, and they had at least like 6 people in their group and we did the Oriental Pop and just took the whole thing, so you can clap for that one, though.

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[[audience clapping]] {Speaker 2="Host"} And you can see the Oriental Pop done in tomorrow's review.

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{Speaker 1="Renny Harris"} Yes, you will. [[laughter]] {Speaker 2="Host"} He says oh, no.

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{Speaker 1="Renny Harris"} Oriental Pop takes a lot out of you, after you do it, you feel like you've been dancing for 7, 8 hours, cuz it's a very tense dance, just like Popping.

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Popping is a lot of body control and mind control, you make your bodies do what you want it to do.

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Ok? Enough talk, I know you're saying this guy is starting to bore me. We gonna have Shalomar come up here and demonstrate a couple. He's gonna do two styles, of which - what kind of style you wanna do, tell 'em.

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[[inaudible exchange]]

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{Speaker 1="Renny Harris"} All right, he's gonna do Hard Pop, it's very serious pop, if you could take your - yeah, so you can see his eyes.

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[[silence for dance demonstration]]

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All right, that's a Hard Pop. [[applause in background]] He's gonna demonstrate a California Tick.

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[[silence for dance demonstration]]

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All right hold on, hold- hold up, we gonna have our personal beatbox get down for you. All right? This is what they do on the street to get the noises for those people who dance in the street and don't have no box to dance off, and no radio so we have your person here that does

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Speaker 1: It's Wild style on the beatbox. Go ahead Wild style.

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[[beatboxing]]

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[applause]

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Speaker 1: California tick.

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Speaker 1: Body tick.

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Speaker 1: Alright.

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Speaker 1: No problem. Alright, it's kinda hard for you to, uh, maybe you can't see the styles coming in, but to a dancer-- you can see uh-- a street dancer you can see the styles. Sometimes you can do five styles in one move almost, you know? So it's very hard to see unless you really know, alright? We're gonna have Dave the Renegade get up here, he's the master of Boogaloo. Boogaloo is very easy to do, um, we're gonna have him do this for you so uh, what's going on here?

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Audience member: Nothing.

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Speaker 1: That's that comedy stuff I was telling you about.

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Speaker 1: Alright, let's go. This is Dave the Renegade.

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Dave the Renegade: [begins beatboxing]

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Dave the Renegade: [stops beatboxing]

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Speaker 1: He's trying to get his, uh, rhythm together here.

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Dave the Renegade: [continues beatboxing]

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Dave the Renegade: [stops beatboxing]
Speaker 1: Alright, don't you want to see more of that?

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Children in the audience: [cheering for an encore]

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Speaker 1: Alright, Dave, do more of that.

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[[laughter]]

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Speaker 1: He's going to put a little electric Boogaloo into this-- he gets a little electrified.

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[[vocal exercises]]

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Speaker 1: Hey, we like that.

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[[beatboxing]]

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[[beatboxing ends]]

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Speaker 1: Alright, a little electric.

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Speaker 1: Alright, we gonna have, the hip-hop kid get up here and demonstrate one break dance move, ok?

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Speaker 1: Maybe two I think you think he could do a suicide up here?

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(Ping sound)

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Speaker 1: Yeah, alright. He's gonna demonstrate a suicide and one leg swipes, ok?

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(ping sound)
Speaker 1: When you see a suicide you'll know the suicide when you see it, ok?

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(echoed clapping)

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Speaker 1: Check it out.

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Speaker 1: Yeah, you can do it.

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Speaker 1: Yeah, suicide, come on.

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Speaker 1: Aww, man. He's like that's that comedy stuff I was telling you about.

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Speaker 3: [[beatboxing]]

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Speaker 1: Alright.

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Speaker 1: Right.

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Speaker 1: You do it with your glasses on?

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Speaker 1: Dont break them. B-

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Speaker 2: (Starts beatboxing)

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Speaker 1: Alright, this is the suicide.

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Speaker 2: (stops beat-boxing)

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Speaker 1: That's called the suicide.

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Speaker 1: Alright, if you heard a big 'boom' that was not his back, that was his foot that landed-he landed on his foot. Like that. He used the ball of his back, here,

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audience member: 'ow,'

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yeah. After effects.

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Speaker 1: Alright, don't go there, one leg swipes is gonna demonstrate.

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Speaker 2: (starts beatboxing)

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Speaker 1: Alright, come on.

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Speaker 3: Come on, chatch.

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Speaker 2: Coughing.

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Speaker 1: Alright, come on, chill out, chill out.
Speaker 2: [highpiched whooing] Attention! one made [{space?}]

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Speaker 1: This is a floor-opp.

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Speaker 3: Ah. Ah. Ah.
Speaker 1: One-leg swipe.

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Speaker 2: Yeah.
Speaker 1: That's one-leg swipe.

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Speaker 2: Nine, nine, nine, nine...

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Speaker 1: Um, by the way, it's a... You'd probably wonder why is this guy acting like this.

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Speaker 1: If remember, in the beginning of the show we introduced everybody, his name is Wild Style.

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Speaker 2: [[laughter]]

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Speaker 2: [[laughter]]
Speaker 1: That's this is why they called him Wild Style

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Speaker 1: 'cause he is very unpredictable.

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Speaker 2: [[vocal warm up noises]]
Speaker 1: All the time.

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Speaker 1: Alright.

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Speaker 1: Alright. We got 'em. He's talking. He's the one making all the noises here.

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We're gon' get Wild Style get up here. He.. he.. [[stutter]]

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Speaker 2: --Permission to say no.

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Speaker 1: [[laughter]]

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Speaker 2: Please do not call him up there on the stage.

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Speaker 3: Shut up will you shut up please?

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Speaker 2: No.

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Speaker 3: Would you please shut up?
Speaker 1: [[laughter]]
Speaker 2: No!

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Speaker 2: I think we should've already know now that you do not want to do any moves.
Speaker 3: Shut up please. Come on, people can hear you out here. [[laughter]]
Speaker 2: I don't care. This is Kevin's conscience speaking and he is now saying that he does not want to do any moves.

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Speaker 1: Alright, we're going to have Wild Style do animation, animation pop. It's like a break, you can do it in breakdancing and popping. He's going to turn into a crab and transform himself into an ape.

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Speaker 3: Alright, I'm going to attempt to make some noises here. Chicka, chicka, chicka, chicka, chicka, chicka, chicka, chicka boom.

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Speaker 1: Alright, come on, come on, come on. We're running out of time out here. Come on. You're going to turn into a crab.

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Speaker 1: Wild Style, let's go. Alright, no noises.

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Speaker 1: Yeah. Animation is turning, turning into any kind of animal you want to, okay. This is a very superior move. Alright. He's a crab right now. I want this crab to go under the bridge so he can get down to Philadelphia. So we're going to have a human bridge here, and this crab is going to go home because he wants to go to Philadelphia because he misses his mother.

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Speaker 1: Let's go little crabby. Come on. Let's go. That's it. Can you make it? Is he getting there? The little crabby went home to Philadelphia. He went under the bridge. Alright. The bridge can fall down now and the little crabby will turn into an ape.

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Speaker 1: Laughing

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Speaker 2: Ok, Prince is going to turn into an ostrich.
[SILENCE]

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Speaker 1: Another animation move here, the ostrich.
[SILENCE]

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Speaker 2: And from that he will turn into a puppet.
[SILENCE]

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Speaker 1: Look at that Pinocchio.
[SILENCE]

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Speaker 2: and from there he will turn into a bat. A cat, a mouse, a dog, a rat. Got any more? A zebra, umm

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Speaker 1: We can't do that unless we're in a show here. alright.

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Speaker 1: Alright we're gonna have a little comedy. Comedy pop has to take you by surprise. Alright, so if I do this you have to laugh because you know what i'm gettin ready to do. You know you're supposed to laugh right. And when you know your supposed to laugh, it doesn't come out funny that much you laugh. because you're being polite. imma do this, even if you don't laugh you better laugh.

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Speaker 2: I'm gonna laugh
[SILENCE]

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Speaker 2: Don't worry
[SILENCE]

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Speaker 2: singing/laughing

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Speaker 1: This concludes another episode of the twilight zone.

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Speaker 2: Can I ask you a question? Just between me and you. Did you laugh because I told you or did you laugh because I was funny?

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Speaker 2: Alright all the funny people raise your hand.

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Speaker 2: I didn't know all of you were funny. Ha

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Speaker 1: That's one of my corny jokes there, alright. We gon' take any questions right now, on break dancing, what- the way we d-, the way we dress, why we wear the things we do, my sneakers, what my shoestring- checkers. I had a, I had a lot of people come up to me today and say, how do you do that? I will tell you how to do it, if you wanna know. Um-

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Speaker 2: No.

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Speaker 1: Ask us anything. Questions? Let's go! All these little people.

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[SILENCE]

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Speaker 3: Free food over at-

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Speaker 1: Alright. Okay. You take one shoe string. Correcto. And, you take it, you put the end. Like that. I don't know if you can see that. See the end of that? I stuck it in here like this. Alright? Like so. Alright. Now, you take your shoe string and you bring it all the way around to make one shoe string go across and loop. You know how that looks? Like the shoes look in the- um, in the window downtown? You had- did you see they- the display they had one shoe string going across. You wanted to get it like that. Then you take the other shoe string, the white one, and you just skip the loop. All the way through, back and forth, and you have checkered. Shoe strings. Okay. It sounds easy doesn't it?

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Speaker 2: No.

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Speaker 1: Uhuh. Doubtful minds.

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Speaker 2: Why don't you just, hand them one of your sneakers?

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Speaker 1: No, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.

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Host: The, talking about shoe strings is a real important part. Alright. No more Wild Style for a while. It's a real important part of the entire hip hop scene. What we're talking about here is costuming. We talked earlier in the last workshop about the relationship between the DJs, the rappers, the break dancers- the language that they use. This is just as important an aspect to graffiti artists, that's what I left out. This is just an important an aspect- the costumes and the language of the hip hop community.

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Speaker 1: Part of the costuming and a very important part is what to do with your shoes or your sneakers? Are there other questions out there?
[SILENCE]

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Speaker 1: All right.
Speaker 2: Do we know how to do the centipede and the worm? Does any one know how to do the centipede and the worm? [audience]

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Speaker 2: That's good! Seriously, we're going to have two people, usually not on the stage- yeah you're dirty, your mom is going to kill me.

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Speaker 1: I'll tell you what we'll do- the stage here is not really a good stage for dancing. First because it's not even. And second of all because it's filthy.

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Speaker 1: What we can ask them to do, and you we can make a special request right now.

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Speaker 1: Is that when they do their main performance after 4 o'clock on the main stage where we have linoleum laid down, make sure that they do the centipede and the worm.

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Speaker 1: Now how many people want them to do that on the main stage? Let's hear it! C'mon. [[cheers]]

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Speaker 1: Okay public mandate.
Speaker 2: Alright.

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Speaker 1: Is there another question?
Speaker 2: [[inaudible]]

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Speaker 1: We have a question right over here.
[SILENCE]

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Speaker 1: Right.

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Speaker 1: The King Tut. We have a request for the move from Shalamar the King Tut.

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Speaker 2: The King Tut. This is a very superior move. C'mon, mara rash... But we sometimes we call em' ram-a-lash.
[SILENCE]

00:20:44.000 --> 00:20:51.000
Speaker 2: Oh before he does this I want [[cross talk]]
Speaker 1: Tell their friends, tell their friends.

00:20:51.000 --> 00:20:55.000
Speaker 2: [[sighs repeatedly]] Go ahead

00:20:55.000 --> 00:21:08.000
[[beatboxing]] [[humming]]

00:21:08.000 --> 00:21:13.000
[[crosstalk]]
Speaker 2: I got him mess him up with--
Speaker 1: Best up again, again, again, again-

00:21:13.000 --> 00:21:20.120
Speaker 2: Let's get him out here, Dennis Gold! C'mon out. [[sighing]]

00:21:27.000 --> 00:21:41.000
[[beatbox]]
Speaker 2: Remember that concentration I told you about that Shalamar used to have? [[laughter]]

00:21:41.000 --> 00:21:50.000
Seriously now.
[SILENCE]

00:21:50.000 --> 00:22:22.000
Soundmen playing Gremlins.

00:22:22.000 --> 00:22:19.000
[[beatboxing]]

00:22:19.000 --> 00:22:28.000
You know it's very-- if you can notice his muscles tensing up. Can you see him shaking?

00:22:28.000 --> 00:22:43.000
Very difficult, strong move. Body control. [[more beatboxing]] [[laughter]]

00:22:43.000 --> 00:22:48.000
Alright let's here it for Shalamar. Alright [[Applause]]

00:22:48.000 --> 00:23:00.000
I need two more questions and y'all going to vote on who y'all want to ask the questions.
[SILENCE]

00:23:00.000 --> 00:23:05.000
Double hands

00:23:05.000 --> 00:23:18.000
Can we do the California worm? We can do the Mexican worm. And the--no seriously we can do the California worm. It's all actually done the same way. There's certain moves everyone does. Okay?

00:23:18.000 --> 00:23:20.000
We'll do that on stage just for you, okay? Alright, here we go.
[SILENCE]

00:23:20.000 --> 00:23:25.310
[[laughter]] He just asked me can I do the wave? What kind of wave?

00:23:29.000 --> 00:23:33.000
Speaker 1: Oh pass the body, passing through the other body? Y'all like that one?

00:23:33.000 --> 00:23:35.000
[[Audience cheers]] Yeahhhhh

00:23:35.000 --> 00:23:39.000
Speaker 1: Alright, I guess I can get y'all some more [[??]] or anyone else who want to come up?

00:23:39.000 --> 00:23:40.000
Speaker 1: Wild style.

00:23:40.000 --> 00:23:41.000
Audience Member: [[inaudible]]

00:23:41.000 --> 00:23:43.000
Speaker 1: Hit all of them?

00:23:43.000 --> 00:23:44.000
[[Audience cheers]] Yeahhhhhh

00:23:44.000 --> 00:23:51.000
Speaker 3: Oh! boy!
Speaker 1: That was the best suggestion you made all day because these guys are lazy. Up and at 'em.

00:23:51.000 --> 00:23:54.000
Speaker 1: Hip hop kid doesn't pop, but we goin' to have him on the end anyway.

00:23:54.000 --> 00:23:57.000
Audience Member: Can I play the beat box instead?

00:23:57.000 --> 00:24:02.000
Speaker 1: You wanna play the beat box?

00:24:02.000 --> 00:24:08.000
Audience Member: [[inaudible]]

00:24:08.000 --> 00:24:12.000
Speaker 2: Okay in order to get-- Wildstyle
Speaker 1: Beat it? This is
Speaker 2: In order to get Wildstyle in here were gonna get,

00:24:12.000 --> 00:24:17.000
Speaker 2: were gonna get MC Caesar with the Punk Funk nation to give us the beat box.

00:24:17.000 --> 00:24:21.000
[[Audience claps]]

00:24:21.000 --> 00:25:25.000
Speaker 1: [[starts beat boxing]]

00:25:25.000 --> 00:25:30.000
Speaker 1: Alright, alright we're gonna close this down for you real fast

00:25:30.000 --> 00:25:39.000
Speaker 1: We're--we're gonna check, we're gonna break worm California Mexican worm and squirm all on the main stage just for you guys.

00:25:39.000 --> 00:25:40.590
Speaker 1: Can you make it or do you, are you out of school yet?

00:25:45.000 --> 00:25:54.000
SPEAKER 1: Oh all right, okay great! (okay) Listen, we would like to salute you, the people of Washington D.C. Okay? We gonna give you The Scanner Boys salute!

00:25:54.000 --> 00:26:02.000
Speaker 1: You should stay around for this one, this is decent. That's that - that's that breaker talk for you.

00:26:02.000 --> 00:26:03.000
Speaker 1: Five, six, seven, eight-

00:26:03.000 --> 00:26:06.000
[SILENCE]

00:26:06.000 --> 00:26:09.000
HOST: Let's have a hand for The Scanner Boys, of Philadelphia.

00:26:09.000 --> 00:26:11.000
SPEAKER 1: 4:15 don't forget!

00:26:11.000 --> 00:26:21.000
HOST: Over on the main stage, Grand Master now on the Punk Funk Nation and International Playgirls and The Scanner Boys at 4:15.

00:26:21.000 --> 00:26:33.000
HOST: We're going to be doing a workshop here in just a few minutes on the traditional traveling forms of black entertainment; minstrelsy, vaudeville and medicine shows with Willy "Ashcan" Jones. For those of you who wish to stay around.

00:26:33.000 --> 00:26:45.000
HOST: Watch the workshop. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, come right up! Don't gather around there, gather around over here. You- uh- right over here, you're about to be educated, you're about to be entertained, you're about to see an erudite performance.

00:26:45.000 --> 00:26:49.000
HOST: All you have to do is join us and sit down here at the stage, that's right!

00:26:49.000 --> 00:26:59.000
HOST: Over there - right - look at these great seats we have here! Come on! Don't walk that way! You in the back, over there! This way, this way, come on up! A lot a seats here, a lot of time.

00:26:59.000 --> 00:27:09.000
HOST: Everybody, come on up and have a seat, we're about to do a workshop here, with the one and only, the amazing, the ASTOUNDING, that's right ladies and gentlemen, the only Ashcan Jones in the world.

00:27:09.000 --> 00:27:17.000
HOST: I guarantee you, you'll never find another person named Ashcan. We had to look long and hard in Philadelphia to find this one. And a find he was!

00:27:17.000 --> 00:27:26.000
HOST: So, gather around we're about to start the workshop. You say, "What is that guy doing up there? What is happening on this stage?" We're going to give you an answer to that, too.

00:27:26.000 --> 00:27:36.000
HOST: You know, on the main stage you see a lot of the performances, and you go home, and you say "Hey, I saw a great dancer! I saw a great comedian! I saw a great singer!"

00:27:36.000 --> 00:27:45.000
HOST: And then they say, "Yeah, what was he doing?" And you try to explain it, and they say, "Yeah, well, what's his history? Tell me the story. It's the folk festival we're supposed to learn!" And you scratch your head, and say,

00:27:45.000 --> 00:28:01.000
HOST: "Uh, well, uh.. I don't remember!" The reason you don't remember is because you didn't come to the workshop stage and hear the performers tell the story themselves. What we're trying to do, here on the narrative stage, is break down some of the traditions.

00:28:01.000 --> 00:28:20.000
HOST: Allowing the performers to tell you the story; to tell you a little bit about their own history. When, meanwhile, telling you how what they're doing over on the main performance stage for the Philadelphia area, how that fits in to broader traditions of black entertainment and black tradition.

00:28:20.000 --> 00:28:27.000
HOST: The person we have with us on stage today is Mr. Willy "Ashcan" Jones.

00:28:27.000 --> 00:28:41.000
HOST: Willy Jones was born and raised on a farm in Georgia, and left at a very young age. In the ensuing years he worked with carnivals, with circuses, as a dancer with traveling reviews,

00:28:41.000 --> 00:28:54.000
HOST: in Broadway shows, in Marx brothers movies, that's right, in Marx brothers movies. With the minstrel show, and finally, back with his own carnival show, which he owned and operated for more than 30 years.

00:28:54.000 --> 00:28:57.840
HOST: Let's have a big hand please for Willy "Ashcan" Jones!

00:29:00.000 --> 00:29:11.000
Host: And we'll go ahead and start this workshop by asking him to tell us how in the world he first got involved in show business from a farm in Georgia.

00:29:11.000 --> 00:29:23.000
Willie: Well I can tell ya, I got involved because of the hard work on the farm, I can tell ya that. And, uh, I didn't like hard work.

00:29:23.000 --> 00:29:36.000
And they used to have, uh, carnivals and tent shows come to my hometown, and when they would come, we would go out there and bring water.

00:29:36.000 --> 00:29:42.000
See, didn't have- didn't have no running water. You had to bring the water there. We were bringing the water for the animals, and we would get in free.

00:29:42.000 --> 00:29:49.000
That's the only way we got in there, 'cuz we didn't have money, we would get in free. They would let us in free.

00:29:49.000 --> 00:30:00.000
And so one day, one'd come by, and he asked me did I want to go with him? And I told him, yeah. And that's the way I left Georgia.

00:30:00.000 --> 00:30:02.000
Host: So you left Georgia working with a show, then.

00:30:02.000 --> 00:30:03.000
Willie: Oh yeah, well--

00:30:03.000 --> 00:30:04.000
Host: You weren't entertaining.

00:30:04.000 --> 00:30:09.000
Willie: No, I wasn't entertaining. No, I was just- had been- keep water for the animals, and running uh- uh--

00:30:09.000 --> 00:30:13.000
errands for the, for the performers and the people that worked the show.

00:30:13.000 --> 00:30:17.000
Host: Now, how was it that you got up there on the stage the first time, Willie?

00:30:17.000 --> 00:30:23.000
Willie: Well, uh, I didn't get up on stage. They asked me to come on, and when I got north, what we called north then,

00:30:23.000 --> 00:30:31.000
when I got to Washington, when I was far enough, I left them. And I went on to Atlantic City.

00:30:31.000 --> 00:30:37.000
I had an aunt in Atlantic City, so I went to her. And, uh, so she made me go to school one year.

00:30:37.000 --> 00:30:41.000
She wanted to go more than one year, but that- that's when I started dancing.

00:30:41.000 --> 00:30:46.000
Uh, started doing of the dance called the Snake Heel.

00:30:46.000 --> 00:30:53.000
And, uh, me and my partner, that's when we started traveling on the road, but my partner was good and I wasn't so good.

00:30:53.000 --> 00:31:01.000
So they wanted to let me go and keep my partner, but my partner told them if they let me go he was going too.

00:31:01.000 --> 00:31:07.000
So I slipped off of my partner- he didn't know I was going. So then I come on back in to New York.

00:31:07.000 --> 00:31:12.000
Host: Now, how did you get back? First of all, what kind of show was it that you were dancing with then?

00:31:12.000 --> 00:31:16.000
Willie: Well at that time I was dancing with the, the Whitman Sisters.

00:31:16.000 --> 00:31:18.000
Host: Uh-huh. And where were you showing?

00:31:18.000 --> 00:31:26.000
Willie: Well we be showing- we had- we had played Washington D.C. We left there and went to, uh, uh, North Carolina.

00:31:26.000 --> 00:31:31.000
We played Raleigh, North Carolina. We left Raleigh, North Carolina, went to Columbia, South Carolina,

00:31:31.000 --> 00:31:34.000
and Augusta, Georgia, where they- where the-

00:31:34.000 --> 00:31:36.000
Host: So you're working in theaters?

00:31:36.000 --> 00:31:37.000
Willie: Oh that's the- we worked in theaters-

00:31:37.000 --> 00:31:38.000
Host: Right.

00:31:38.000 --> 00:31:40.000
Willie: At that time, that was work in the theaters.

00:31:40.000 --> 00:31:44.000
Host: So, you're down there in Augusta, Georgia, now how did you get back up to Atlantic City?

00:31:44.000 --> 00:31:49.000
Willie: Get back to Atlantic City? I- I didn't go back to Atlantic City. That's when I went to New York.

00:31:49.000 --> 00:31:51.000
Host: Okay. How did you get back up to New York?

00:31:51.000 --> 00:31:56.000
Willie: Well that time, another- Once you'll be going, then another'd be coming.

00:31:56.000 --> 00:32:04.000
So that time, Butterbeans and Susie was coming by, and Ma Rainey. And I joined them and come on back up to New York.

00:32:04.000 --> 00:32:06.000
Host: Also in theaters?

00:32:06.000 --> 00:32:13.480
Willie: In theaters, with them. But when I got to New York again, you had to be real good to play New York. So they let me go.

00:32:15.000 --> 00:32:23.000
Willie: So then I went to- goin' to the Savoy Ballroom. I was shinin' shoes downtown and goin' to the Savoy Ballroom.

00:32:23.000 --> 00:32:30.000
So that's when I started to Lindy Hop dance, with Whitey Savoy Lindy Hoppers out of New York City.

00:32:30.000 --> 00:32:34.000
Host: So, first of all what we're talking about is the tradition of the circus and carnival;

00:32:34.000 --> 00:32:46.000
Leaving there as a worker, going on up north into Atlantic City, then joining troops who were working the Black Vaudeville Circuit, what was known then as the T.O.B.A. Circuit.

00:32:46.000 --> 00:32:47.000
Willie: That's right.

00:32:47.000 --> 00:32:54.000
Host: Now T.O.B.A., officially stood for Theatre Owners Booking Association.

00:32:54.000 --> 00:32:55.000
Willie: Right.

00:32:55.000 --> 00:32:58.000
Host: Now that's not exactly what folks used to say it stood for was it Willie?

00:32:58.000 --> 00:33:01.000
Willie: No, we didn't anyway. [[Host laughs]]

00:33:01.000 --> 00:33:03.000
Willie: We always had Tough On Black Actors.

00:33:03.000 --> 00:33:06.000
[[Host and audience laugh]]

00:33:06.000 --> 00:33:19.000
Host: It was a black circuit, a vaudeville circuit that ran primarily down the east coast, and you had black travelling troops who would go from theatre to theatre working on the circuit.

00:33:19.000 --> 00:33:24.000
Willie started off as a young snake-hip dancer, and you were only how old when you started that?

00:33:24.000 --> 00:33:27.000
Willie: Oh I was 'bout 16 when I really started that.

00:33:27.000 --> 00:33:34.000
Host: Worked his way all the way down south where the show let him go, more or less, or where he left the show when he was relieved of performing duties.

00:33:34.000 --> 00:33:46.000
So then, he joined another show with the great blues singer Ma Rainey and the comedy team, Butterbeans and Susie, working his way back up north until they got to Atlan- to New York City.

00:33:46.000 --> 00:34:02.000
There he became, a dancer-- specifically a Lindy Hop dancer-- with what is certainly the most well known of all the Lindy Hop troops in the United States at that time, Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, working out of the Savoy Ballroom.

00:34:02.000 --> 00:34:05.000
Now what was it that was so unique about Whitey's?

00:34:05.000 --> 00:34:16.000
Willie: Well they were just like, break dancing today. We rehearsed it, if you wanna be a good break dancer, you just don't get out there and do it, you have to rehearse and know what you doing.

00:34:16.000 --> 00:34:24.000
So Lindy Hop, we know what we were doin' and we rehearsed it and that's what made it different from other people doing it.

00:34:24.000 --> 00:34:38.000
Everybody Lindy Hop, but they couldn't Lindy Hop like we could and we had fast music. For the next thing was real fast, and years ago all dance floors was slick. All good dance floors was waxed.

00:34:38.000 --> 00:34:45.000
And we would go there with a pair of sneakers, and when we get there we would change our shoes and put on sneakers.

00:34:45.000 --> 00:34:47.790
And we could stand up on the floor where other people couldn't.

00:34:51.000 --> 00:34:59.000
Speaker 1: Now how many people out here know how to do the Lindy hop?

00:34:59.000 --> 00:34:55.000
[SILENCE]

00:34:55.000 --> 00:35:00.000
Speaker 1: Uh Oh Uh Oh.

00:35:00.000 --> 00:35:07.000
Speaker 1: How many people out here know anything about the dance the Lindy hop? One Two Three Four. Hmm.

00:35:07.000 --> 00:35:10.000
[SILENCE]

00:35:10.000 --> 00:35:21.000
Speaker 1: The Lindy hop was a couple dance that evolved in the, I guess at about 1929, named originally after Charles Lindberg's hop across the Atlantic.

00:35:21.000 --> 00:35:46.000
Speaker 2: That's Right
Speaker 1: The unique thing about the Lindy hop was that it involved a break away move, where you let go of your partner, or at least you moved at first you moved away from your partner. You originally still held her and you split apart and did moves where you weren't close to each other and ultimately it evolved to the point where you allowed your partner to leave you entirely, really the first couple dance where the partners were separated they were not touching.

00:35:46.000 --> 00:36:00.000
Now what happened in the Savoy ballroom was that the Lindy hoppers did a little more with the dance than usual. Exactly, uh what did the Savoy Lindy hoppers bring to the dance that made it a little bit different from what you found in the streets and in other ballrooms?

00:36:00.000 --> 00:36:05.000
Speaker 2: Well, we had a teacher named Whitey, Herbert White, and he was an old dancer.

00:36:05.000 --> 00:36:16.000
And he, you know did all types of dancin' so everything that he could sneak in there, that won't mess with another dance, he would put it in.

00:36:16.000 --> 00:36:33.000
So he would put different things in, he would get a little bit from you know he would see uh, exotic dancer, and he'd know those things, what they did and he would have the girl when you throw 'em out every now and again do a 'lil exotic, but we were still holdin' the hand.

00:36:33.000 --> 00:36:55.000
And alright acrobatic. We could do some but you couldn't turn the hand loose to do it, so we could sneak that in. Had a little Waltz in there, but you couldn' turn hand loose to do it. If you turned your hand loose you had to come right back and, uh, that break away that was the dance be before the Lindy Hop. It was the name of the dance was break away.

00:36:55.000 --> 00:37:18.020
The first one I can remember was Collegium, after Collegium the break away, and after the break away come the Lindy hop. And it different than it
[SILENCE] and all the other dances you throw the girl one way,
[SILENCE] round this way, but the Lindy hop, when Shorty Snowdon did it, he throw the girl that way and she couldn't get out good, she hopped out

00:37:20.000 --> 00:37:29.000
Willie "Ashcan" Jones: And Lindbergh just had made his flight, and he called it the Lindy Hop, and they started doing it, and that- Paul Whiteman took them I wasn't with that group.

00:37:29.000 --> 00:37:35.000
Paul Whiteman took 'em and carried them all over the world. Shorty Snowden and Bea.

00:37:35.000 --> 00:37:43.000
Speaker 2: There's one important thing to note in what Willie is saying here. He's talking about Whitey incorporating all these other moves in the dance.

00:37:43.000 --> 00:37:53.000
Now, for those of you who have seen break-dancers or have seen the disco queens and kings on our stage here, you'll notice that there are dance sequences clearly drawn from other traditions.

00:37:53.000 --> 00:38:05.000
There might be a dance sequence which looks like it has a bit of ballet in it. There might be a dance sequence which looks similar to Russian traditional dancing. There might be an acrobatic move.

00:38:05.000 --> 00:38:09.000
This was really the key to the success of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers.

00:38:09.000 --> 00:38:15.000
They were able to incorporate a wide variety of dance moves into their own repertoire.

00:38:15.000 --> 00:38:27.000
Now the ones that they became the best known for were the acrobatic moves. They took the moves of flash-dancing of the period, put them with a social dance of the ballroom floor.

00:38:27.000 --> 00:38:33.000
What were some of the acrobatic moves that you would do on the dance floor with the Lindy?

00:38:33.000 --> 00:38:40.000
Willie "Ashcan" Jones: Well the Lindy, that start to throw them over your head, across your back. You throw them from one partner to the other one.

00:38:40.000 --> 00:38:46.000
Between your legs, you step over them, slide around, and then you had guys doing knee spins.

00:38:46.000 --> 00:38:54.000
The girl'a hold them up and turn all the way down to the floor, and do knee spins and lock the legs and catch each other.

00:38:54.000 --> 00:39:05.000
Speaker 2: When you say knee spins, immediately people should think they're break-dancing right away. It's the same basic move that they were doing in some of the performance types of Lindy Hop.

00:39:05.000 --> 00:39:15.000
Now, it's hard to understand the real acrobatics that go into Lindy dancing or Savoy Lindy dancing unless you actually see someone do it.

00:39:15.000 --> 00:39:25.000
If you're able to see old film clips, for example in the Marx Brothers movie, Day at the Races, you'll see Willie Jones and some of his fellow colleagues doing some of the acrobatic moves,

00:39:25.000 --> 00:39:35.000
which would include such things as the males throwing their female partners up to 15 to 20 feet into the air, in front of them.

00:39:35.000 --> 00:39:51.000
She would come down on her knees, push off with her knees. They would grab her around the waist, throw her up as high as they could. Then, when she came down the next time, instead of landing on her feet, the male partner would spread his legs apart, catch her at the waist as she's coming down,

00:39:51.000 --> 00:40:01.000
and throw her under his legs where she went sliding across the floor on a patch, conveniently patched on, so that she wouldn't get any scratches. The floor was slick but just in case.

00:40:01.000 --> 00:40:11.000
Sliding across as many as 30 or 40 feet across the floor, only to meet another male partner at the other end. Roll right into the dance and not miss a beat.

00:40:11.000 --> 00:40:16.000
Now that's the sort of acrobatics that characterized the work of Whitey's Lindy hoppers,

00:40:16.000 --> 00:40:23.000
The Lindy hoppers that Whitey trained worked in a variety of settings.

00:40:23.000 --> 00:40:24.000
Willie "Ashcan" Jones: Three.

00:40:24.000 --> 00:40:26.000
Speaker 2: Where, where would you, what sort of places would you work?

00:40:26.000 --> 00:40:41.000
Willie "Ashcan" Jones: Well we worked night clubs, auditoriums, and any place that it was a big crowd. We, we worked lot of places like the World Fair, we worked the World Fair 1939, in New York City.

00:40:41.000 --> 00:40:49.000
Speaker 2: There was a special pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair set up by the Savoy Ballroom.
Willie "Ashcan" Jones: Yeah, just like this one here
Speaker 2: Just for the Lindy hoppers.

00:40:49.000 --> 00:41:03.000
Willie "Ashcan" Jones: Just like we got this set up here, that's the way it was set-up for the Savoy Lindy Hoppers, then part of us went that same time they had the exhibition in Frisco. Some us went out to Frisco for it, the exhibition out there.

00:41:03.000 --> 00:41:18.000
Speaker 2: Now the Lindy hop wasn't confined to the particular performances of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers obviously, and very soon some of the acrobatic Lindy Hoppers who were working with Whitey's troops began to present the Lindy Hop in travelling stages.

00:41:18.000 --> 00:41:33.000
Now Willie Jones here began to work with probably the most renowned black travelling review that worked out of New York City. From the late 20's really, through the 30's and 40's, a review called the Irvin C Miller's Brown Skin Models.

00:41:33.000 --> 00:41:39.000
Willie, how was it that you hooked up with Miller and what exactly, what kind of show was that?

00:41:39.000 --> 00:41:49.000
Willie "Ashcan" Jones: Well, Miller had a show and a, that show he had to have a lot of places, he would have a flash, a flash, in fact we were a flash dancer.

00:41:49.000 --> 00:41:53.000
What we did we did we couldn't do it over three minutes.

00:41:53.000 --> 00:42:10.000
Willie "Ashcan" Jones: We couldn't do it, three minutes you know, a piece.
Speaker 2: Right.
Willie "Ashcan" Jones: But ah ah, I say 6 of us do 11 minutes to 10 minutes because we would do 3 minutes a piece, and then we would do 2 minutes together. All of us 2 minutes together.

00:42:10.000 --> 00:42:21.000
Well ah, well he would like then he would have ah somebody want to change, wanted to break up a bunch of 2 singers, 2 groups of singers were singing here.

00:42:21.000 --> 00:42:29.000
So this group just went off, you understand, don't wanna bring on another group on because this group went off, had the house in an up roar

00:42:29.000 --> 00:42:37.000
and something like us was the only thing that could quiet it down. You couldn't put another singer there, because they wouldn't even give 'em a chance, ya understand.

00:42:37.000 --> 00:42:43.520
You'd see they wasn't good enough because they'd be applauding for the other singers, that just went off, so we would come in between to break it up.

00:42:47.000 --> 00:42:56.000
Host: So when you were traveling with Irvin C. Miller, in those first years that you brought a group of Lindy-hoppers onto that stage, were you working in theaters then?

00:42:56.000 --> 00:43:00.000
Willie Jones: Oh yeah, we were working theaters.
Host: So you were back basically on the Vaudeville circuit.

00:43:00.000 --> 00:43:07.000
Oh yeah, I was on the vaudeville circuit. But after we got on that circuit, it was right after World War II then,

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and nobody wanted you into the theaters because everybody had plenty money, and the theater man didn't need nobody to come into theater then,

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so he usually went to the theater to make - sort of a man to make more money.

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But then they didn't need you then, they had plenty of, uh you know, pictures, and everybody had plenty of money to come to it. So that's when Irvin C. Miller bought the Florida Blossom and it was called the Brown Skin Models and the Florida Blossom combined.

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Host: Now how many of you all are familiar with the black tradition of minstrel shows?

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You know, when people think of minstrel shows, especially younger people and white audiences, they tend to think immediately of the minstrel shows of the 1800's,

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when groups of white people would put on burnt cork and begin to do caricatures of African-American dance, of African-American humour, of African-American song and music.

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In the late 1800's however, a number of blacks themselves began not only to enter into minstrel shows, but also to own and manage their own shows.

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By the 1920's and 30's, there were a number of very large travelling tent shows, owned and operated by blacks, showing primarily to black audiences,

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working with entirely black casts that went under the name of minstrel shows and followed somewhat the format of the old 19th century minstrel shows.

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Now in this century, the most popular of those were probably the Florida Blossom Minstrels and the Silas Green from New Orleans. The Florida Blossoms showed under-tent until the late 1940's, when they joined with Irvin C. Miller who was working a Vaudeville show.

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And the two forms went together and went out on the road, showing under a huge black-top, or not black-top, big-top I should say--
Willie Jones: Yeah, big top, yeah.
Host: -to African-American audiences.

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Now in that sort of show Willie, what sort of entertainment would you present to the audiences?

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Willie Jones: Well that, at first you would have to have a big band. You had a band, and the next thing you'd have was chorus girls. You had to have a line of girl.

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So then you have twelve at least, twelve, twelve girls: six in the front row and six in the back row. Then after that you'd have some kind of act, don't care what kind of act, it may be a dance act, a Spanish dance act,

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a tap dance act, a Blues singer, a somebody maybe, some woman or other, with an act- then they used to play trumpet, they played saxophone, and they did an act with it because it was rare to see a lady do that.

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Host: Right.
Willie Jones: We had all those kind of acts with us. One woman doing a chair dance, dancing with a rope, yeah all them was specialist---

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Willie "Ashcan" Jones: Willie Ashcan Jones: So you will see that then you'll see a comedian and then they all would bring the band on and Miller did a what you call uh, a band number.

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Willie Ashcan Jones: Well, everybody want to hear the band, they would do 2 number - 2, 3 number. And then after that they'd bring the chorus girls on again, at the end, at the end of it, everybody come on the stage.

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That was the finale. You had to know the opening and the beginning of the show.

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Speaker 2: Speaker 2:Now a lot of people when they hear stories like this, they, we're talking about a form of professional entertainment. The first question is, why are you addressing this at a folk festival?

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Speaker 2:A folk festival is some place where you're supposed to talk about traditions going from generation to generation. What is this have to do with entertainment, professional commercial entertainment?

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Speaker 2:The answer is this: in entertainment, in forms such as African-American minstrelsy, black vaudeville, black medicine shows, black carnival shows, you had born traditions of entertainment, traditions of comedy, forms of dancing, such as forms of tap dancing and flash dancing. Forms of music which were not born on the street, which we not born in the community, but were actually developed on the entertainment stage.

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Speaker 2:These traditions were then passed down, not from father to son and mother to daughter, but rather, performer to performer. So that generation after generation after generation of performers working those shows would pass down the same traditions of comedy, of dance, of music.

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Speaker 2:Now with Willie Jones who was working at this time as a Lindy-hop dancer with a combined minstrel and vaudeville show, he began to realise that as he got older, it was going to be harder and harder to for him to keep doing the sort of flash Lindy-hopping that he was doing at the time.

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Speaker 2:As he said, the Lindy-hoppers were maybe doing maybe 3 minutes each. That flash dancing took everything out of you.

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Speaker 2:What he did then was turn to one of the other tradition forms in the show.

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Speaker 2:Now what did you begin to do, Willie, as you realised your dancing days wouldn't last forever? --

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Willie "Ashcan" Jones: I thank my partner.