The Big Apple Contest

The Big Apple was a dance craze originating in South Carolina that was popular in Harlem and throughout the United States in the late 1930s. It was a called social dance that was done with a partner, with regional variations of moves as well as fun and silly moves that came in from popular culture.

The Big Apple starts with everyone standing in a circle holding hands. Tap your right foot in the middle three times on the 1 3 5 and everyone shouts ‘Swing Out’ on the 7!

The caller then calls moves for the dancers to dance with their partner, with all moves being fairly simple and inclusive to all levels. Some moves are similar to Charleston, Shag and are danced in solo jazz and Lindy Hop.

In some Big Apple dances the caller can invite couples into the centre for a ‘shine’ – this is a moment for the couple to do a solo, either something they’ve prepared or made up on the spot. Couples who dance together a lot might have prepared something quite elaborate! During the shines the other dancers will do a simple step and keep time round the outside of the circle.

The traditional ending to the Big Apple is a move called ‘Praise Allah’ or ‘Hallelujah’ – everyone runs into the centre and throws their hands in the air shouting ‘hallelujah!’.

You can find out more about the origins and history of the Big Apple dance on a variety of sites, with a few great notes about moves and clips for inspiration!

Teachers at Rock That Swing Festival 2013 do the Big Apple with steps called by the MC!

The Big Apple Routine danced today was made famous by the film Keep Punchin’ from 1939 and was choreographed by Frankie Manning. He hadn’t seen the Big Apple dance craze and simply designed the routine based on a telegram! Although many of the moves from this routine are danced in the Big Apple dance, they would have been danced to songs of a slower tempo which make it easier for everyone to join in as well as easier to hear the call and respond with a move.

Join us on the Friday night before the party for a free lesson on some classic moves from the Big Apple! We’ll be holding the Big Apple Contest that same night and it’s free to enter. Simply find a partner and jump in!


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