I’ve known Dean Collins’ version of the Shim Sham for years, but as is often the case over time, the steps I was dancing resembled the source material less and less.
While I wholeheartedly endorse individual styling, I believe it’s imperative to have a full and accurate knowledge of dance material as it originated. In simple terms, we should be able to dance this routine exactly like the person who invented it.
Thankfully, I was given the perfect opportunity to revisit this material on the occasion of teaching a class as part of a fundraiser for my longtime friend and fellow lindy hopper, Lorraine O’Neal. (Click here to learn more about how Lorraine is kicking cancer’s ass.)
I recorded this video — a step-by-step, count-by-count breakdown of the version as performed by Dean Collins himself and Bart Bartolo in 1983. It serves as an introduction to each step as well as the nuances and (I would argue) idiosyncracies of this version of the Shim Sham.
For newer dancers, I hope it encourages you to devote time to learning choreographies; they are an important part of lindy hop and traditional jazz dance history, and will help you evelop excellent movement skills.
For more experienced dancers (and intrepid newbies, too!), I encourage you not to watch this. WHY? Because you should be breaking down the material yourself. Sure, it’s been done before, but I guarantee if you do the hard work, you will understand the mechanics, timing, and styling much more thoroughly than if your sole source of learning is this or any other breakdown video.
Lastly, to learn about Dean the dancer, read his brief bio here.