Strikers revisit the 1920s with dance workshop

The sounds of jazz and swing music filled Gaither gymnasium as the Florida A&M University Strikers and the Beta Alpha chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. hosted their first “Can’t Stop Dancing” Lindy Hop dance workshop.

The Lindy Hop workshop was birthed when Erica Hicks, the chair of the event, and Shepiro Hardemon, the founder of the FAMU Strikers and Mahogany, came together. They decided that the students of FAMU needed to experience a different style of dancing and familiarize themselves with some of the moves blacks created in the 1920s.

After Hicks, a senior theater performance student from Miami, saw the movie “Idlewild,” she thought the students of FAMU deserved to taste the flavor of the Lindy Hop, the official swing dance that blacks created long ago.

More than 100 participants were dressed in their sweats, T-shirts and gym shoes ready and eager to learn some new moves. Hardemon led the workshop along with LaShay Williams, charter member of Mahogany dance theater.

Participants lined up across the gym and began to learn the moves by verbally repeating them. The gym rang with the words, “Kick, Kick. Double kick. Kick, kick, WHOA! Kick, kick,” then participants began to physically perform the moves.

They were on fire! The participants swung their way up and down the gym and seemed to have a good time. The dancers then partnered up, and the feel of the 1920s was in the building. The fever of swing dancing was so high that the spectators in the audience found themselves dancing in their seats and reciting the words. Student Jasmine Mitchell, a junior nursing major from Miami, said, “The workshop was awesome!”

It was very different and original. Most people do regular hip hop dance workshops but this was different and entertaining. To sum it up in one word, it was extraordinary.”

Hardemon found the music for the event from various jazz artists and the moves were taken from a show the Strikers had in 2000.

“We wanted to show students where the school’s A&S fees were going because these moves were taught to the Strikers from those fees,” said Hardemon, as sweat trickled from his face.

Hicks was confident the Lindy Hop event would be something FAMU students would enjoy and remember.

“This will definitely be an annual event that the AKAs and the Strikers have,” said Hicks. “We want to display all types of dancing that African-Americans have invented.”

As the workshop ended and just before the exhausted students headed home, Strikers member Cyrah Hawkins was presented with a certificate for “leadership in dance.”

The Strikers and the AKAs found the event to be a real success.

You can look for the AKAs and the Strikers next year for their second annual dance workshop, but until then, Rattlers, grab your zoot suits, petticoat skirts and dance shoes and keep on swingin’.