You can call it the Carolina Shag, the Madison or even Swing
Call it what ever you want too it will still be the
Big Apple!

The origin of the Big Apple dance most likely originated from the “Ring Shout”.
The Ring Shout was a group dance associated with religious observances by African Americans on plantations in South Carolina and Georgia around 1860.

The truth is that the “Ring Shout” was of African origins and mixed with American Christian beliefs. It was done most times in secret because Blacks in the south was restricted in their beliefs and behavior by their white slave owners.

African Americans continued to practice the Ring Shout in South Carolina and Georgia
The Ring Shout was a dance that went counterclockwise circling, arms raised high with arm and leg gestures.

I discovered that this dance is still being practiced today in small church populations of the southern United States.

Most believe that southern African Americans started to turn their parent’s religious observances into a fun dance for the young people in their community.


The Big Apple became widely known in the early 1930s.
African-American youth doing the dance created the Big Apple Club, which was at the former House of Peace Synagogue on Park Street in Columbia, South Carolina.

In 1936, white students from the University of South Carolina heard the music coming from the juke joint as they were driving by.

Even though it was very unusual for whites to go into a black club, the three asked the club’s owner, Frank “Fat Sam” Boyd, if they could enter.
With two conditions they could they had to pay twenty-five cents each and they had to sit in the balcony.
During the next few months, the white students brought more friends to the nightclub to watch the black dancers.

The white students became so fascinated with the dance that, in order to prevent the music from stopping, they would toss coins down to the black dancers below them when the dancers ran out of money for the jukebox.

The white dancers eventually called the dance the black dancers did the “Big Apple”, after the nightclub where they first saw it.
During the summer of 1937, the students from the University of South Carolina started dancing the Big Apple at the Pavilion in Myrtle Beach

 “We always did the best we could to imitate the steps we saw”.

The news of the new dance craze spread to New York, and a New York talent agent, Gae Foster, traveled to the Carolinas to audition dancers for a show at the Roxy Theater, the world’s second-largest theater at that time.

After the engagement at the Roxy, the group became known as “Billy Spivey’s Big Apple Dancers” and toured the country for six months

By the end of 1937, the Big Apple had become a national dance craze. On December 20, 1937, Life featured the Big Apple in a four-page photo spread and the magazine predicted that 1937 would be remembered as the year of the Big Apple.


In the 1980s, Lance Benishek and Betty Wood started to tour the US and Europe teaching the Big Apple.

The 50th anniversary of the dance was celebrated in 1988 in Columbia, South Carolina, at the location where it all started.

 

 

A short history of the Big Apple


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