The Junk Drawer — Meeting Irene Thomas, New Jewel Clip, new Charleston “soundie.”


First things first, my partner Kate and I were able to meet the legendary Irene Thomas this year. AND, hang out with her and legendary Jean Veloz together. And, Irene taught us a few of her old tricks. It was one of the highlights of my life in swing dancing.

If you don’t know who Irene is, she’s one of the most important followers and woman’s voices in swing dance history. Known for both her humorous personality, her full-bodied variations, and the big bow her agent made her wear in the movies, she invented, among many things, the quick stop drop. She would often take the momentum the leader was giving her and dramatically shape it — in one move she had, the leader would lead one outside turn, and she’d snap the energy, accomplishing two before the leader knew what happened. Sadly, she can no longer dance. But she’s still a force. Here’s a little collection of her dancing.

Huge thanks to Rusty Frank for coordinating the trip, not to mention all that she does to support Jean and Irene as legacies of the dance. The picture shows us with (from the left) Hilary Alexander, Rusty Frank, Irene Thomas, myself, Kate, and Jean Veloz.

Follow me on instagram for some reason.

Always ahead of the curve, I have just started an Instagram account — you can find me at @BobbySwungover.

It will be a lot more than just dance stuff. I’ll post cool things I find in travels, interesting and inspiring fashion, and in general it will be pretty casual. (Though here at Swungover, we will continue to focus almost only on swing dance history and the modern scene.)

Practice Swing, the perfect gift for dancers who don’t already have it but want it.

I think that says it all. Man, nailing today. You can get a copy here:

Also, there are printers of the book in different countries, so before you think that it’ll be too expensive to ship, give it at try above.


“The Savoy King” — Chick Webb Documentary out for your viewing pleasure.

Swing dance and music and history buffs should all check out the documentary “The Savoy King” if they haven’t already. You don’t just learn about Chick, you also get a lot of information on the Savoy, and of course the Lindy Hopping that went on there. I’m not paid to sponsor it, I’m just really happy to support it. Currently only available on DVD.

New Jewel McGowan Clip!

Joseph & Tabatha, known especially for their mad skills in collegiate shag, recently discovered a clip of Jewel McGowan dancing with a partner who is not Dean Collins. (There is only one other clip of her Lindy Hopping with a partner who isn’t Dean.)

Some cool things about this clip are: (1) How Jewel doing her Lindy mechanics on a mediocre Lindy lead is clearly making him hold on harder than he’s expecting — showing how much power she went into the dance with. (2) The sound of Jewel’s voice. (3) A few split seconds of Jewel doing “Swing” (as in, Bal-Swing) in the back right-hand corner at 1:15. The twisting-turning swing dance was her original dance before she learned Lindy, and the mechanics of “Swing” contributed greatly to her unique voice in Lindy.

(Also, wild-card: In looking at Jewel’s leader, I am halfway convinced it might be Jack Helwig (the guy in all white in the Venice Beach clip). I first thought this when I saw the leader’s head throw in his bal-Swing move, which looks just the way Jack does it. More investigating afoot — if we are convinced they are different people, then we know the head throw styling was done by different people. If they are the same person, then we know a little more about Helwig, one of the mysterious leaders of the day. If we can’t tell for sure — well, then, welcome to historical research.)

Earliest Charleston “soundy” on film?

For the dance clip geeks out there, clip-master Bill Green has found a clip of Charleston dancing from an early 1926 (or even 1925) sound film. This could make it the earliest Charleston dancing on film with sound.

Bill Green is a film collector with a soft spot for jazz and swing dance. He has numerous times over the last few years surprised the swing scene with the footage he digitizes, having re-discovered some amazing clips. He knows his stuff — read the info under the clip at YouTube for great details about what you’re seeing.

5 responses to “The Junk Drawer — Meeting Irene Thomas, New Jewel Clip, new Charleston “soundie.””

  1. Congrats. I’ve met Jean but not Irene. My 1940s character in my vintage fiction is patterned a little after Jean. So Jealous you got to meet Irene. Love you site and your clips. It’s always good to watch them again. Thanks for sharing and keeping the lindy fires burning!

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