R.I.P. Jean Veloz (1924-2023)

Jean with her brother Ray Phelps. Photo courtesy of Rusty Frank.

The legendary Californian Lindy Hopper Jean Veloz passed away Sunday, Jan 15, 2023. She was 98.

Jean Veloz was born Jane Phelps on March 1, 1924 in Los Angeles. From a very young age she wanted to be in the movies. As a teenager, Jean learned SoCal’s local swing dances (“Swing,” Bal-Swing, and Balboa) and the recently-imported Lindy Hop. Like many of the dancers of the era, she learned from siblings and friends, most notably her brothers Robert and Raymond (“Ray”).

Soon Jean developed a well-poised and theatrical swing dance style that conveyed grace, playfulness, sweetness, and refinement.

In one of the many competitions she won, first place was a Screen Actor’s Guild card and a dancing role in the movie Swing Fever, which due to Jean and her partners’ dancing has become an iconic example of Los Angeles’s specific style of Lindy Hop so often showcased in films of the era. In the clip, Jean dances with Don Gallagher (Air Corp uniform) and Lenny Smith (Sailor uniform). Lenny and Jean’s dancing together is an especially striking marriage of two of the greatest Lindy Hop stylists in history:

Special thanks to Black Pepper Swing for their colorizing of the film for the clip above.

The 1940s gave Jean many more opportunities to dance in movies, and together with her great friend Irene Thomas, the two women created moves and stylings that stood out among the dancers of the era. Here’s a collection of some of Jean’s iconic dancing put together by Rusty Frank and myself:

After the swing era, she met the famous ballroom dancer Frank Veloz, and after training with him, the two began performing and teaching ballroom at the Veloz and Yolonda dance studios and for television and film. The two fell in love and married. Frank passed away in 1981.

Beginning in the ’90s, Jean began touring and teaching Lindy Hop around the world again, joining Frankie Manning and Norma Miller as great swing-era ambassadors of the dance. Throughout the process, she touched countless people with her smile and positive outlook on life, and inspired countless more with her eye-catching dancing (and ability to do air steps into her 90s).

Rock That Swing in Munich in 2020 was her last event. It was perhaps fitting, as Munich was also the first international city to bring her into the modern Lindy world in the late 90s.

After the 2020 festival, the pandemic stopped her dance travel but did not stop her spirits. She remained smiling until the end.

May we never forget Jean Veloz’s amazing contributions to Lindy Hop and the many people’s lives she personally touched with her joyful and loving personality.

Jean’s desire was to be cremated, and her great friend and manager Rusty Frank is heading up a Crowdfund to get her ashes placed in the Hollywood Forever cemetery, in the Judy Garland Pavilion next to Judy Garland herself. The cemetery is the resting place of many classic Hollywood greats. Please consider donating, here.

Jean was the last of the living, notable pre-World War II jitterbugs the modern scene has been able to interact with. So her passing is not only the end of a glorious life, it’s the end of an era.

Special thanks to Rusty Frank, not just for her help with this article, but for all of her help being a friend and assistant to the greats like Jean Veloz and Irene Thomas.

From L to R: Hilary Alexander, Rusty Frank, Irene Thomas, Bobby White, Kate Hedin, & Jean Veloz

5 responses to “R.I.P. Jean Veloz (1924-2023)”

  1. Thanks so much for this Bobbie! It gave me such an incredible sense of joy watching it that it made be cry. -Jeff

  2. Thank you for the lovely tribute to my favorite Lindy Hop dancer. I danced Lindy with passion for 10 years in the Boston area. I have danced all over the country and now in Florida but not as often.

    What a lovely woman and lovely story. I have watched her over the years with joy.

    Thank you for commemorating her.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: