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Detroit's Dance: The Jit

Growing up, I was never that great a dancer. I mean, I could get around the floor well enough at house parties, and, when break-dancing became popular, I actually learned enough not to get laughed off of the linoleum. But in Detroit, particularly on the east side, you weren't ever thought of as a great dancer unless you had mastered the one dance we all held dear: The Jit. (h/t to Deanna Dunham for the amazing historical narrative.)

Marked by spins, leaps, and, most importantly, hyperkinetic footwork, the Jit is easily the most popular dance ever to originate in this city, as much a signature of our local urban culture as "stepping" in Chicago, break-dancing in NY and "pop locking" in California. (Chicago also has its own native footwork-oriented dance style, known as "juking," and this has led to some heated debate about which dance form is better. I love the Chi, but I think y'all know where I stand on this one.)

Unlike some of those other dances, though, the Jit is as hot today as it ever was. Sure, you might think that a dance that's nearly 40 years old — and with roots that stretch from 1930s Cab Calloway-style jitterbugging right on through Detroit's deadly 1970s gang wars — would've played out somewhere along the way. But not the Jit. Not in Detroit. From the days when George Clinton and the Parliament laid down P-funk grooves at Detroit's United Sound Studio to the local techno explosion in the '80s and '90s to hip-hop today, the Jit has not only endured, but thrived, its popularity spread around the country and globe by successive generations of fleet-footed ambassadors.

So how to do the Jit? Again, I'm nobody's dancer, so I think it's best if I let one of the city's premiere dance kings (even BET recognized him for his skills) show you. Here then, Brandon "Jitting Jesus" Hobbs, part of Detroit's awesome "Incredibles" dance crew, going hard...

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  • 1

    Fun Darryl,

    But don't forget that Detroit was the home of the Big Band Sound and the Graystone was it's headquarters.

    And then there was Bill Hailey who grew up in Highland Park and Bill Hailey and the Comets were met in England with screaming teenagers, and Elvis was a lead in and Shake Rattle and Roll and Rock around the Clock were his... The Chicken was the dance back then, and not the Funky Chicken.

    And then there was Ed Mackenzies' Dance Party where every day after school my wife would show up and be a star.

    If you go to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame and look at the historic wall you will see that in showing the time line, the first record is by the Soul Spinners... a group from Detroit and side group of the Voices of the Mighty Tabernacle.

    Detroit has been jumpin' for a long time.


    • And thanks for the further look back, too.
  • 2

    WOW!!! This guy is crazy good. Amazing talent. So glad he won - well deserved.

  • 3

    A little late for this post, but still very relevant...

    Haleem Rasul of Hardcore Detroit has created a documentary about the origins of the Detroit Jit, and the group that pioneered that dance, The Jitterbugs in the 1970s.

    You MUST check out the trailer!

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