The Legend of Minnie’s Moochers

As I’ve noted in my Artistry in Rhythm series, we’re getting to a point where things that happened in the early part of the revival are starting to feel a little bit like ancient history.  Minnie’s Moochers is a big part of that as I outlined in part three of that series.

Andy Reid described his experiences with the team in a post on the Jam Cellar blog.

When I was 22, I was asked to join a dance group full of teenagers.  They were the best dancers in town and I enjoyed their company.  They inspired me and shaped my dancing and we all grew together.  What was happening in this group was really something special and unique and I jumped in head first.  We spend several days of every week in the gym in a creative frenzy and it was one of the greatest times of my life. Minnie’s Moochers was, and is, Kate Engle, Lucy Engle, Caitlin George Wellman, Susan Wolff, Sylvie Ynetma, Jenna Hallas, Simnia Singer Sayada, Ramona Staffeld, Sarah Spence, Mark Eckstein, Robin Coleman, Skye Humphries, Finian Makepeace, Ben Furnas, and I.

Skye Humphries told a little bit about their background in one of his posts here on this blog.

We went to a school called ACS (the Alternative Community School) [where] we were encouraged to pursue our own interests and develop our own ways of learning.  We started teaching a class at our school almost immediately and brought our friends into the dance.  Our school gave us space and time to practice, and allowed us to shape our curriculum to reflect our interest in the dance.

History, sociology, politics, media- our teachers were very encouraging and allowed us to find the connection between dancing and the rest of our studies.

There was an amazing community of dancers in Ithaca who created a great atmosphere and ran great dances.  We started going out and dancing socially all the time.  ISDN (Ithaca Swing Dance Network) also put on great workshops with the top international dancers and teachers, and they were always supportive of us kids.

My friends and I went out together dancing, and then Bill started a little performance group and we started doing gigs around town.

Soon we started running and directing our own group, and started performing, competing, and eventually teaching on our own.

The definitive history of this group is yet to be written, but I did the next best thing and assembled all the available online footage of the team here so you can get a taste of what they were about.

American Lindy Hop Championships 1998

Frankie Manning’s 85th Birthday celebration 1999

American Lindy Hop Championships 1999

North Atlantic Dance Championships 2000

Swingout New Hamphire 2000

North Atlantic Dance Championships 2001

Alternative Community School Graduation performance 2001

Frankie Manning’s 88th Birthday celebration 2002

This is their last major performance before school took themtheir separate ways.

American Lindy Hop Championships 2007

The reunion for the 10th ALHC.

Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday celebration 2009

A bigger reunion for the biggest event.

Where are they now?

Many former members  are still active in the Lindy Hop community

Andy Reid

Caitlin Wellman (formerly Caitlin George)

Dan Amores

Ramona Staffeld

Skye Humphries

Others have moved on

Ben Furnas

Finian Makepeace

Mark Eckstein

Sarah Spence Adams

Simnia Singer-Sayada

Thanks to these YouTube users for sharing their videos

http://www.youtube.com/user/aciddqueen

http://www.youtube.com/user/balboaman

http://www.youtube.com/user/luluhop

http://www.youtube.com/user/mskatjee

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3 Comments

  1. Kevin said,

    February 12, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Man.

    That routine from NADC 2001 was pretty fantastic. I loved how they took all the movement they loved and put it in, how they jammed out for a bar or two. It seems like nowadays we only get “LindyHOP approved” dance movement. No studio dance attributes like some of those jumps, no one-legged squats, nothing too wild and outside of lindyhop, unless it’s a joke. just improvements on old moves.
    It gets easy to forget that Lindy Hop was an amalgamation of many different forms of dance. Why isn’t that still the case? Why is Lindy Hop seeming to become more exclusive to itself? Where is that Joy of innovation that once drove the dance?

    I’ll say one thing about the early years of the Lindy Hop revival. They may not have had great technique, but they really danced Lindy hop man. I watch clips online of competitions from the early days and it’s full of self expression and a carefree attitude that comes not with caring about the result of a contest or the “rep” to get hired to teach.

    Rant aside, I think that was one of the best Lindy routines I’ve ever seen. Period. Good for the moochers.

  2. Dan said,

    July 17, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    As someone just in his second year of dancing, this was a great piece of history to chew on. Thank you.

  3. Cassandra George Ramos said,

    September 23, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I just might be the original Moocher Groupie. I’m Caitlin’s mom, and along with other parents, especially Ramona’s folks and Robin’s dad, we traveled all over the place to watch them compete, be there in case of emergency, and generally being proud and occasionally crying. It was an amazing time. They were extraordinary dancers, teachers and human beings. They’ve all grown into amazing people–gifted and smart, yes, but also kind and giving. Several of them have had children (mini Minnie’s Moochers?), and they’re extraordinary parents, too. Thanks to all of you who have loved and supported them (and occasionally housed and fed them) over the years. And thanks to them for the wonderful memories.


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