Local Youth Swing Hand Dancing Into Technological Age

Mercia Williams | 1/7/2009, 6:07 a.m.

Washington D.C.€s indigenous dance form, hand dancing, has swung out of dance halls and private parties and onto computer screens with a Internet-based television program.

The show, €DC Dancin€ Teens,€ is the brainchild of Ron and Tyoni Martin, the executive directors of the U.S. Open Swing Dance Competition,.

The Martins enlisted WHUT-TV producer Lindsay-Johnson to make their vision a reality by producing programming for their Internet dance channel, Global Dance TV.

Not only is Lindsay-Johnson an avid hand dancer herself, she also produced the documentary €Dance Party: The Teenarama Story,€ which continues to air on PBS over two years after its premiere.
€Teenarama€ was a show shot in D.C. that aired from 1963 to 1970. €The show was the jewel of Washington D.C.,€ Lindsay-Johnson said. €The black teens didn€t get the same opportunity as white teens to dance on these programs because of segregation.€

According to Lindsay-Johnson, some of the people who danced on and watched €Teenarama€ say the show had a major impact on their lives.

Lindsay-Johnson said that €DC Dancin€ Teens€ will preserve an art in its traditional form with €oldies but goodies€, but will also recognizes new styles such as hip-hop.

€The vision for the show is to parallel the goodness and the greatness of the original €Teenarama€ show of the 1960s,€ she said.

Lindsay-Johnson believes the show will bring about a positive image of the young people in the D.C. area.

Hand dancing teaches proper dancing etiquette because the young man is required to asks a lady to dance and he has to negotiate the dance moves with her, according to Lindsay-Johnson. When the couple is finished dancing, he has to escort her back to her seat.

€If you go to the club, a lot of the guys don€t know how to respect women,€ said €DC Dancin€ Teens€ co-host Markus Smith.

Smith, 26, has been dancing for eight years-by chance.

€I€ve never wanted to try out the [hand dancing] class,€ he said. €I was always interested in sports.€

However, Smith€s mother prodded him into learning and he fell in love with swing. Smith said when he dances, he€s €just feeling the music.€

€I€m always going off the natural,€ he said. €I never had any ballet classes.€

Despite not having any classical training, Smith is a hand dance instructor and will be featured in the film €II Dances,€ which will debut in March.

He said he is open to the possibility of choreographing music videos, especially for new artists. Smith recently provided free hand dancing lessons for kids throughout December and enjoys working with them.

€Most kids before they start dancing, they are very shy,€ Smith said. €The dance gives the kids a lot of confidence.€

According to Smith, between 25-30 different dancers will be featured in each episode of €DC Dancin€ Teens€. €They know they€re on TV, so they€re not bashful at all,€ he said. €It€s very important that the dance lives,€ Smith said.

Smith will co-host €D.C. Dancin€ Teens€ with 19-year-old McKindria Letsinger, a local and national dance competitor who has been hand dancing for almost nine years.

Like Smith, Letsinger wants to see hand-dancing go on for many decades to come. She envisions the dance form being featured in videos and refers to R. Kelly€s video €Step in the Name of Love€ as a prime example of a local dance form getting national attention.

Letsinger said that the show€s affiliates often receive positive feedback about the show through e-mails.

€I love the show,€ Letsinger said. €I think that this is an opportunity for the young hand dancers to be seen worldwide.€