Dean Collins (dancer)

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Dean Collins (born Sol Ruddosky; May 29, 1917–June 1, 1984) [1] was an American dancer, instructor, choreographer, and innovator of swing. He is often credited with bringing Lindy Hop from New York to Southern California. Collins worked in 37 or 38 films as well performing live and on television.[2]

He grew up in Newark, New Jersey and, at age 13, learned to dance from his two older sisters.[3] and quickly began "doing amateur contests in Newark".[2] He was soon dancing at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York. In 1935, he was named "Dancer of the Year" by The New Yorker.[4]

He moved to Los Angeles in 1936. He worked as a janitor at Simon's Drive-In Diner. At night, he danced at the Diana Ballroom and Casino Gardens. Worried that his Jewish name would hinder his career, he adopted the name "Dean Collins", derived from a wallet he found.[5]

His career started when he was hired by RKO pictures to choreograph the dancing in Let's Make Music, filmed in 1939 and released in 1940.[6]

In 1942 he appeared in the Soundies The Chool Song released March 23, 1942. He and his partner were billed as "Collins and Colette", and music was recorded by Spike Jones.[7]

He eventually danced in or choreographed nearly forty Hollywood movies, including an appearance in the classic Hellzapoppin' (1941). He also taught dancing in Los Angeles from the 1930s until his death in 1984.[8][not in citation given] During this time, he taught many people including Shirley Temple, Joan Crawford, Cesar Romero, Abbott and Costello, Jonathan Bixby, Sylvia Sykes, and Arthur Murray.[5]

Collins' wife, Mary, believes that he contributed a unique, smoothed out style that eliminated the bounce. According to jazz dance researcher Peter Loggins, Dean's style changed and evolved over the decades, returning toward the end of his life to the Lindy Hop he learned in the Savoy Ballroom in the 1930s.[5]

The Collins style seen in Hollywood films was the main source for what became known in the 1990s as Hollywood-style Lindy Hop.[6]

He also created his own version of the Shim Sham, which was meant as a three man performance, and was not taught or shared. Jack Arkin, and Johnny Mattox were the original performers along with Collins. Later, Bobby Hefner and Bart Bartolo performed it as well. Today, it is done by dancers around the world.

When his wife, Mary Collins, was asked if he was responsible for the emergence of the dance, however, she said that her husband insisted there were "only two kinds of swing dance – good and bad".[9][not in citation given]

Jewel McGowan, called by her contemporaries the "greatest female swing dancer ever", was his dance partner for eleven years.[10] She appears with him in Buck Privates (1941), Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942), and many other films.[11]


  1. ^ California Death Records
  2. ^ a b Lindy by Lanza. (Dancer’s Odyssey) from Brooklyn to Hollywood 1939 - 1963. Joe Lanza. 2001. page 79.
  3. ^ Swing Dancing's King. Los Angeles Times. Dean Stewart. August 5, 1984. page 45.
  4. ^ Dance Spirit. "The Dean of Style". Kiku Loomis. June 2001. page 83
  5. ^ a b c Dance Spirit. "The Dean of Swing". Kiku Loomis. June 2001. page 83.
  6. ^ a b Dance Spirit. "The Dean of Swing". Kiku Loomis. June 2001. page 83
  7. ^ The Soundies Distributing Corporation of America: a history and filmography of their "jukebox" musical films of the 1940s. Terenzio, MacGillivary, Okuda. 1954. page 72. ISBN 0-89950-578-3 "The King's Men" are listed as members of the cast.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2009-04-11. 
  9. ^ Archived 2011-07-22 at the Wayback Machine. Swing Dance Hall of Fame Dean Collins
  10. ^ name="Dance Spirit 2001. page 83".
  11. ^ Jewel McGowan at Internet Movie DataBase

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