Dancers You Need to Know: Al Minns and Leon James

Albert “Al” Minns and Leon James were both Savoy Ballroom dancers in Harlem, New York, and were members of the famous Lindy Hop group, Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers.

Throughout the 1930s and 40s they performed on stage and film. You can see Al Minns dancing in Hellzapoppin (1941) and Hot Chocolates (1941). You can see Leon James dancing in A Day At The Races (1937), the Cootie Williams & His Orchestra soundie (1943), and Boy What a Girl (1947).

They named themselves “The Jazz Dancers”, specialists in the history of authentic jazz dances. They were both filmed extensively as part of Mura Dehn’s The Spirit Moves documentary in the early 50s. They also worked together with dance historian Marshall Stearns in the 1960s, and appeared in a number of television specials with Dr. Stearns, including on Dupont Show of the Week (1961) and on Playboy Penthouse (1961). These appearances are part dance history lecture by Marshall Stearns, part demonstration by Al and Leon.

Al and Leon were significant in keeping jazz dance alive, by performing it into the 1950s and 1960s on stage and television, and continuing to teach classes in New York City, when most of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers had retired. Leon James sadly passed away in 1970, but Al Minns continued dancing and teaching into his sixties, and was an important part of the swing revival in the 1980s. He sadly passed away in 1985.

In this video they demonstrate the dances that make up the popular group dance, The Big Apple.  We'll be teaching some of these steps on Saturday April 29 at our Vernacular Jazz Dance Workshop. Click here to learn more about the workshop and reserve your spot!