This is the original swing dance, the Texas Tommy, as danced in San Francisco c. 1910.
In 1911, two Texas Tommy dancers, Ethel Williams and Johnny Peters, brought the Texas Tommy from San Francisco to Harlem, where it became popular as a vaudeville act and eventually evolved into Early Lindy Hop through social dancing at the Savoy Ballroom.
Here's the source video, filmed in San Francisco, c. 1910:
Here are reconstructions of some of the figures.
Note: The names are entirely speculative, based on contemporary variations they resemble.
There are four basic steps that comprise the footwork of the Texas Tommy.
Texas Tommy Basic: The Lead steps side to the left ("1") then scuffs the right heel to the floor to the right side ("2"), as the Follow steps side to the right then scuffs the left heel to the floor to the left side. Repeat opposite. There is a double bounce throughout, like a jackhammer (1-and-2-and, bounce-bounce-bounce-bounce, or hop-hop-hop-hop). Posture is straight up, but relaxed.
Texas Tommy Two Step: The Lead drops down on his left foot, flicking the right toe out to the side ("1"), takes weight for a split second on the right foot to the side ("and"), and drops down on his left foot again, flicking the right toe out to the side, as the Follow mirrors him. Repeat opposite. The posture is lower than that of the Texas Tommy Basic.
Texas Tommy Galop: Repeat the first two steps of the Texas Tommy Two Step several times without changing feet, to travel further in the direction the foot is flicking. (This can be done to either side.)
Texas Tommy Pivots: The Lead backs around in front of the Follow, as she steps slightly forward between his feet ("1"). Then the Follow backs around as the Lead steps slightly forward between her feet ("2"). Repeat, turning continuously. These pivots can turn in place, or they can travel around the room.
In addition to these four basic steps, there's a fifth basic step, which both couples use at the end of their dances. The first couple dances it in closed position (with mirrored feet), while the second dances it in Skater's Position (on parallel feet). As it appears only briefly at the end of each dance (and the first Follow seems to miss it), it's unclear whether this step should be considered a canonical Texas Tommy step on the same level as the previous four, but it's certainly another interesting example of continuity between the Texas Tommy and the 19th century round dances it evolved from.
Texas Tommy Racket: Similar to the 19th century Racket, the Lead steps in place with left ("1"), undercuts the left with the right, stepping in place with the right where the left used to be ("and"), undercuts the right with the left, stepping in place with the left where the right used to be ("2"), etc. The free foot swings slightly to the side, out of the way of the undercutting foot.Finally, as yet another example of continuity, whenever Couple #2 starts to Pivot, they begin with one bar of regular Polka (not the Texas Tommy Two Step, but the turning, traveling, 19th century Polka), starting the Pivots on the second foot.
"One of my dance partners, Catrine Ljunggren, who studied extensively with legendary Lindy Hoppers Frankie Manning and Al Minns and who was in fact Frankie's teaching partner for many of his workshops, always chastised me when I referred to these movements as the Texas Tommy. According to Catrine, Frankie always insisted that he "never knew [any] Tommy from Texas" and that dancers of his era named steps exactly what they were. Accordingly, the movement that many modern Lindy Hoppers call the Texas Tommy should actually be called "swingout with hand change behind the back."In 1939, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced steps from the Texas Tommy in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, including the Swingout with Hand Change Behind the Back:
1910s ragtime, around 90 bpm.
Thanks to Richard Powers, who introduced me to this dance and theses videos.
© 2015 Nick Enge
For more, see our two books on dancing:
Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living (2013) by Richard Powers and Nick Enge,
and Cross-Step Waltz: A Dancer's Guide (2019) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge.
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