Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Old School Boppin (Couples Dancing) - information, comments, & videos

Edited by Azizi Powell

Revised October 4, 2016

This is Part I of a two part series on African American originated dances with the name "bop".

Part I provides information, comments, and seven video examples about the "Bop" (Steppin) in Chicago, Illinois, Detroit, Michigan, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Click for Part I of this series.

Part II provides information, comments, and five video examples of (Hip Hop) bop.

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to all those who are featured in these videos and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

for a related pancocojams post on Chicago steppin'.

"Bop" is an English language word that rhymes with "hop" and is a near rhyme of the word "trot". Like those other two words, "bop" describes a certain type of movement that has been used for African American originated social dances.

My guess is that in the context of dances "bop" may have been a folk processed form of the word "bob". gives these definitions for "bob":
1. a short, jerky motion

2. to move quickly down and up:
to bob the head.

4. to make a jerky motion with the head or body.

5. to move about with jerky, usually rising and falling motions".

"Bebop" music is sometimes called "Bop". The word "Bop" is a clip of the term "bebop". The Wikipedia page on "Bebop" indicates that
"Bebop or bop is a style of jazz characterized by a fast tempo, instrumental virtuosity and improvisation based on the combination of harmonic structure and sometimes references to the melody. It was developed in the early and mid-1940s. This style of jazz ultimately became synonymous with modern jazz, as either category reached a certain final maturity in the 1960s.

It [Bebop] developed as the younger generation of jazz musicians aimed to counter the popular swing style with a new, non-danceable music that demanded listening.[1] As bebop was no longer a dance music, it enabled the musicians to play at faster tempos".
It seems more likely to me that the "bop" names for dances derived from the term "hop" which was frequently used for dances, than from the term "bebop" which was the name of a "non-danceable" style of Jazz music.

"Walk" was the earliest movement word that was used in for dance names -the Cakewalk" (late 19th century), the "Camel Walk" (1910), and the "Jig Walk" (1925) are early examples of the word "walk" used in African American social dance names. "The Gangsta Walk" and "the Crip Walk" are names of rather recent Hip Hop dances that include the word "walk".

The "Lindy Hop" is an African American social dances that includes the word "hop". "The Bunny Hop" is another dance that includes the word "hop" although I don't believe that dance originated with African Americans. Among the African American originated social dances that include the words "trot" are the "Turkey Trot" and the "Fox Trot".

Those definitions fit the descriptions of some of the movements of the "old school" (steppin') and "new school" (Hip Hop) Bop dances.

The African American vernacular word "diddybop" ("diddy bop"; "diddyboppin'") may have been coined as a referent to the "bop" dance. I think that's more likely than the word "diddyboppin" came after the word "bop".

I recall the slang word "diddyboppin" from my teenage years in the 1960s (New Jersey) but it may be older than that. "Diddyboppin" refers to a way that males (African American males in particular) walked/walk with a cocky swagger. A man who "diddybopped" down the street walked with what appears to be a slight limp. The Chicago steppin custom of two men free style dancing together and the comments (found in video Example #4 below) that a lot of Chicago steppers "back in the day" were "gangstas" probably influenced the use of the word "bop" for both the old school couples dancing and the Hip Hop "Bop" dancing. Note that the term "diddyboppin" has been used to refer to the Hip Hop dance that also known as "Gangsta Walk". "Diddy Bop" has also been used as a name for a form of the Hip Hop Bop dances which are the focus of Part II of this pancocojams series.

The word "diddy" in "diddybop" is probably a folk processed form of the word "diddle". Two of the definitions for "diddle on are "(2) to waste time; dawdle (often followed by around): You would be finished by now if you hadn't spent the morning diddling around. and "(4) Informal. to move back and forth with short rapid motions; jiggle".
That last definition is the almost the same as the definition for "bop" that is given above, but I think that the first definition fits "diddybop" the best. A person (usually male) who is diddyboppin down the street is taking his time, moving in a cool, swaggering manner.

I think that it's unlikely that the largely outdated term "teenybopper" had any influence on the dance terms "bop" and "boppin'" that was/is used by African Americans. According to, the term "teenybopper" is "a young teenage girl who follows adolescent trends in music, fashion and culture. The term may have been coined by marketing professionals and psychologists, later becoming a subculture of its own.[1][2] The term was introduced in the 1950s[3] to refer to teenagers who mainly listened to pop music and/or rock and roll and not much else. Teenybopper became widely used again in the late 1960s and early 1970s, following an increase in the marketing of pop music, teen idols and fashions aimed specifically at younger girls, generally 10–17 years old.[4][2]" [end of quote].

Two quotes from Elizabeth C. Fine's 2003 book SoulStepping: African American Step Shows (University of Illinois Press) indicate that the words "hop" and "bop" were used as a referent for one style of fraternity steppin':
"The words demonstrate and demonstration to describe stepping began to appear in campus periodicals in the 1960s....A 1969 Bison caption proclaimed “Brothers demonstrate “Omega Bop” for spectators on Fridays.” [p. 27]
“Stepping in Omega Psi Phi fraternity may have been influenced by the lindy hop. According to Stephon D. Henderson (interview 25 May 1995), stepping began “at the Rho Chi chapter at Tennessee State –anywhere between 1941 and 1956” and was called “hopping” here. Brothers at Tennesee State and in that middle Tennessee area still refer to it as hopping, because it was first referred to as hopping.” A photograph captioned the “Omega Bop” in the 1969 Bison (221) shows Omega brothers standing on their right legs and kicking to the side in a movement reminiscent of the kicks done in the lindy hop"... [p. 162]
Click for more information about the history of historically Black Greek letter fraternity & sorority steppin.

I've labeled the partner bop dancing "old school" to differentiate it from Hip Hop boppin. "Old school" is a usually positive, nostalgic descriptor that means "something from the past". As the showcase videos below demonstrate, couples still do what I refer to as "old school boppin'", sometimes referring to those dances as "boppin" and sometimes calling those dances "steppin'".

"What is Stepping?
Stepping is an urban, partnered dance art form that is indigenous to Chicago, Illinois. Steppin’ should not be confused with fraternity and sorority Greek stepping which is very popular on college and university campuses throughout the country.

What are some of the teaching methods of stepping?
For instructional purposes, counting methods (generally 6-count or 8-count) are used to teach synchronized movements during which times partners clasp hands and face each other. Steppin’ is done to smooth sounds of Jazz, Soul, Funk, R&B, or Rap music."...
"A Brief History of Steppin'
Steppin' originated in the 1930's as the Jitterbug. By the 1960's it was known as the Bop, which evolved into a unique style of its own called Steppin' – in the city of Chicago. Steppin' developed a phenomenal era of its own; it is not just a dance but the addictive aura of music, smooth moves, stylish dress (reminiscent of the 1920s) and the mood of a by-gone era. Steppin’ is truly a hypnotic work of art and captivates people of all ages and ethnic groups. As the saying goes: “Steppin' is a way of life.”

The suave rhythm of this dance which incorporates gliding, striding and dipping your partner during the 1950's and 1960's eras, to the popular music of young groups – such as the Temptations and other R&B artists –[in]filtrated the African-American community across the United States. From the fashionable clubs (Peps in Philadelphia, Savoy in Chicago, and now at JT's Bourbon St. in Rockford, IL etc.) to the juke joints (speakeasys), Steppin’ – in the guise of the Jitterbug and the Bop – took root and found acceptance in both Black and White communities.

After the fall of the popular Disco era, the Bop was rejuvenated and became known as Steppin'. The emergence of Steppin’ contests and Steppin' Balls became popular, along with music seemingly reserved for Steppin’. Steppin' swept the nation as a dance that not only depended upon smooth moves and creativity but high fashion (chic dress by both the male and female steppers) to complete its ambiance. Steppin' is as much a part of the African-American community's culture and history as is its music from the early days of Jazz, and Rhythm ‘n Blues up to the current style of Soul and Rap music."...
The videos below demonstrate, the partner dance known as "bop" was and is found in other Midwestern cities in the United States such as Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Detroit, Michigan.

Except for Example #1, these videos are presented in chronological order based on their publishing dates on YouTube with the oldest dated video given first.

Example #1: Chicago Steppin History DVD - Promo

Gentleman 'G, Uploaded on Feb 11, 2011

The FULL 35min DVD version is now available at the price of $19.95. Ask me for the PayPal link here:

Steppers will appreciate how this 35min documentary short-film has filled-in the chronological gaps between the very first couples dance styles that were more boisterous and more acrobatic in nature as exampled by the Charleston, Lindy Hop and Jitterbug.

Through rare black & white film footage we will directly connect how all of the above mentioned dance trends, and social ingredients eventually produced a cooler, more sensually styled dance genre entitled: Chicago Style Steppin.

The footage will show for example how the soulful music rhythms of the 'Motown Sound" during the Vietnam War, as well as the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s had profound influences on American music in general and, thus, changed how people danced. Ask me for the PayPal link here!

"Feels Like Heaven" by Kenny Vaughan & "The Art Of Love" )

Example #2: Bop Demonstration

dzarazua, Uploaded on Jan 26, 2008

Kevin "Flash" Collins, Kellee Star, and April Hayes of Detroit at Vanessa's Positive Energy Entertainment Center in Los Angeles on January 19, 2008.
Selected comments:
Sandy Thompson, 2008
"I'm no expert,but that looks exactly like chicago steppin. They look fantastic!!"

carlabody, 2010
"Love it! But the footwork looks like Stepping, Not Bop. Am I wrong?"

mostick313, 2010
"well, yes you are wrong, respectfully. you are looking at these wonderful people throwing down on some serious and fierce detroit bopping. detroiters have been detroit bopping and detroit ballrooming and detroit chopping for a long long time. the chi-town steppin does have some simularities to the detroit bop, but when you look closer, they are indeed different. the detroit bop has some elements of steppin and ballroom moves. and these 3 detroit boppers, i swear, were outstanding! unique!"

tlgilmor, 2013
"This is the bop its a kick kick 123456 the step is a8 count and they look similar but the bop is smoother"

Example #3: Sunshine and TykMyn Showing Out at Adrianna's

StepperDJ, Uploaded on Dec 29, 2009

Sunshine and TykMyn stepping at the Adrianna's Entertainment Complex in Markham, IL. For those of you learning how to step, you will note that as Tyk takes Sunshine through his innovative moves she submits to his lead and they return to the bounds of the basics of the dance at every point it is necessary while keeping it smooth and sexy.

Example #4: Chicago Original Freestyle Steppin R Mack White Party Detroit 2010.avi

Dj Stretch Alex, Uploaded on Feb 2, 2011
Selected comments:
[Editor's note: A number of people commented about the fact that two men were dancing together. While it's somewhat common in the United States for two females to "fast dance" as a couple, it's much less common likely for two males to dance together- without there being any implications of homosexuality. Unfortunately, many of these comments reveal how deeply rooted antagonism toward people who are homosexual is in the United States.]

Mistepper1, 2011
"This old-school gangsta steppin right here! lol You TRULY would have had to grow up in Chicago to understand! Back in the 70's, the men did all the STEPPIN, while the ladies stood back and watched! REAL TALK!"

cjoy4d, 2012
"my big brother was one of those steppers back in the 70's......he did this 'show off' thing with his guy was like a mating call for the ladies who were there at the party......he was and still is a ladies man...he had ALLLL THE GIRLS....he is all man...all the time.....and I'm from chicago.....we roll like that"

hazeleyesChicago , 2012
"Men have been Boppin' and/or Steppin' together at least since the 50's. I remember watching the gang members back in the day, in the 60's outside the corner record store boppin' on 61st Street, the south side where I grew up. My mother still talks about how those "cats" could jammm! I took Steppers workshops in the 90's and the men practiced with each other. Cool as hell, stepper smoooth...."

hazeleyesChicago, 2012
"...You had to have been there, back in the day and even now to understand the Steppers culture in Chicago. Steppin' is a way of life here. Steppin' is such a hot style of dance when done well. The men in the video are "Free Styling", which allows for so many types of moves, as well as dancing with opposite and/or same sex partners. The men in the video are doing some very stylish and hard core moves. Don't focus on their gender, focus on their moves. Those some bad ass moves."

803DONYELLE, 2013
"It's about showing your skills!!!! It has nothing to do with your sexuallity.......really!!! If you dance you would understand."

RemyDeLeMonde, 2013
"The people calling this gay obviously are NOT from Chicago, nor do they have people from Chicago. Steppin is a dance that everyone has fun doing, and men are seen dancing the step together in the R. Kelly "Happy People" music video."

flatbush46, 2012
"... i remember michael baisden was talking about how dudes were doing this back in the day..i think he called it hard bop?? these dude are tearing it glad someone nejuienejuie posted this..i remember it was up last year but i was taken down.."
"tearing it up" = dancing really good

shantea Jones, 2014
"To those confused on the guys dancing together, this is not uncommon in STL nor Chicago. The guys show off their moves, the women watch but eventually the men end up with women. I don't see it as gay at all. I love it and miss seeing my uncle move like this. As a kid well over 40 years ago, I too was on the side lines watching my uncle. This is not new."
STL = St. Louis, Missouri.

ricardo catlett, 2015
Did u say where the women lol'' ? Baby this is Chicago style stepping and most women could'nt keep up1 Or felt the need to get down on this song like men do!!

LaSweetable, 2015
"Steppin' which is from Chicago has always showcased male and male steppin. Men step the best...they get to really showcase their talents. My cousins step's acceptable in Chicago culture and has nothing to do with sexuality."

ricardo catlett, 2015
"See with women you rarely find the ones who STEP' and women in Chicago are so sophiticated'' and sometimes hard to approach on the Stepping tip unless you know em' But men hear a song and just start stepping and the beat a be so smooth that a man can't resist the oppertunity too Step and show his skillz even if it means STEPPING with another guy that's all it is Is fun!''"

bacoia, 2015
"When I was in grammar school(many years ago) I would sneak into the high school parties near my home to watch the guys step together, it was something to see.....They had mad skills...."
"They had mad skills = they were very skillful

cadillacstr8mk, 2015
"I grew up in Chicago and I remember back in the day "the early 70's" the only people that really were Steppin were Straight up Gangsters Disciples ,and Vice Lords, Hardcore Pimps and Macks . What drew me to Steppin was the fact that these dudes were super cool with permed out hair ,Ocean waves ,Finger waves and Custom made Clothes, or we called them "Mades" and Stacy Adams shoes . That being said , Times are different now so I can see why people think it's "suspect" ! Back then nobody even thought anything funny because those dudes were know for criminal lifestyles !"

coilykinks, 2015
"It's just weird to watch if you have never seen it before."

discolady2, 2015
"+coilykinks Back n the day when all my cousins &friends used to go to Markham IL to the skating rink all our friends most of all the guys stepped together .its alright sister .peace ."

daressia, 2015
"thank you for clarifiyng becaue i could not understand why i keep seeing men step together.."

discolady2, 2015
"+daressia Just about all my friends are in their 50's now I was in grade school most of my friends were already in high school .its all fun ."

Example #5: Karen & Marion - Bopping - Milwaukee's Old School style

KeilahHai's channel, Uploaded on Feb 11, 2012

Recorded on January 7, 2012 using a Flip Video camcorder.

Example #6: Boppin to Steppin History Notes

webmasterdan Published on Oct 20, 2013

Most people talk about the dance, the 6 count, the 8 count, the contest, heavy hitters and legends, but very few cover the history of the dance and the origins from whence it came. This is a brief clip from an in depth interview captured by Jakki Dace and me a few years back while talking to Steppin D.J. notable and Promoter Luther Cage covering the transition of Boppin to steppin, There are others who speak on it as well. We didn't just make a documentary. We Set the bar. Peace!
Selected comments from that video:
“Around 1970-1971 it was called “bop””.

The term “boppin” became “steppin”. Instead of going out to “bop”, we’re going to a steppin [I'm unable to decipher this word].”

Another clip from that video is "Historic Places known for boppin and Steppin in Chicago". Here's the summary to that video that was published on October 27, 2013 by
webmasterdan: "Here are some of the places where Chicago Style Steppin and the earlier term Boppin or the Bop was most frequent throughout the city of Chicago. These are the places that one must research in order to understand the origin of the night life of Boppin and Steppin prior to it's transformation from church socials, youth centers, sock hops, house parties, waist line parties and rent parties to the night club and contest setting that many people currently experience."
-end of quote-
One commenter in that documentary said "Monday through Sunday we had at least fifty places [clubs] we could go [to]”.
Notice that although in Chicago the word "bop" was dropped for the word "steppin'", it appears that in Detroit and Milwaukee the word "bop" is still used to refer to these couple dances.

Example #7: The Detroit Bop! "Detroit Girl"! Part 2!

Mostick Baby. Published on Nov 18, 2013

Mr Ballroom Jack and the Sensational Miss CC are tearin' up the flo' with that Detroit Bop!

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment