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The big Apple| More Photo's | The Big Apple dance history origins Title

        The Big Apple is a group participation circle dance that uses swing dance for a host of steps. The Big Apple has some roots in the Ring Shout and Square Dance as well. Sometimes a solo or couple would perform in the center of the circle (like today's modern jams) as the rest of the dancers would dance in a circle around them.

    Most people think of New York when they hear the name, but the Big Apple actually originated at the "Big Apple Night Club" in the Palmetto state of Columbia, South Carolina around 1936.

The night club was actually a abandoned African-American church (originally the 'House of Peace Synagogue') converted into a nightclub. The club used a "Nickelodeon" for its music and had a balcony around the floor

where dancers stood and watched. It's rumored that dancers got so excited one night that the Balcony collapsed!. The University of South Carolina students expanded it's popularity all the way to New York.

    The Big Apple spread all over the states and soon the smaller taverns and dance halls were posting apologetic signs: "Sorry, No Big Apple. Not enough room". Some ballrooms who had balconies or dance floors on the second story collapsed due to the weight of the people doing the Big Apple. Many people where hurt in the collapse and some establishments refused to allow people to do the Big Apple due to insurance reasons and fear that someone might get hurt.

    This dance is cued by a caller, dancers performed moves from the Lindy Hop, Shag, and Charleston, and popular jazz steps like Trucking and Pecking. Some of the names of steps were called "Spank The Baby, Praise Allah, Rusty Dusty, Charleston, Suzy-Q, Pose & A Peck, Boogie Back, Shorty George, Truckin, The Little Apple., The Little Peach"-- (Little Peach-Invented by Collage Kids in So. Carolina) and more, were all swing type fad dances of the time, these Fad or Novelty dances lasted only a couple years. Over time most of these steps have resurfaced as the same dance or a variation of the dance.

"Swing As Away Of Life" states : (book)
    The Big Apple started when the band leader (or any dancer) cried out, "Cut The Apple!" and dancers formed circles of 8 to 10 people each. At the callers cry of " Come on and swing," the dancers would break into the Charleston swing (Lindy Hop), a more violent version of the previous decades Charleston. Each dancer would step forward on his left foot and kick the right foot up, then step back on the right foot to the rear. Soon the whole circle would be a flurry of flying feet and counter-flying arms and elbows. When the caller yelled "Truck To the Right!", each dancer would face right, raise the admonitory index finger, step forward and pivot .. etc . (Video clip on left is of a modern day Big Apple.)

"Down Memory Lane" states : (book)
    The Big Apple was a group participation dance that included all the earlier swing steps and required a caller. The dance started off with a march; as the couples formed into a ring, the caller would shout "Shine" and ask for one of the swing steps listed above. A single couple would take the initiative, step into the center of the ring, and perform the Jive gyrations. During the "Shine" episode the on-looking dancers remain in the circle, clapping hands, beating time, and shouting and catcalling in loud enthusiasm.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Columbia, South Carolina 1936 Big Apple Night Club Swing

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

Keep Punchin' Big Apple Big Apple
Juke Joint Big Apple Swing (Tommy Dorsey)
L'ill yalla basket (Callen)
One O'Clock Jump (Basie)
Stealin' Apples

Night Clubs



Big Apple Night Club (S. Carolina) (1936-1938) Princess Theatre 1939 (Melbourne) California
Fat Sam's Big Apple Club (Carolina)* Carolina
Rainbow Room (NY) New York
Savoy Ballroom (NY) San Francisco

Click to view film clip in a pop-up window

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

Film Clip is not available at this time 1937 - Big Apple (British Pathe Newsreel) n/a 9/3/1937 - Roxy Theatre (N.Y.) Bill Spivey's Big Apple Dancers
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1937 - Big Apple, the - Paramount Newsreel [clip 2] 1938 - Liberty Deferred
Film Clip is not available at this time 1937 - Everybody Sings (Judy Garland) no Big Apple 1938 - Glamour Girls of 1938 (N.T.G./ Nils T. Granlund)
Film Clip is not available at this time 1937 - Thrill Of A Lifetime (Daniels & Matthews) 1939 - Hollywood Hotel Revue (Frankies eight)
Film Clip is not available at this time 1937 - From the Minuet to the Big Apple

Colleges / Universities

Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1937 - The Spirit Of Youth [DVD] Stanford Univ. (wasn't fond of it)
Film Clip is not available at this time 1938 - Carl Deacon Moore and His Orchestra Princeton Univ. (called it 'Fun But Crude')
Film Clip is not available at this time 1938 - Policy Man (Count Basie) Sarah Lawrence College N.Y. (embraced it)
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1938 - Start Cheering Washington & Lee University (Banned the dance)
Film Clip is not available at this time 1938 - Two Shadows [Vitaphone]
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1939 - Keep Punchin' (Arthur White, Choreography)


Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1948 - A Song Is Born (stealin' apples + Buck & Bubbles) [DVD] n/a
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
The Spirit Moves (Mura Dehn) [DVD]
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
2010 - Dancing the Big Apple 1937 [DVD]

Loading Big Apple Picture
Picture - Swing As A Way Of Life - 1971 Time Pub.
Dancing The Big Apple 1937: African Americans Inspire a National Craze (2010)
Dancing The Big Apple 1937
book : Read more about the Savoy Ballroom
$ Read more about the Savoy Ballroom

Other Related Dances ...

Apple Jacks Chicken Dance Lambeth Walk Peelin' The Peach Shim-Sham
Ballin' The Jack Conga Lindy Posin' Square Dance
Bunny Hop Jitterbug Line dance Ring Shout Suzy-Q
Buzzard Lope Hokey Pokey Little Apple Rueda Truckin'
Charleston Jam (circle) Little Peach Shag

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Arthur Murray (& dancers) Frankie Manning 12/4/1937 - Colliers Mag
Big Apple Dancers, the Jean and her Big Apple Dancers [in Two Shadows] 8/9/1937 - Life Magazine - Big Apple
Billy Daniels Johnny Downes 11/1/1937 - Life Magazine - Big Apple
Betty Grable Joyce Matthews (actress) 12/20/1937 - Life Magazine - Big Apple at Holiday Parties
Betty "Big Apple" Wood (Henderson) Spivey's Group Leroy Prinz (Chor) 2/19/1938 - Liberty Magazine (How To Dance It)
Bill Spivey's Big Apple Dancers Savoy Big Applers 9/21/1938 - Lowell Sun (Lambeth Vs Big Apple)
Earle and Josephine Leach (British Pathe Newsreel) Whitey's Lindy Hoppers 10/1938 - Dance Digest
Eight Original Apple Dancers (Frankies Group) 6/1939 - Esquire Mag (Last of the Big Apple)
Faith Clarke (Life Mag)

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...



Date Published


From Turkey Trot to Big Apple Crowther, Bosley 11/7/1937 N.Y. Times
How To Become A good Dancer Murray, Arthur 1938 Simon & Schuster
Swing As A Way Of Life Time 1971 Time/Warner
Down Memory Lane Murray, Arthur 1950s

Musicians / Bands


Poets / Writers

Teddy Wilson Eunice Callen n/a

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Group Dance Mixer Dance Swing Dance Fanchon
Jitterbug Palmetto Whitey's

Note: The original Big Apple (Restaurant &) Nightclub opened in 1936 and was closed in 1938. It eventually became an abandoned building by 1979. In 1982 the former club was moved from its original location (1138 Park street) to its current site at the corner of Hampton and Park streets. It was later acquired in 1993 by the Historic Columbia Foundation. It has been rehabilitated and still retains many of its original architectural features and is available as a rental facility for special occasions.

Basic Individual Steps : (Big Apple Breakdown)

  • The Mess Around:
    Hands On Hips, Knees Bent, Move Hips in circle with slight bounce for 8 counts.
  • ~ Stomp Off:
    One Hand up, Other on Stomach, Then Stomp Left Foot (1) and drag the other together (2-3) Step (4), Then repeat with Right Foot ... repeat another 8 counts.
  • ~ Apple Jacks:
    Pigeon Toe walk forward, Hands pointed down, opposite shoulders lift up and down, Hop Step on &8.
  • ~ Truckin':
    Hand pointed up, just above shoulder hight, shaking fore-finger, delayed type walks forward ... Can make silly faces !
  • ~ Rusty Dusty (Rubber Legs):
    Basically a "Knock Knee Walk, while holding pants with index and forefinger forward 8, then back 8 counts.
  • ~ Fall Off The Log:
    Kick-Step (side), Hook-Step (behind), Step Step, then repeat other direction. 8 count Charleston: See Charleston page.
  • ~ Boogie Back:
    Kick-Step-Step (1&2), Repeat till count 8, Clap hands on counts 2,4,6,8. Usually followed by Shorty George.
  • ~ Shorty George (Boogie Walks):
    Kick ball change, then walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk forward on outside edges to inside edges of feet, hips sway back and forth. a type of Downward elevator walks.
  • ~ Spank The Baby:
    Similar to the stomp off except tummy hand spanks hip on 2,4,6,8, while moving (angled) sideways.
  • ~ Suzy - Q:
    Step, then Cross over in front of other foot. While crossing, front foot - use heel and swivel in opposite direction. Hands are clasp together in front and moving in "contra-body Motion". Slight forward bend to body. Repeat 8 counts other direction.
  • Note:
    The above steps can be done in a routine just like above or can be called out by a caller, that is dancing in any order called. Other steps can be added to this routine or taken away.

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