Faces of the Harlem Renaissance

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"Shorty George" Snowden

1904-1982 / Dancer

Known for his comically intricate footwork, George Snowden reigned as the top dancer at the Savoy Ballroom from its opening in 1927 until the mid-1930s.

His frantic, improvisational dance style brought him immense popularity—as well as the title “King of the Savoy.”

Snowden’s small stature (he was barely five feet tall) was the genesis for that not-too-original moniker, “Shorty George.” His signature move was to bend his knees and swing them from side to side, exaggerating the fact that he was close to the floor. Big-band pioneer Count Basie honored Snowden’s distinctive style of dance with the tune “Shorty George.”

Snowden formed a dance troupe called the “Shorty George Trio,” which performed at the Cotton Club, Smalls' Paradise, and other music meccas throughout Harlem. This sudden leap to professional status inspired many fellow dancers to organize troupes of their own. The clear standout among them was Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, credited with bringing swing dance to movie screens—and to the masses—in the 1930s.