Earl Tucker

Read Lindy Hop in Harlem: The Role of Social Dancing to discover how dancing reflected Harlem's social climate.

 

Earl "Snakehips" Tucker (1905-1937)
Dancer

 

 
 
 

 


The Kennedy Center
ARTSEDGE
Marco Polo
This resource was created in March 2003 by ARTSEDGE. All rights reserved.
ARTSEDGE is a project of the Education Department of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts,
and is a member of the MarcoPolo Partnership
Watch Tucker in the video clip of "Symphony in Black."

Dubbed the "Human Boa Constrictor," Earl Tucker invented a dance called the "Snakehips" in the early 1930s.

Tucker enjoyed patronizing Harlem music clubs. At one of them, the Savoy Ballroom, his unusual style of dancing—a sort of shimmy that relied heavily on wiggling hips—attracted a great deal of attention. So fluidly and flexibly did Tucker perform the dance that he appeared to lack a skeleton. He made quite a name for himself on the club circuit, then parlayed that popularity into performances at Connie's Inn and the Cotton Club.

The dancer's renown (or notoriety, depending on your view) reached its apex in 1935, when he appeared in a ten-minute film entitled Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life. The bulk of this short feature focuses on Duke Ellington composing at the piano, crosscut with shots of the bandleader's orchestra playing an elaborate Ellington composition that interprets aspects of African-American life. Those segments included teenager Billie Holliday singing the blues, and "Snakehips" Tucker demonstrating his eclectic and eccentric style of dance.


 

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He appeared in the film Symphony in Black with Duke Ellington.

Tucker performed at Connie's Inn.

He appeared on the stage of the Cotton Club.

He frequented the Savoy Ballroom.
 
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