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Dean Collins (dancer)

Dean Collins (born Sol Ruddosky; May 29, 1917–June 1, 1984) was an American dancer, instructor, choreographer, and innovator of swing dance. He is often credited with bringing the Lindy Hop from New York to southern California. Collins worked in over thirty films and performed live and on television.[1]


He grew up in Newark, New Jersey, and at age 13 learned to dance from his two older sisters.[2] He participated in amateur dance contests in New Jersey.[1] He danced at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York. In 1935, he was named Dancer of the Year by The New Yorker magazine.[3]

Collins moved to Los Angeles in 1936. During the day he worked as a janitor at Simon's Drive-In Diner, and at night he danced at the Diana Ballroom and Casino Gardens. Worried that his Jewish name would hinder his career, he adopted the name "Dean Collins" from a wallet he found.[4]

His career began when he was hired by RKO pictures to choreograph the dancing in Let's Make Music, a movie filmed in 1939 and released in 1940.[5] In 1942 he appeared in the Soundies The Chool Song released March 23, 1942. He and his partner were billed "Collins and Colette", and music was recorded by Spike Jones.[6] He danced in or choreographed nearly forty Hollywood movies, including an appearance in Hellzapoppin' (1941).

In the 1950s and 1960s, he taught swing dancing in Los Angeles.[7] His students included Shirley Temple, Joan Crawford, Cesar Romero, Abbott and Costello, Jonathan Bixby, Sylvia Sykes, and Arthur Murray.[4]

Collins' wife, Mary, believes that he contributed a smoothed out style that eliminated the bounce. According to jazz dance researcher Peter Loggins, Dean's style changed over decades, returning toward the end of his life to the Lindy Hop he learned in the Savoy Ballroom in the 1930s.[4] The Collins style seen in Hollywood films was the source for what became known in the 1990s as Hollywood-style Lindy Hop.[5]

He created a version of the Shim Sham which was meant as a three man performance and was not taught or shared. Jack Arkin and Johnny Mattox were the performers with Collins. Later, Bobby Hefner and Bart Bartolo performed it as well. When his wife, Mary Collins, was asked if he was responsible for the emergence of the dance, she said that her husband insisted there were "only two kinds of swing dance – good and bad".[8][not in citation given]

Jewel McGowan, who was called by her contemporaries the "greatest female swing dancer", was his dance partner for eleven years.[9] She appeared with him in Buck Privates (1941) and Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942).


  1. ^ a b Lindy by Lanza. (Dancer's Odyssey) from Brooklyn to Hollywood 1939 - 1963. Joe Lanza. 2001. page 79.
  2. ^ Swing Dancing's King. Los Angeles Times. Dean Stewart. August 5, 1984. page 45.
  3. ^ Dance Spirit. "The Dean of Style". Kiku Loomis. June 2001. page 83
  4. ^ a b c Dance Spirit. "The Dean of Swing". Kiku Loomis. June 2001. page 83.
  5. ^ a b Dance Spirit. "The Dean of Swing". Kiku Loomis. June 2001. page 83
  6. ^ The Soundies Distributing Corporation of America: a history and filmography of their "jukebox" musical films of the 1940s. Terenzio, MacGillivary, Okuda. 1954. page 72. ISBN 0-89950-578-3 "The King's Men" are listed as members of the cast.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2009-04-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Archived 2011-07-22 at the Wayback Machine Swing Dance Hall of Fame Dean Collins
  9. ^ name="Dance Spirit 2001. page 83".