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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bringing Back Detroit’s ‘Jit’ Dance

The Jit is a street dance that was developed in Detroit during the 1970s. Haleem Rasul is the founder of HardCore Detroit, a dance troupe, and is keeping the dance's legacy alive in a new documentary. (Courtesy Haleem Rasul)

The Jit is a street dance that was developed in Detroit during the 1970s. Haleem Rasul is the founder of HardCore Detroit, a dance troupe, and is keeping the dance’s legacy alive in a new documentary. (Courtesy Haleem Rasul)

Detroit is known for its auto industry, Motown music and now bankruptcy and vacant buildings — but a group of young dancers wants the city’s legacy also to include a street dance, known as the “Jit” (not to be confused with the swing dance called the jitterbug from the 1930s).

Three brothers started the dance in Detroit in the 1970s, they became known as the “Jitterbugs,” doing flips and kicks alongside each other in coordinated routines.

One of the brothers, Tracey McGhee, told Here & Now’Meghna Chakrabarti that it started as a dance among “gangsters.”

“Back then we were criminals, sometimes we’d get out of the cars and start dancing, then it evolved to basement parties,” he said.

McGhee says he and his brothers eventually became so well known for their “jit” routines, that they got jobs touring with the auto shows, dancing in front of cars to help sell them.

Haleem Rasul, founder of the dance company HardCore Detroit, is making a documentary about the Jit, called “said that Kim Weston, the Motown singer, was a big part of making that happen. McGhee agrees.

“She literally saved our life because she was able to pull us off the streets, put us in the program, Festival of the Performing Arts,” McGhee said. “That’s where we had places to perform, people to perform in front of.”

  • Rasul’s documentary will be released in Detroit on May 23, 2014, at the Detroit Film Theatre in the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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