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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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  • Richard Newman

    Great story! Just so you know – the photo you used is from a performance Haleem Rasul was in with Detroit collective The Hinterlands entitled “The Circuit” and the photo credit goes to Eric Ljung.

    • qnkhan

      Thanks for the attribution! It’s been updated.
      qainat, H&N production assistant

  • FunkmasterAstronaut

    I see someone bust out the jit every year at DEMF especially during the OG performances! It’s a wonderful dance that looks great at 125+ BPMs unlike a lot of other dances that people just can’t keep up with the pace of faster tunes.

  • Sharon

    Also check out this gorgeous short film by Detroit filmmaker Oren Goldenberg featuring Haleem Rasul: http://casscorridorfilms.com/Cass_Corridor_Films/TIME_I_CHANGE.html

  • Donna Terek

    Dear Here and Now, the link to see Haleem Rasul “dance for the Free Press” is incorrect. There is no video there because the video you are referring to is one I produced at The Detroit News for my column “Donna’s Detroit.” Here is the link to my video and story: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20131110/METRO01/311100001
    Please let me know if I can help you in any other way.

    • Rachel Rohr, Here & Now

      Thanks so much for letting us know, Donna! It’s fixed now.

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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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