Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Memories of Hal
Hal Takier (also known as Hal Savoy or Hal Chavoor) passed away yesterday. My condolences go out to his family, especially his widow Marge. Together they hosted the biweekly dance at Bobby McGee's in Brea for what must have been decades.
I can easily say that swing dancing in Los Angeles would not have been the same without Hal. Of course the dance at Bobby's was an instant bridge between the turn of the century jitterbugs and the "old timers." Still, I think Hal's contribution to us kids (who have been called by some old timers ourselves) was more than just a place to learn sweet old moves, connect to history or even to find our places in a larger community. For the life of me, I'm having trouble putting it into words.
Let's go back a little bit. I remember the first time I saw Hal dancing. It was the clip from Twice Blessed, with Hal in the striped shirt. That was one of the first clips in my collection, and I still think it looks like nothing else before or since. When I first saw it the notion that the dancers in those old clips could be just a short drive away wasn't thinkable, but the dancing blew my mind nonetheless.
My friends and I eventually found our way to Bobby's. We would go every time without fail. I remember Hal as fairly soft spoken, sitting, smiling and from time to time coming out to impress us with some honest-to-goodness bad-assery. I remember Tip and Holly getting lessons from Hal about his signature move, the merry-go-round. Was that why we kept saying "you're doing it wrong" to each other all the time? If you don't remember they went on to win a ton of titles, and I believe their first awards could easily be attributed to their time with him.
See the striped shirt at 2:02.
I just remembered how all the boys sought out striped shirts, surely because of that clip I mentioned above. For a while that was the look everyone wanted.
How could I have not yet mentioned his dancing? The period when we were dancing at Bobby McGee's was the same period that we were first discovering all those beautiful clips that you can now find effortlessly on YouTube. It was also the time of the style war.
For those of you who weren't there, the style war of the aughts was known as "Savoy vs. Hollywood." It was fought by online warriors who generally knew very little about anything. It could be summed up by saying that some students enjoyed dancing inspired by Frankie Manning and the dancers of Harlem while others were digging the dancing inspired by Dean Collins and his protégés.
Hal Takier's dancing was something else. He was from Southern California, but from what I remember, his dancing predated Dean Collins's influence. He was dancing bal-swing, but at the time we barely had words for it. And anyway, Hal's dancing was Hal's, and it wasn't Savoy or Hollywood, and it was awesome.
My memories are starting to blur at this point. All I have left is to thank Hal for his kindness and his contribution.