Dancing Is the Opposite of Violence.
So said Storycorps participant Jihad Qasim during his Storycorps conversation with facilitator Soo Na Pak on Wednesday. This Harlem resident and dedicated dance man touched on his favorite style: “mambo with a swing twist, or swing with a mambo twist, I can’t seem to keep them apart” and how when Jihad was young, NYC ballrooms like The Savoy, The Audubon, and The Renaissance were spots where young people learned to get along, according to Jihad, with a respect for each other that “dancing naturally created.”
Jihad remembers the signal that a dance party was underway in Harlem during the 1960s: if he saw flashing lights in an apartment window on a Friday or Saturday he knew that a good time could be found within. It’s a bittersweet memory: Jihad theorized that those window lights were the ancestor of the disco ball, the central symbol of the form of dance that crowded ballroom out of Harlem in the 1970s, a void which, according to Jihad, contributed to social problems in Harlem and other neighborhoods. But Jihad sees signs that a ballroom comeback is starting in New York, and we hope that’s the case. Take that, disco! (Just kidding, we secretly love you too…)