2018-01-12 / Front Page

Everybody’s doing it

By Lisa Smarr


University of South Carolina’s Department of Theatre and Dance adjunct instructor Richard Durlach shows the Trenholm Park Seniors and their dance partners, the ROTC Jr. Cadets at AC Flora High School, some hand moves during the Senior Dance. 
Photos courtesy of Lisa Smarr University of South Carolina’s Department of Theatre and Dance adjunct instructor Richard Durlach shows the Trenholm Park Seniors and their dance partners, the ROTC Jr. Cadets at AC Flora High School, some hand moves during the Senior Dance. Photos courtesy of Lisa Smarr Multigenerational: of or relating to several generations, as of a family or society.

Multigenerational is a buzzword that has been trending in recent years. While the word may be a new to our vernacular, the concept is not. For instance, elementary schools have long capitalized on the benefits of programs such as Grandparent’s Reading Day. Bringing people together from different age groups increases the potential for mutually beneficial learning, growth, understanding and fun.

Diversity is an often used familiar word that should be on our minds as we plan recreational opportunities for our patrons. But what exactly does diversity mean? Diversity, contrary to what some may believe, is much more than age or race.


The Trenholm Park Seniors and their dance partners, the ROTC Jr. Cadets at AC Flora High School, practice the steps Richard Durlach and Breedlove have taught them. The Trenholm Park Seniors and their dance partners, the ROTC Jr. Cadets at AC Flora High School, practice the steps Richard Durlach and Breedlove have taught them. There are invisible traits of diversity that are not clear, such as one’s marital status, work experience, ability or disability, religious beliefs, education, or sexual orientation. External traits or traits that are visible include things we cannot change such as age, race, or gender.

With the concept of a multigenerational special event on my mind for a diverse group of patrons, the idea for a Seniors Dance was hatched.

Trenholm Park directors Theron Chandler and Tia Reese were happy to offer the gymnasium at Trenholm for the dance, so our venue was reserved for the afternoon of December 6, during the regular time slot for our Arthritis Exercise Class. It is always a pleasure to work with enthusiastic co-hosts.


Big Apple Seniors Swing Dance was held at Trenholm Park with dance partners from the ROTC Jr. Cadets at AC Flora High School. Richard Durlach and Breedlove were the guest instructors. Big Apple Seniors Swing Dance was held at Trenholm Park with dance partners from the ROTC Jr. Cadets at AC Flora High School. Richard Durlach and Breedlove were the guest instructors. Having worked in the past with Col. Gatson, Commander of the Jr. ROTC Cadets at A.C. Flora High School, I discussed with him the feasibility of the students in his unit traveling from Flora to Trenholm Park for a special dance with the senior citizens.

Col. Gatson’s can-do attitude and high standards make him a pleasure to work with as well. His leadership along with that of Sgt. Major Thompson at A.C. Flora, has created a program at A. C. Flora that teaches, inspires, guides, leads, and encourages academic excellence and teamwork for their students.

Under the supervision of their commanders, the students regularly participate in community service projects all over Richland County. I felt the young people would make excellent dance partners for our seniors and Col. Gatson said, “We will make it happen.”


Dance Instructor Richard Durlach shows the dancers some moves. Dance Instructor Richard Durlach shows the dancers some moves. While today’s pop music might appeal to some of the high school students, it was unlikely our senior citizens born in the 1920s, 30s and 40s would enjoy such. There would have to be a different vibe and era for the music at our dance.

I saw this as an opportunity to cross generational lines. If the students were not familiar with the Big Band sound, they were in for a treat.

Columbia, South Carolina is the birthplace of arguably one of the most famous swing dances of all times. Not only that, it was invented in the early 1930s by the students at Benedict College and Allen University.

The Big Apple has been danced for generations. Its roots can be traced to a long shuttered black juke joint called the Big Apple Night Club, which was at the former House Of Peace Synagogue on Park Street in downtown Columbia.


Senior dancer from Trenholm Park with her partner from A.C. Flora Jr. ROTC Cadets Senior dancer from Trenholm Park with her partner from A.C. Flora Jr. ROTC Cadets The Big Apple was a sensational dance craze and spread like wildfire to college campuses nationally. In 1936, three white students from the University of South Carolina asked to be admitted to the club.

The owner Frank “Fat Sam” Boyd made two conditions. They had to pay 25¢ each, and they were relegated to the balcony.

They were not allowed on the dance floor with the black students.

The USC students and many friends followed and from the balcony did their best to learn the steps. They named their version the Little Apple, after the nightclub. In December of 1937, Lifemagazine ran a story on the dance craze and predicted that 1937 would be the year of the Big Apple.


Dance instructors Richard Durlach and Breedlove show the group a few dance steps. Dance instructors Richard Durlach and Breedlove show the group a few dance steps. Columbia is also home to the University of South Carolina’s Department of Theatre and Dance adjunct instructor Richard Durlach, and his dance partner Breedlove. They are experts and grand enthusiasts in all things related to swing dancing and its rich cultural history.

They are also the owners of The Big Apple and work tirelessly to preserve its beauty and history. Durlach and Breedlove are known for performing swing dances in period dress at special events.

I contacted Mr. Durlach and asked if they would be willing to come to our dance, share some history and teach the guests, who would range in age from 15 to 86 how to swing dance. He said yes, and we were off to the races! I was over the moon. This was going to be a huge success.

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