Jean Veloz, celebrated Nineteen Forties Lindy Hop dancer, dies at 98

Jean Veloz, an acrobatic and broadly imitated Lindy Hop dancer who appeared in Nineteen Forties Hollywood movies, carried out at ballroom exhibitions along with her husband, star dancer Frank Veloz, and impressed a brand new technology of swing dancers whereas twisting, spinning and twirling into her 90s, died Jan. 15 at her house in Los Angeles. She was 98.

Her demise was confirmed by her supervisor and agent, Rusty Frank, a dancer and dance preservationist. She didn’t know the precise trigger however mentioned Ms. Veloz had been in declining well being.

As a youngster in Los Angeles, Ms. Veloz was already enthralling audiences with “the Lindy,” the exuberant swing dance model that had emerged out of Harlem dance halls within the Nineteen Twenties earlier than making its means west to California, the place it was popularized in Hollywood films by dancers together with Dean Collins, Jewel McGowan and the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers dance troupe.

Ms. Veloz helped develop a clean new Lindy Hop variant, now generally known as “Hollywood model,” whereas additionally honing a way all her personal, with emblems that included a quick-stop drop and signature “Jean flip” by way of the air.

“Should you solely noticed her silhouette, you’d completely identified instantly that it was her,” Frank mentioned. “She had this silky smoothness, and these electrifying freezes that have been adopted by sultry, flirtatious melts into the subsequent transfer.”

Ms. Veloz, then generally known as Jean Phelps, was 19 when she made her movie debut in “Swing Fever” (1943). As Marilyn Maxwell sings “One Lady and Two Boys” backed by bandleader Kay Kyser, Ms. Veloz dances in excessive heels and a knee-length skirt, performing a backflip with assist from her companions, Don Gallagher and Lennie Smith.

She went on to bounce in two extra films that yr, “The place Are Your Kids?” and “Jive Junction,” earlier than teaming up with Collins for “The Horn Blows at Midnight” (1945), a comedy starring Jack Benny.

However to many dancers, she remained greatest identified for her debut dance quantity — one of many uncommon swing sequences of its time to maintain the digicam on the dancers from starting to finish — and for “Groovie Film” (1944), a nine-minute quick by which she Lindy Hopped with Arthur Walsh, a dancer and character actor who later taught the jitterbug to Lucille Ball. Each movies entered into the swing-dance canon and have been handed from dancer to dancer on grainy video tapes earlier than discovering a brand new viewers on YouTube.

“I bear in mind sitting on the ground with my dance companion till 2 within the morning, watching ‘Swing Fever’ and ‘Groovie Film’ again and again to study the strikes and to choose up the model,” mentioned Frank, who teaches Lindy Hop in Los Angeles.

Introduced as a tongue-in-cheek educational video, “Groovie Film” was narrated by Pete Smith, who explains that to do the dance “you swing the wing and whip the hip.” By the tip of the movie, Ms. Veloz was doing a handstand on Walsh’s shoulders.

As the recognition of Lindy Hop pale after World Battle II, Ms. Veloz traded her skirts for ball robes, performing the tango, waltz and different dance kinds at ballroom exhibitions and on tv reveals with Frank Veloz, her dance companion and eventual husband.

When the Lindy Hop got here again in vogue within the Nineteen Nineties, she picked up the place she left off, displaying off her strikes at swing workshops and festivals in Thailand, Britain, Italy, Canada, Sweden and throughout the US. The California Swing Dance Corridor of Fame, which inducted Ms. Veloz in 1996, described her as “a dwelling bridge from the Los Angeles dance scene of the Nineteen Forties to the present-day Lindy Hop revival.”

The second of three kids, Jane Grinnell Phelps was born in Los Angeles on March 1, 1924. Her dad and mom separated when she was younger, and she or he was raised in close by Santa Maria by her mom, who labored the night time shift as a switchboard operator and inspired her daughter’s early curiosity in dance.

Ms. Veloz, who was identified since childhood as Jean, swing-danced in the lounge along with her two brothers and invited associates to hitch them after faculty. Her breakthrough got here in 1943, when she gained a dance contest at Hollywood Legion Stadium. Her prize: a Display Actor’s Guild membership card and the chance to bounce in her first movie.

She later danced within the refrain line on the El Rancho Vegas resort, the place she labored with Hollywood choreographer Nick Fortress. Within the late Nineteen Forties, she partnered with Frank Veloz, greatest generally known as one half of the husband-and-wife ballroom dance workforce Veloz and Yolanda. The duo had danced on Broadway and in films earlier than Frank Veloz’s spouse, Yolanda Casazza, determined to retire.

Ms. Veloz, who had studied at one of many duo’s dance colleges, stepped in to switch her. She and Frank later taught dance steps to actors together with Susan Hayward, Ricardo Montalbán and Lana Turner. They married in 1963, after Frank’s marriage to Casazza resulted in divorce. Ms. Veloz’s earlier marriage, to Harold Davi, had additionally resulted in divorce.

Frank Veloz died in 1981. Ms. Veloz leaves no instant survivors.

Ms. Veloz labored on an episode of “The Bachelorette” in 2016, instructing the Lindy Hop to JoJo Fletcher and one among her suitors, and was nonetheless Lindy Hopping at age 95, dancing to “Love Me or Go away Me” on the Spanish Ballroom in Maryland’s Glen Echo Park. A number of months later, in February 2020, she carried out in public one final time on the Rock That Swing competition in Munich.

By then, she had misplaced her pace and a few of her steadiness, though she was nonetheless able to stopping on a dime in the course of her routines, freezing her physique in place to the astonishment of her associates.

“We’d at all times child,” Rusty Frank mentioned, “that the one factor that moved after she stopped was her hair.”

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