Laying claim to the throne

Posted Jan 31 2008

Often compared to Chicago’s more widely known jukin’ or footwork, jittin’ actually has deep roots firmly set in African-American history. Until recently, this Detroit style of dance has not been known to the masses, although websites such as youtube have done wonders to spread the word of this frenzied, highly skilled form of expression. Yet as its popularity continues to grow, will it become another fad that gets exploited, used up, and discarded? Does it have the potential to even go mainstream? Unlike L.A.’s crumping, which caught the attention of a high profile director, Chicago Steppin’, which benefited from being highlighted in R. Kelly videos, or breakin’, which was birthed in the media center of New York, jittin’ hasn’t had a major outlet outside of the Detroit. But whether it goes pop or stays underground, the main groups holdin’ it down are putting out DVDs, traveling overseas, and basically, trying to make some money and maintain control of their art! While there are many crews in Detroit, I was fortunate to connect with one of the best, the X-Menn, due to our mutual connection with Submerge Records. They took some time out to share their thoughts on the state of jittin’ and its extensive history. Be on the lookout for upcoming music video “Foot Wars” by Underground Resistance, which will feature the fellas at their best.

On a broader note, to the youngsters busy hating on each other’s crews and cities, your focus is on the wrong place! You all need to be having fun and there’s too much money out here for ya’ll to be fighting over crumbs. Different doesn’t mean garbage, and when it comes down to it, all of your dances, whether it’s jukin’, jittin’, poppin’, turf dancing, or whatever, have common roots. Learn your history and promote your craft so everyone can benefit!

OK, enough lecturing. Check out the interview you came to read!

Can you share some basic background info on the group?

The group started in 1997 by Ronald Hall as leader (plus) Mike Price, Deon Alderman and Deonte Butler. Ronald Hall and Deonte Butler are the original members left. There are currently eleven members, one being a female.
How many other main jit groups are there in Detroit?

There are many jit groups but the main ones are: X-Menn (of course), Dreamteam, Unstoppable Dancers, SweeTech, World Threat, Phase 2, Hardcore Detroit, and 4 Deadly Venoms.

Can you briefly describe some of the history of the jit?

It derived from a 1920s dance called the “Jitterbug” which was mainstream in the Black Bottom of Detroit. In the 1950s it Manifested into the
"Swing” which eventually proceeded into our type of jit which was started by The Errol Flynns which were a criminal organization, or street gang, founded on the east side of Detroit, Michigan during the 1970s. Reportedly the gang appropriated their name from the Hollywood film star Errol Flynn because they fashioned themselves as flamboyant gangsters in dress and ‘jitting’, or using hand signs to identify themselves publicly (ed note: yes, this is a quote from the Wikipedia entry), which has given us pioneers such as Unseen Dancers, Madd Dancers, Rare Appearance, Cosmic Dancers, The Foot Clan, and Eternal Freaks.
How is jittin' similar and different from other dance styles such as footwork, popping', etc?

OK, compared to Chicago’s footwork or jukin'. The only similarity is fast foot movement but they (jukers and footworkers) lack  coordination and that’s where I believe us jitters out shine (them). With jukers, in my opinion, it’s like, (they) go out there and go crazy, act a fool. With jittin' it's more of a 5-6-7-8 (count), we work with the music like a popper or a locker. We ride the beat. Now there are some creative jukers and we been jittin' to a lot of Chicago’s house music over the years so I can't even front on the music. It’s tight. But by us growing up in the D, we dance mainly to techno music not that booty music they playing now. You know the “pop that, drop that, flop that” b*llsh*t. Believe it or not, jittin' has the most similarity to break dancing. It like a simple form of break-dance to faster music with less acrobatics. We have our footwork (jittin' term also) they have they uprock, we have our groundwork (footwork performed on the ground) they  have they six-step, they have windmills, freezes, and other acrobatics and we have drops (the acrobatic part of jittin') as you can see, it's a very similar format. It's also a dance that came from the streets like breakin' did with a similar history. It's just Detroit history. And I look at where Rock Steady and other b-boy crews took breakin' and that’s where the X-MENN gone take jittin'. Jittin' is  also an open dance where you can incorporate other dance styles cause a lot of jitters pop and lock as well as jit (but not at the same time) and it's like it expands jittin', which also gives us the  one up on some other dance styles 'cause I can’t see a juker, or a krumper adding popping or locking to they style. And jittin' can be compared to locking by there system. Just like there are certain moves that must be done with locking to indicate that you are locking (basics). Like your points, locks (most important), the Scooby Doo, Skeeter Rabbit, scoota-bots and other moves are basics for locking then you add your style. You can't just go out there and throw your arms everywhere and jump in the air and say you locking. That’s just how jittin' is; you get your basics tight then you add your style. You can't just go out there and kick your feet then you wouldn’t be jittin', you would be jukin' I’m joking, but compared to most dances, I think we stand alone.

Why do you think Chicago's jukin' has gotten so much more mainstream attention?

I think they got more mainstream attention 'cause the world hasn’t received a good taste of jittin' yet and because they got theyir exposure first. But see, the difference is, and I'm not trying to knock jukin’, I don’t think you're going to see jukin' in the mainstream in a couple of years because it's not something the world can easily do; you can’t just catch it. But with jittin’, there are the basic moves you learn and then add your style and it's easier to catch. That’s why I believe when jittin’ gets its exposure, it will stick. Simply put, it has the same format as the other dances that stuck (breaking, popping, locking). You learn the basics and add your style. It will be breaking, popping, locking, and jittin’. Watch. Also, a lot of artists from Detroit never mention jit or say nothing about it. So we never got that push by or hometown artist like Chicago did. I guess Detroit rappers figure dancing will take away from their image but half the guys my age that still jit or used to are ‘hood. That’s why we still in the hood jittin’. And two of the best jitters we had that passed. R.I.P. Terrance Majors and Freaky Ill Will (Willis Catrel) was some dudes you didn’t want to deal wit in the streets, or on the dance floor. You can’t live in Detroit and be educated on jittin', But the world's gone know 'bout it when the X-MENN are done wit' it!

How did you all connect with Model 500?

Through one of our DJs, DJ Moon, and group member Illya Hudson. He was contacted on Myspace because they wanted to
add a background to their music to help embody their already  prominent techno sound. We ended up meeting up with Mike Banks and Cornelius Harris and basically came to the conclusion of joining the best with the best. Our first show together was the DEMF 2007 creating monumental history and an opportunity our group.
What were some of the highlights/things those who went overseas came back to Detroit with?

Honestly, is was a highlight within itself. Being in Den Haag was a wonderful experience, besides rocking onstage in front of a sea of people there was also an art gallery during the festival. It was definitely a different experience than any other we’ve witnessed.
Where are some other places that you all have performed?
Too many to list, but just to name a few the DEMF 2007, Jit Vs. Juke Battle 2007, The Detroit Public High School Tour, a few shows with Hometown Hair Mogul Cool C, and countless Detroit Nightclubs.
Are there any projects that we should know about?

We are currently in the process of an untitled documentary covering our history and the history of the Detroit Jit as well.
Where can people find out more info? Get in contact, etc. or
Anything else?

Jittin Ain’t Dead… BUT WE KILLIN IT –X-Menn. Last of the Best.

X-Menn's Top 10 Jit Songs (Coming soon)
Check out his discussion board on jittin'


1. labaron said at March 29, 2008 2:52 pm:

man this is just what we need to hear thanks for holding it down x-menn, keep it up i got madd respect for yall...

2. paris said at April 18, 2008 12:56 pm:

where did the footworking come from

3. Icy King Los said at April 30, 2008 1:35 pm:

Dis Icy King Los showin X-Menn and all da rest of the EASTSIDE dance groups love Icy Kingz Ent

4. ginsu said at May 13, 2008 7:04 pm:

"Black Bottom" is the name of a dance. Juke evolved from house dancing. *Some* house dancing evolved from pop-locking, swing dancing etc. So both styles are gonna look similar. Also peak regional footwork styles like: NO Secondline, Baltimore Rocking off, and DC Beat Ya Feet. Cali-Colombian salsa also evolved from swing dance. check youtube for clips.

5. Daniel said at May 15, 2008 7:20 pm:

Ginsu, thanks for the post. I think the key thing for people to see is how all of this is intertwined. I appreciate the references to other styles such as salsa. I also have a foot in the Detroit Ballroom/Chicago Steppin' scenes. While all of these styles are distinct, the roots and moves are similar. Definitely an area I'm going to keep exploring. I'm working on a piece about hip hop and Chicago steppin' in the Bay Area. It's less about the dance styles but more on how lots of dudes in Oakland came up on hip hop have gotten involved in the steppin' scene.

6. Roman B. said at June 12, 2008 10:48 pm:

Jit dancers have always been something of an anomaly to me. The dancing is quick and structured. In my whole life I've never seen anything quite like that. Footwork really isn't that great but Jittin' is always interesting. Like what move are they going to do next while Footwork is just fast moving feet. No disrespect though, you have to have a lot of energy to go at the speeds these men and women go. Signing off -Roman B.

7. Carlos100 said at December 3, 2008 12:58 pm:

Knowledge is power

8. BIG AL said at July 2, 2009 3:03 pm:

All of you youngsters, who call yourself dancers,especially during the Jit,Moonwalking, or any other Detroit dances. Need to do your reseach on the Pioneer Dancers of the 1970's in the Metro Detroit area. The Funkateers were the true pioneers of the Jit as well as the Erroll Flynns. Remember the Funkateers created the Moon walk in 1974 in Inkster Michigan. Moreover their DVD video is coming out soon in 2010. And you better believe it.

9. djdee said at March 26, 2010 12:28 pm:

good job chitown

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