George “Shorty” Snowden was one of the most influential dance figures in American popular culture. However, he was also one of the most unknown. Snowden was known for his comically intricate footwork. He was recognized as the top dancer at the Savoy Ballroom from the time it opened in 1927 until the mid-1930s. He was called by all who knew him “King of the Savoy,” and was basically responsible for establishing the style of dance known as “Lindy Hop.”
Born in lower Manhattan, Snowden was raised by his mother. By 1910, the family moved to Harlem, by which time it appeared his father had left the household. He was told he would never be able to dance again after breaking both ankles ice-skating, and by 1920, he was an inmate in “reform school.” However, Snowden eventually got his act together and turned his life around when he found his passion for dancing.
Standing barely five feet tall, Snowden had a dance style that brought him immense popularity. He had a signature move that consisted of him bending his knees and swinging them from side to side. Pioneer Count Basie honored him with the tune “Shorty George.” Snowden also formed a dance troupe called the “Shorty George Trio,” which performed at the Cotton Club, Smalls’ Paradise, and other music meccas throughout Harlem.