Whitley’s Lindy Hoppers were chosen from the awesome swing dancers at the Savoy Ballroom. During the early years of the 30’s, socialites and other wealthy individuals in New York desired these magnificent dancer at their well to do parties.
Whitley had a knack at not only choosing the best dancers to perform the Lindy Hop and other dances of the era, but also ones that were reliable and would be socially accepted. The young dancers had the opportunity to make a few dollars and do something they really enjoyed – dancing. Before long, Whitney became a father figure and would send them out to some of the wealthiest homes and prominent figures in the world. His own guidance and words to the kids chosen from Harlem helped to give them pride in themselves. His words were on the hearts on each dancer which was, “Remember, ain’t nobody better than you.” One of the proudest moments for the troupe was in 1937 when each one had the chance to shake hands with the Queen of England. The Savoy Ballroom was known for being the only place where blacks and whites could really be equal on the dance floor.
Whitley started out as a boxer that was employed at the Savoy Ballroom as a bouncer. However, before long Harlem teenagers were dancing and becoming famous. Whitley was a great coach, father figure and an eye for talent. During his time with these teens, he employed over 70 swing dancers at one time.
At the 1935 Harvest Moon Ball competition, all eyes were on his dancers when they hit the dance floor with new moves to swing music which blended African influences along with jazz rhythms. The Savoy was truly a training experience that gave Harlem youth the chance to stay out of trouble and many went on to be in movies. The dance moves was a true social impact around the world and gave way to many of the dance styles not only in the United States, but also in Latin America, Africa, Australia, and Europe.