History of St. Louis Imperial Swing Dance

History of St. Louis Imperial Swing Dance

There are a total of eight swing dance clubs located in and around the St. Louis area (including MUSIC in Collinsville, Illinois) that are members of the Midwest Dance Association, and all of these clubs are descended from the St. Louis Imperial Dance Club which was founded in 1973. The largest of these sister clubs, the West County Swing Dance Club, has the distinction of being one of the largest swing dance clubs in the United States.

The Imperial Swing gets its name from the Club Imperial located at Goodfellow Boulevard and West Florissant Avenue. The building, originally called Imperial Hall, was built in 1928 as a ballroom, bowling alley, and restaurant/bar complex. In the 1930s and 1940s, the dance district in northwest St. Louis, just like the Arcadia (later called Toon Town), the Admiral Showboat in Midtown, and the Casa Loma on the South Side, were the most popular dance halls in their respective districts. In 1952 George Edick Enterprises purchased Imperial Hall and George Edick renamed it the Imperial Club. During the early part of that decade, he ran the club as a dance hall with a “nice place for good people” theme. He played “big band” music and primarily catered to private parties. He was able to book regular guest appearances with popular artists like Stan Kenton and Louis Prima because Robert Hyland, of CBS and KMOX, broadcasts his weekly “Coast To Coast with Bob Hyland” show from the Imperial Ballroom.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Edick realized that the country’s taste in music had shifted to “rock and roll” and used his advertising PR firm to aggressively promote Club Imperial on KWK, KXOK, WIL, and WGNU. Joe Pozzi quintet, Jimmy (Night Train) Forrest, Chuck Berry, Dolly Parton, The Monkeys, Glen Campbell, Ike & Tina Turner and a small acoustic group now called “The Fifth Dimension” are among the many artists who began their club careers. Promoted a “Jitterbug” competition in which a couple from Club Imperial (Teddy Cole and Kathy Burke) won the Jitterbug National Championship. During the “rock and roll” craze, Edick held Tuesday “Teen Night” dances, and it was during these weekly dances that the jitterbug variation that became known as the “imperial style” of St. Louis swing was born. As the 1960s progressed, music trends changed again. “Rolling” began to withdraw from “rock and roll”, “rock” music became more difficult, and teenagers increasingly attended loud and psychedelic concerts. Since it was almost impossible to dance to the rhythms of acid rock, Edik gradually stopped all public dancing in his club.

In the 1970s, George Edek wanted to reintroduce more listenable and danceable music at the Club Imperial and found that hosting swing competitions was just the ticket! He got together with Teddy Cole, a Jitterbug champion who was also a dance promoter in his own right, and they decided to sponsor a St. Louis competition. Louis Jitterbug annual “Imperial Style” selection as “Hero of the City”. These highly publicized competitions prompted many of the older and experienced dancers to flock around the club again, and Edek sponsored a number of “Salute Dances” to introduce these old dancers to the new ones. As more and more people began to learn about the Empire, they began to organize into small dance groups that met in apartment blocks around the St. Louis area, and George Edek kept in touch with many of their leaders.

In 1973 Morris conceived the idea of ​​forming a club, and it was his group that first met at the San Miguel Apartments in St. Charles which became the St. Louis Imperial Dance Club. The founders are: Dave Cheshire, Jan Cheshire, Rick McQueen, Joanne Fritz, Debbie Dastman (Willis), and Veronica Lynch. The new club alternated their dances between the Lynch apartment complex in South County and the Wood Hollow apartments in West County. Edik contacts the council and tells them he is very interested in helping their club fulfill their mission of keeping swing dancing alive. The Great Promoter convinced them, through a new, disguised adaptation of his original 1950s theme, that their growing club should hold their future dances in his Club Imperial ballroom because “it’s a nice place for nice people who like to swing dance!”

Good slogans never die but unfortunately people do, and on June 11, 2002 George Edek passed away. The building is now silent but stands, not only as a landmark where it all began in the Imperial Swing, but also as a tribute to a man who, over his colorful life of eighty-six years, managed to turn his dreams into reality. . . Not a bad epitaph!

Author: ZeroToHero

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