Note: For the actor with the same name, see Dean Collins (actor).
Dean Collins (born Sol Ruddosky; May 29, 1917-June 1, 1984) was an American dancer, instructor, choreographer, and innovator of swing. He is often credited with bringing swing dance, or Lindy Hop, from New York to Southern California. Collins worked in 37 or 38 films as well performing live and on television.
He grew up in Newark, New Jersey and, at age 13, learned to dance from his two older sisters. and quickly began "doing amateur contests in Newark". He was soon dancing at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York. In 1935, he was named "Dancer of the Year" by The New Yorker.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1936. He worked as a janitor at Simon's Drive-In Diner. At night, he danced at the Diana Ballroom and Casino Gardens. Worried that his Jewish name would hinder his career, he adopted the name "Dean Collins", derived from a wallet he found.
His career started when he was hired by RKO pictures to choreograph the dancing in Let's Make Music, filmed in 1939 and released in 1940.
In 1942 he appeared in the Soundies The Chool Song released 3/23/42. He and his partner were billed as "Collins and Colette", and music was recorded by Spike Jones.
He eventually danced in or choreographed nearly forty Hollywood movies, including an appearance in the classic Hellzapoppin' (1941). He also taught dancing in Los Angeles from the 1930s until his death in 1984. During this time, he taught many people including Shirley Temple, Joan Crawford, Cesar Romero, Abbott and Costello, Jonathan Bixby, Sylvia Sykes, and Arthur Murray.
Dean's wife Mary believes that he contributed a unique, smoothed out style that eliminated the bounce. According to jazz dance historian Peter Loggins, Dean's style changed and evolved over the many decades, returning toward the end of his life to the Lindy Hop he learned in the Savoy Ballroom in the 30s.
The Collins style seen in Hollywood films was the main source for what became known in the 1990s as Hollywood-style Lindy Hop.
He also popularized an original version of the Shim Sham, now called the Dean Collins Shim Sham.
Collins is often mentioned in discussions of origin of West Coast Swing. When his wife, Mary Collins, was asked if he was responsible for the emergence of the dance, however, she said that Dean insisted there were "only two kinds of swing dance - good and bad".
Some dancers who knew Dean, such as the wife of fellow legendary dancer Willie Desatoff, claim both Dean and Willie saw West Coast Swing (often incorrectly associated with Hollywood-style Lindy Hop) as "an abomination to the dance floor.".
Jewel McGowan, called by her contemporaries the "greatest female swing dancer ever", was his dance partner for eleven years. She appears with him in Buck Privates (1941), Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942), and many other films.