WHAT IS JIT
The Jit was born on the streets of Detroit, Michigan in the 1970s. This dance, though uniquely Detroit, displays some elements of African dance, modern, jazz and tap. The fast moves, fancy footwork, and acrobatic moves give the dance its flavor. While the name might sound familiar, don’t be misled. The Detroit Jit did not get its origin from the 1920s swing dance, the Jitterbug. The originators of the Detroit Jit mention that while the name is similar, the Jit is its own entity. The documentary entitled Jitterbugs: Pioneers of the Jit highlights the creators of the dance, the McGhee brothers. Tracey McGhee, one of the creators of the dance, states that when they were younger, the older men in the neighborhood would catch them hanging out or getting into mischief and referred to them as jitterbugs. The name stuck. [Source: The Jitterbugs: Pioneers of the Jit, 2014, produced by Haleem “Stringz” Rasul Al-Rasheed]
Even though the Jit started in the streets of Detroit and was originally affiliated with gang culture, over the years it has become more popular and can be experienced in a variety of circles. Most recently, the McGhee Brothers and Mike Manson aka “Mike Manson That Be Dancin” performed the Jit on the stage of the popular Fox Dance Competition series, “So You Think You Can Dance.” This put the Jit in the spotlight on a national stage.
On a local level, the Detroit Jit legacy has continued and is now gaining more notoriety. One can find Jit classes, workshops, and performances going on throughout the city. The Jitmasters is the latest entity to add to this culture.
MASTER JIT MASTER
“We got a dance that belongs to us in Detroit and a lot of people don’t know about it…”-Michael Smith, founder of Jit Masters
Michael Smith is a native Detroiter who was born to dance. From imitating Michael Jackson moves as a toddler to studying dance in high school and college, dancing has always been a key part of his life. As a teenager growing up on the eastside of Detroit, Michael believes that dancing, specifically the Jit, saved his life. It kept him and his friends off of the streets and out of trouble.
Michael majored in dance at the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts and studied business at Wayne State University. He performed extensively inside and outside of school. He even choreographed a video for Michael Bivens’ group Biv 10. After taking a hiatus from dance, Michael felt the pull to return to his craft. Actually, it was more of a calling than a pull. He acknowledges that God has gifted him to dance and he wants to share this gift with others. It was out of this calling that Jit Masters was born.
Jit Masters is a movement designed to make the Detroit Jit known worldwide. It consists of an experienced dance crew, private one-on-one dance lessons, dance workshops, and more. The Jit has been around for a while and now it’s time for the world to experience this piece of Detroit culture.
Jit Masters founder, Michael Smith, is a dance teacher at Motor City Dance Factory. He resides in Detroit, Michigan with his wife, Orma, and daughters, Hailey and Jasmine. Reach out to this Jit Master and “Get Your Jit on!”