Published after she left, this article originally appeared in Killer Diller
The unique and irrepressible force known as Dawn Hampton is sweeping into the country for ten days. For those who have been on the swing dance scene for some time, Dawn is known as an inspirational figure. Although she claims not to be a dancer, her wise words have helped many that are.
So if not a dancer, what's her story? Dawn was born in 1928, in Middle town, Ohio. Her father, Clark Deacon Hampton, Sr., had a family band and vaudeville act which was part of a travelling carnival. She grew up listening to the music of the family band, Deacon Hampton's Pickaninnys, sitting on an orange box behind her mother Laura's piano. At the age of three, Dawn began performing as part of, and two years later sang her first song called, a sexy love song that Dawn didn't really understand. After travelling for many years, the family settled in Indianapolis.
It wasn't long before the infant Hampton was making a contribution. She began performing at the tender age of three, and two years later sang He Takes Me to Paradise.
Dawn is one of twelve children. Slide Hampton, the well known jazz trombonist, is the youngest. Two of Dawn's older sisters, Aletra and Virtue, live in Indianapolis and are still performing and there are many more musical Hampton's scattered around the country.
After the war, the family band reunited for several years. There were fourteen pieces and nine Hamptons; Dawn played alto and tenor sax. They travelled under the leadership of her brother Duke, and played throughout the Mid-West and South. Finally, in 1950, the band achieved its dream of performing at Carnegie Hall (along with another well-known, although unrelated Hampton, Lionel).
Once the Big Apple got a taste of the Hampton Family, they were featured at the Apollo Theatre and the Savoy Ballroom. The Hamptons became the House Band at the then-famous Sunset Terrace in Indianapolis, and then moved on to the Cincinatti Cotton Club. Somewhere in the mid 1950's, several brothers went off to study music and Dawn and her sister's Aletra, Virtue and Carmelita continued performing as the Hampton Sisters.
As an artist, Dawn Hampton has worked with the good and the great of the entertainment world. The likes of Cab Calloway, Barbra Streisand, Better Midler and Spike Lee are amongst those who have developed a respect for her extraordinary talents.
So what is it that she brings to the dance scene that sets her apart from a regular teacher? The fact is, Dawn doesn't consider herself to be a dancer. What she can do is to help dancers to make more of a connection between what they are doing and what they are doing it to -the music.
It is the combination of what you see and what you hear that changes pastime into an art form. Instead of reciting moves, the dance becomes an interpretation of the music. For those fortunate enough to see her on stage at Herrang last year in the Week 4 cabaret, you will know how effective doing less but making it count can look.
While she's here, Dawn Hampton is appearing at Jumpin' At The Woodside in Gloucester from May 4 to 6, and in London the following weekend. You are welcome to join her for an Evening with Dawn Hampton on Saturday 12 May at The Kingsway Hall Hotel in Great Queen Street London. For more information about her activities while she's here, call 020 7435 2146.
ã May 2001 Andrew Winton.
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