Get To Know Us
Spreading the Art of Urban Swing Dancing
Welcome to the Urban Swing Dance Institute. I am Oz Cooper, Founder & Lead Instructor of Urban Swing Dance Institute. We were officially registered in the state of Louisiana, as Who Dat Steppers of New Orleans, LA, LLC, July 25, 2011. We have been doing business as (dba) Urban Swing Dance Institute, L3C, since January 30, 2017. This is going to be my official return since I suspended my classes in June 2020, due to the COVID pandemic. As we began coming out of COVID in 2021 and returning to some semblance of what used to be normal in 2022, many of you asked me about starting classes again. In my heart, I really wanted to do it. But my mind, body, and spirit just weren’t willing or able. If you have never taught a class or hosted a set, you have no idea how much time, energy, and stress is involved, even when you have a decent, experienced, team supporting you, which I didn’t. Add to that the additional weight of trying to build an Urban Swing Dance community, while working full-time, in the diverse, festival, party, tourist city that is New Orleans. I said to myself, if I did it again, I’m going to try not to make the same mistakes I had in the past decade. I also want to address and share my knowledge & experience of as a student & instructor, fundamental knowledge and skills that are not being provided. The intent is to improve and unify all the Urban Swing Dances under one umbrella as the unique, historic, and original genre of social partner dance, that originated in Urban/African American communities to ensure that it gets the proper respect and recognition it deserves.
The 1st thing I wanted to do differently is not have to try do all the above, while working. So, I decided to wait until I retired from work. I retired from federal employment, December 31, 2022.
Next, I wanted to be mentally & physically prepare to endure the task at hand. After 2 years of working from home during the pandemic my weight climbed to 295lbs. I started a Wellness/Fitness program at the NOLA, VA, Medical Center, January 2023. I’m down to a comfortable 262lbs.
Finally I wanted to address, what I came to understand what people who were taking my class really wanted or needed. They were saying they wanted to learn how to Step, Hand Dance, Ballroom or whatever. What started to become apparent was what they really needed was to learn “how” to dance. I created a curriculum that focused on the basic, fundamental knowledge, and skills needed to enable participants, upon completion, to be competent and proficient social dancers who are comfortable and confident in any social dance setting. The result is the Urban Swing Dance Essentials course.
In October 2008, Malik Smith, invited me to a “Steppin Set (Event)” in Oakland, CA. That was my formal introduction to the world of Urban Swing. Chicago Steppin was similar to a dance my older sister used to use me to practice with, that they call Hand Dancing in New Orleans. (I always could dance. It’s my gift and passion.) So the 1st time I saw it I was hooked. I was residing in Reno, NV at the time and relocated back to New Orleans after only taking one class in March of 2009. Surprisingly no one was “Steppin” (or any other form of “Urban Swing Dance"), in New Orleans. Desperate, I asked Malik if he could come down and hold classes. In hindsight, I should have known that wasn’t possible but by May of 2009 I was fiending for that dance so bad I wasn’t thinking straight. He was willing to help me through a “Set” in New Orleans. (I come to realize that Malik, like many in the Urban Swing Dance community, want to come to New Orleans. Something that the City of New Orleans Chamber of Commerce & Tourist Commission are completely unaware of. ) So on July 4, 2009, with only one class under my belt, and no experience on the dance floor, I was holding a “Steppin Set” in New Orleans.
That was how this journey began. That was a very special year. It started with President Obama being inaugurated and ended with the New Orleans Saint winning the Super Bowl. That's how Who Dat Steppers came into existence. I eventually found there as Steppin Class being taught in Baton Rouge, LA. Seventy miles west of New Orleans, one way. After two years of driving to Baton Rouge sometimes 2 or 3 times a week, some line dancers saw me Steppin at the Autocrat Club on St. Bernard and asked me if I could teach them how to Step. I was a certified Navy Master Training Specialist and I loved both teaching and dancing so I said why not. How hard could it be, right? Wrong!!! While I admittedly how a lot to learn about teaching dance, the biggest problem was the line dancer were about 90% women.
About a year later I, enrolled in and successfully completed the Golden State Dance Teachers Association (GSDTA), Dance Teacher Certification, 02/27/2012. This course was taught by the late legendary, Skippy Blair in Downing, CA. This is where I found that there was a proven scientific method to teach all forms of dance, the Universal Unit System, created by Skippy Blair. With this knowledge I was able to quickly learn and develop a basic level of proficiency in all of the Urban Swing Dances I was being introduced to at the Las Vegas Jam host by Larry Collins & his group, Steady Steppers. One I became extremely proficient at was Detroit Ballroom. I met Mr. Smooth (Calvin Siebert) at Las Vegas Jam purchased every level of his Detroit Ballroom Course on DVD. It wasn't long before I was teaching it at New Orleans Recreation Department (NORDC) Recreation Facilities.
I taught classes for the City of New Orleans from 2017 until COVID shut me down in 2020. Just when all those years of grinding was starting to reap some dividends. But I think the time is right for Urban Swing Dance to take its rightful place in history, like Jazz, as one of the greatest treasure that African Americans have given humanity. It is time for a 3rd Renaissance. There was the European Renaissance, the Harlem Renaissance, and this is the beginning of the New Orleans (and eventually American) Renaissance Period.
The information provided in this course is the result of a lifetime of formal & informal study, in dance as well applicable work and life experiences relative to the topic accumulated by the instructor. Most of which are basic, fundamental, immutable, universal, math, science, music, dance, spiritual, principles and concepts shared to make the subject matter as relatable and simple as possible for the student. He is just a passionate, social dancer, with more years behind him than ahead of him, who wants to leave a solid foundation of this historic, original art form, for future generations to value, appreciation, build on and take to the next level. This is the beginning of a social, cultural, community and economic development project.
The illustration below is a visual representation of how man is created in the likeness and image of the Creator by the Pattern of the Tabernacle discussed in Exodus 25:8 – 40, of the KJV Bible. It supports how dance, like man, and the universe operates according to this pattern. (Origin, vision of Henry Clifford Kinley, Dean & Founder of IDMR in 1931. Click link for more details, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybB7D2Ajx7Q.)