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The New Dance Show: Detroit's delightfully lo-fi house and techno time capsule

Bet you can't dance like this

  • Cameron Holbrook
  • 17 November 2017

In a world engulfed by streaming, mobile media and various online content, the magic of local TV programing has become a relic of the past. Before Netflix, Youtube and even satellite TV, local TV channels provided a manageable domain for local communities to advertise and create shows that could reflect their interests.

In Detroit, a city where music and community interests have always gone hand-in-hand, a program titled The New Dance Show aired four days a week from 6 PM - 7 PM between 1988 - 1995. Appearing on the local station WGPR-TV 62, the first TV station that was owned and operated entirely by African Americans in the US, the broadcast featured a company of loud, lively dancers dressed in sexy and swanky attire showing the camera their best dance moves to the sound of the most cutting-edge tracks of the time.

The low-budget program has often been compared to the seminal TV show Soul Train. Despite this, the two shows have no shared history. The New Dance Show is the predecessor to another legendary Detroit production on WGPR-TV called The Scene. Formatted similarly, The New Dance Show picked up the pieces after The Scene went off-air in 1987: the dawn of a critical period in Detroit’s musical revolution.

Hosted by the charismatic RJ Watkins with his slick catchphrase “keep it movin', keep it groovin'”, the show enlisted the help of beautiful, talented youngsters. An appearance on the show would turn them into local celebrities overnight.

Grabbing the public's attention with its courageous dance floor and unique mixes featuring the likes of Kraftwerk, Frankie Knuckles, Juan Atkins, 2 Live Crew, CeCe Penniston and numerous classic Motor City tracks, the show played a vital and often overlooked role in paving the way to an unprecedented era of glorious house and slamming techno.

In addition to this, The New Dance Show served as a special source of inspiration for artists like Hercules and The Love Affair as well as Detroit natives Osborne, Mayer Hawthorne and Black Milk - all of whom have paid tribute to the show in their own unique fashion.

Remarkable moves were put forth by the show's groove specialists: Terina, Weird Al, Miss Energy, Jezel, Iceberg, Brownie, China Doll, In the Mix Betty, Shaniqua, Yvonne, Ree Ree, Ms. T, Jesse The Body, Pam Thomas and the rest of the dance club. In all of its lo-fi glory, their talents have since been immortalized in a golden YouTube archive.

If you're looking for a source of inspiration to help switch up those stale looking dance moves you always find yourself using… you’ve come come to the right place.

Mixmag spent hours with this nonstop-party footage and selected a handful of favorites. Check them out below.

'Clear' (Detroit Style Mix) Cybotron

Before Juan Atkins became the venerable techno machine that he is today, he and his collaborator Richard Davis were Cybotron. Described by The Wire as a "groundbreaking…first-generation piece of pure machine music", this hit track helped Juan Atkins shape and maneuver his artistry in the perfect direction.

The loop of the track was originally inspired by Kraftwerk's 'Hall of Mirrors'.

Speaking of Kraftwerk...

'Numbers' Kraftwerk

Right before the credits roll for the end of the show, this three-minute dance-line segment for Kraftwerk's 'Numbers' is arguably one of the greatest displays of dancing ever captured on film.

The judges' scores are in: 10/10

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