That’s the Fact Jack or Should I Say… Bobby? Back
Oct 8, 2014
By Tracey Bivens
The running joke every time we see Bobby Green is to sing a couple of bars from the Enchantment song "Gloria”, or to ask him a question about hair coloring seeing as how he owned a fully
operational beauty/barber salon for 30 years or about his parties that he throws with the world renown international ballroom competitor, Barry Douglas or the oldies parties that he throws with the living legends of Detroit’s Graystone and Bop era.
While Bobby Green is a jack of all trades, you certainly cannot deny his knowledge about dancing or his execution in dance moves and style. I didn’t think there were too many people in the dance world that would actually speak their mind and not care if they hurt your feelings or not but Bobby Green is one of them. If you don’t mind reading about the truth in the dance world according to Bobby Green…put the powder on the floor and let’s dance!
Tracey: (Me singing) "Gloria….my Gloooo---riaaaa,” that song is never gonna die Bobby. (Laughing) Yet…I wonder how many people actually know that you were a member of Enchantment when all of their major hits were released back in the late 70s early 80s. I know that this is not the TV One Unsung show but what got you into singing back in the day?
Bobby: Well singing back in the day came from growing up watching The Temptations sing and watching their choreography. There was a guy at Tri-Sound studio on Hamilton Street in Detroit. Dick Scott gave us our first break. He handed out our notes and gave them to us there.
Tracey: Once a member of Enchantment…always a member of Enchantment. You guys have a lot of ballroom and steppin songs to your credit. "Sunshine”, "It’s You That I Need” and "A Silly Love Song.” How do you feel knowing that Detroit’s dance community loves your music so much even thirty some odd years later?
Bobby: I never even imagined that somebody would be playing songs that I had the pleasure of singing on. It wasn’t until I started getting into this dance world that I had the pleasure of dancing to my own music. When I performed with the group, I just watched other people dance to them.
Tracey: The successful hair salon that everybody talks about that you owned. Was that born out of your experiences with the music industry?
Bobby: Yes…way afterwards. It was called "Color Designs.” I’ve always been good with my hands. I used to cut hair when I was younger and did process waves and finger waves with the different hair styles. My friend Mickey (bass singer for Enchantment) used to wear them and I had a little knack for hooking up hairstyles. Doing hair has taken me halfway around the world teaching seminars and workshops.
Tracey: What was your favorite Enchantment song and why?
Bobby: I love ballads. My favorite is "Forever More.” It’s about cherishing and loving someone forever. It makes reference to "the warmth of sunshine…cool as a summer breeze.” That’s why I love Graystone and slow dancing. When it comes to ballads…there is a soft side to me.
Tracey: You are a Ballroomer, Graystoner, Bopper, occasional Line Dancer, Stepper, Salsa-eer (made up by me) and a Tango dancer. Is there any partnered dance that you don’t do?
Bobby: (Sighs) Uhhh…no there’s not. By me going to the ballroom teachers dance college...that gave me the opportunity to learn how to Waltz, Rhumba, Cha Cha… Fox Trot. That gave me exposure to not all of them but quite a few.
Tracey: Many of the steppers in Detroit started out as ballroomers back in the day. You sir…had the best of the dance world because you not only did the dances but you were also a part of promotional dance groups. From experience…I know this is not an easy task. Personalities range from egomaniacs to lazy complacent members to the hard core dedicated workers. What was the most challenging part of being a member of Upscale Dance Productions, Premier Dance Productions and your other affiliations?
Bobby: I found that when I got with these groups... that they (the group members) didn’t know their worth. Through my experiences of having seen different dances and experiencing the business side of the music world…out of the groups that I was with…they were charging three dollars to teach dance and my experience let me know that three dollars was too cheap…so we had to up that. We went up to $10 dollars per dance...per hour. We might have been the first dance group to do that. The most challenging part was trying to get the group to see that we could turn it into a business. ..that we could teach three dances in one hour. The next hour…three dances in another hour and so on. We were very successful in doing that. When I met them they were just three dollar teachers. The other part…by me not being known to these dances…they didn’t know that much about me. I had to show them better than tell them. I had to show them how it could work…they listened and we became very successful. I wanted to have steppin too but they didn’t want to.
Tracey: More recently, you were a part of the DSN’s original group that was the brainchild of Sherry Gordon and myself. We had various instructional members of the steppin community who wanted to participate…join us. However, I knew that we had to put a neutral person in the spot of president if anything was going to be done right and a person that everyone would listen to. You certainly held it and us together for two years. And I must say…your aren’t the nicest man in the world either. (Laughing) What was that experience like for you at the head of the table?
Bobby: Let me say this. I don’t have a problem with organizations as long as we maintain the organization. It was actually a privilege to be the head of a steppin organization. I was already the president of Upscale and the leader of Premier…so I was already very comfortable with that position but it was very different being a leader of steppers. It was different because I wasn’t known as a stepper. Sometimes in the meeting…toes could get stepped on. It wasn’t about who was the best dancer but it was about organization and respecting the chair and sometimes the dancers didn’t want to hear that. I do not like people to perpetrate something that they really don’t know about and because there’s not many people around to correct the falsehoods…well…the story takes a different turn and that’s not really how the story goes. So structure is important to me.
Tracey: Being no stranger to controversy myself…I find that some people in the dance community tend to punish members of the dance community for their accomplishments. For example Bobby, you were the only dance studio to open your doors to the steppers back in 2003 and you reopened the doors, now known as the Steppers Café, back in 2009 with Freda Jenkins. You hold numerous dance certifications from accredited dance institutions and have traveled the country teaching and participating in workshops and exhibitions. You have thrown major social dances here and nationally and you have emceed large scale events. To top that off…the men say you have one of the baddest chicks on the dance scene!(Laughing) Yet…instead of patting you on the back and saying "Job well done Mr. Green” you get "That ain’t ish…Bobby ain’t nobody.” Why do we tend to treat each other that way? Help me understand.
Bobby: You know what Ms. Bivens…I don’t know if I can help you understand that. It’s not uncommon to me. When I was a singer…some other groups was better than my group. When I become a hairdresser…somebody else was a better hairdresser. When I became a colorist…someone else was a better colorist. I let my actions speak for itself.
Tracey: If you had a magic wand and could turn back the hands of time…what two events as it relates to the dance world would you do over?
Bobby: I would redo Premier over and I would do the Whirl of Dance over. Whirl of Dance was when I brought all the dancers together. When I got to this dance scene…no one was doing that in Detroit. I had all the best dancers doing their thing and then the traditional dancers doing their thing and then I stopped. I should have continued. People ask me to start it back up to this day. Sometimes...things have to change. Now Premier…I would have made sure that the voting block was distributed differently…to say it in a nice way (Laughing). I always wanted to have steppin as a part of Premier but I got outvoted.
Tracey: Bobby…I know that there have been times when I have called you close to tears because of the mess that goes on in the dance world and by the time I get off the phone with you…the tears have gone back up in their ducts. You definitely have the listening skills and problem solving strategies that most people wish they had. If someone from North Dakota came to Detroit and said, "Bobby Green…I want to grow ballrooming and steppin in my state. What formula should I follow?” Your response would be…
Bobby: Well as far as steppin…you must have a great foundation. You must ask people that know what they’re talking about and you need to research who you ask what. As far as ballroom. It was ChaCha and a combination of other dances when I was growing up but now days they call it ballroom. I think what we miss is the history part of ballroom. You have people explaining ballroom who have just started dancing in 1990. To me…it’s a new dance but I started Bopping and Socialing in the 60s. So…you know…if you’re going to learn something from someone… check their credibility. As I go around the country now, I see people doing all kinds of things. People teaching others and they really just learned how to dance themselves. In a nutshell you need to find out who you are bringing in your area to teach something. If they didn’t do it last month…how they gonna teach it this month?
Tracey: You sound like there are some things that we need to iron out in Detroit?
Bobby: What I have noticed in the dance community of steppin and ballrooming in Detroit is that we have people that are looked up to and admired for their skills and their dancing abilities and for some strange reason they cannot come together and offer any standard to our dance. What I mean is… Detroit Ballrooming, Graystone style…Bopping…we need to come together and organize our dances before we look around and somebody else has it and we say, "They can’t do it right.” Who cares? I don’t see nobody trying to do that. You have smart people who have business skills…you should respect those people. Then you have people that dance and have talent…but they don’t know that they don’t have to put the dancer as the smartest person in your group. That group will break up. If you can’t recognize the person who has these business skills to help the organization to sustain itself…that person will falter and stray away. I’m older now and maybe I just see things differently.
I want to applaud the major things we have in Detroit. I Love Steppin Inc., a national writer that brings issues and interviews to the forefront, Dance Fusion USA, Rockin Rodney Mack’s White Party… but I bet you that the heads of these organizations have never sat down together and said, "How can we further dance in Detroit?” I don’t care if this is off the record or not but they all need to come together…right now. Everybody says you supposed to have fun but if you are a fun dancer…you need to stay with the fun people. If you are a serious dancer you need to set protocol, standards and other criteria like that. I’ve seen this dance splurge. You can hustle but you gotta have a nice product. If you leave this dance to the students…it’s not gonna work. The steppin instructors are elevating themselves…coming together and are focused on growing the community. All of the heads are trying to promote this dance. All the ballroom heads just want to make their things the best. I bet you DC Hand Dancers are not trying to do that. We have left Detroit Ballrooming to the students. We can’t even showcase a damn dance contest. The steppin competitions got it but the ballroomers don’t. I leave the readers with this thought to ponder…
"Smart people know that you don’t have to be a good dancer to be successful. Good dancers don’t see that you have to be smart to be successful.” –Bobby Green