(December 7, 1935 – December 23, 2013)
Frank Hatchett, who died on Monday
at Springfield’s Baystate Medical Center at the age of
78, was the master of the jazz dance.
From the Dunbar Community Center in the city’s Mason
Square neighborhood where he honed his skills, to New
York’s Broadway Dance Center which he founded in 1985,
Hatchett’s influence on a generation of American jazz
dancers is matchless.
Hatchett helped stars like Madonna,
Janet Jackson and Jennifer Lopez develop their moves,
and is mentioned in the same breath as iconic
choreographers Bob Fosse and Jerome Robbins. But his
legacy may be just as long-lasting in Springfield where
former students are passing it on to a new generation of
A memorial service for Hatchett will be
held on Jan. 3 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Progressive Community
Baptist Church on State Street.
His students at the Dunbar were perhaps the first to
learn his signature move, the “VOP, which was once
described as a “verbal incarnation of a feeling” and
another time as a “sort of rib cage-should-hip
grind.”Hatchett once explained it this way: “It is the
art of being the best of both worlds – it’s our
obligation to feel the music – to ride the music.
Local dancers, who took lessons from him in a
second-floor studio in the Dunbar, recalled Hatchett’s
influence on their lives and careers last week. “His
legacy was allowing everyone and anyone to know that the
art world is open to them,” said Kimberly Norrington,
owner of Kim’s Dance Studio.
Hatchett’s passing was also noted with sorrow on the
Broadway Dance Center’s webpage: “His passion for
teaching and love of dance touched the lives of
countless artists both in NYC and worldwide. Frank will
be deeply missed, but never forgotten, as his spirit
will live on in our studios and inspire future dancers
one “VOP” at a time.”
We join his family, friends and the dancers he
influenced in mourning the passing of this legendary
artist and Springfield son.
Obituary (from The Republican
Newsroom, Dec. 28, 2013)