Story and video by Linda Ball
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
Swagger fun style is how dancer Hank Kershell describes his dance style. Perhaps you’ve caught his moves. He’s danced for up to 10 hours at a time, 19 Fridays in a row, at the Junction in front of Key Bank. Not only that, he danced every day at this year’s West Seattle Summer Fest, which he said “did him in.”
WSB readers have been asking if we had ever found out the story of “the dancing man,” so we talked with him last Friday.
At 47 years old, Hank says he has called 12 different cities home. Born in Sacramento, California, he’s lived in Lake Tahoe and Chicago at length, and was tired of shoveling snow. He decided Seattle looked good. “I’m kind of a free spirit,” he said.
He lives between Greenwood and Green Lake, but he said the people there were “stuffy and constipated” when it came to his art. He danced in the University District, but the college kids didn’t get it, he said. Even on Capitol Hill, he said, people weren’t open-minded. “I realized how hypocritical they are. Here in West Seattle, you can kind of be yourself,” he said.
Hank also dances on occasion in Ballard, and in Fremont by the “Waiting for the Interurban” statue. And he says he works full time for AAA at its call center, where he said he is one of their best employees.
If you look while he’s dancing, there’s no open guitar case or jar for donations, just his waterproof boom box. He’s dancing because he believes every day is a special occasion. He wants to see children get interested in dancing. He said, “All you have in life are experiences.”
What he would like is to find a sponsor, or a philanthropist to help him promote the art of dance. He said he learned to dance while waiting for the bus. First, he honed balance by steadily walking the curbs, and eventually developed his swagger: “It’s got to have swagger – my dance style is definitely about swagger.” His favorite band is Pearl Jam (whose lead singer Eddie Vedder, you likely know, is a West Seattleite), but he likes to mix it up. He will mix reggae, R&B, disco – he likes ’70s music.
When asked about his outfits – always wearing a white cap, white gloves, and bright patterned shirts – Hank said the cap keeps the sweat out of his eyes, and the white gloves make for a better visual experience. His patterned shirts, which he also wears to his “regular job,” are special-ordered.
But it’s his positive attitude, his spirit that really shines. He said no matter how many times he’s failed at something, he’s still here. “I just have an attitude that I’m going to get through it. Everything is a learning experience. I like to think I’m a better person than I was yesterday and I’ll be a better person tomorrow.”
Will this be his 20th consecutive Friday, dancing at The Junction? Take a look at the southwest corner of Walk All Ways and see for yourself.