Monday, December 19, 2016

Steeped In History: I'm a Little Teapot!

It’s a nursery rhyme many of us sang and danced to as children. Heck, even some grown-ups performed the routine. It’s right up there with the Chicken Dance at weddings, no? I’m a Little Teapot has some pretty cute lyrics, and I was curious to know more about its origins. Who came up with such a song and the silly dance steps that go along with it?

The story goes that the song was created to help children pick-up difficult dance routines by singing and dancing. Clarence Z. Kelley and his wife ran a dance school for children. They noticed that the participants were having difficulty learning the steps to a tap dance called “Waltz Clog”. George Harold Sanders stepped in and wrote up I’m a Little Teapot which describes the simple features of teapots and the basic steps in making a pot of tea. This song allowed the children to learn their dance routine by adding playful gestures expressing meaning accompanied by music. Here are the lyrics:


I’m a little teapot
Short and stout
Here is my handle
Here is my spout
When I get all steamed up
I just shout
Tip me over and pour me out

I’m a very special pot
It is true
Here is an example of what I can do
I can turn my handle into a spout
Tip me over and pour me out

The dance steps called “The Teapot Tip”, enabled the children to become “teapots” whilst singing the song. Arms were used to mimic the spout and handle of teapots. Then you would bend to the side from the waist to indicate water pouring out.

Published in 1939, I’m A Little Teapot proved to be popular among children and adults all around the world. It’s even been used in many advertisements with different variations and offshoots of the song. Not bad for a simple little tune! Check out some videos on YouTube of people dancing “The Teapot Tip”. Some of them are hilarious. Here’s the song for you to do the “The Teapot Tip” if you’re so tired of the Macarena.

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