Lindy hop

Dancing the Lindy hop at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, Sacramento, California, USA (2006)

Lindy Hop is an African American dance that evolved in New York City in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It was an organic fusion of many dances that preceded it or were popular during its development, but was predominantly based on jazz, tap, breakaway and charleston. Lindy hop co-evolved with jazz music and is a member of the swing dance family. It is frequently described as a jazz or street dance.

In its development lindy hop combined elements of both solo and partner dancing by using the movements and improvisation of African dances along with the formal 8-count structure of European partner dances. This is most clearly illustrated in lindy's basic step, the swingout. In this step's open position each dancer improvises alone, and in its closed position men and women dance together — a practice usually forbidden in African dances.

Revived in the 1980s by European and American dance historians, lindy hop is now popular today throughout the developed world.



Swing era (1920s-1940s)Edit

Born in African American communities in Harlem, New York in the United States in the 1920s as the breakaway, the 'first generation' of lindy hop is popularly associated with dancers such as "Shorty" George Snowden, though perhaps the most famous living original lindy hopper today is Frankie Manning. Al Minns and Leon James, as well as surviving dancer Norma Miller also feature prominently in contemporary histories of lindy hop. It should also be noted that Frankie Manning, working with his partner Freida Washington, invented the ground breaking 'Air Step' or 'aerial' in 1935. An Air Step is a dance move where both of your partners' feet leave the ground in an often quite dramatic manner and most importantly it is done in time with the music. This type of move is now seen as quintessentially Lindy.

Lindy hop entered mainstream American culture in the 1930s, popularised by touring dance troupes (including the Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, which were also known as the Harlem Congaroos, Hot Chocolates and Big Apple Dancers), dance sequences in films (such as Hellzapoppin' and A Day at the Races) and dance studios (such as those of Arthur Murray and Irene and Vernon Castle). Lindy hop's movement to the west coast of the United States is popularly associated with Dean Collins, who brought lindy hop to Los Angeles after (according to popular opinion) learning it at the Savoy Ballroom in New York.

Lindy hop moved off-shore in the 1930s and 40s, again in films and news reels, but also with American troops stationed overseas, particularly in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and other allied nations. Despite their banned status in countries such as Germany, lindy hop and jazz were also popular in other European countries during this period.

Lindy hop disappeared from popular culture in the 1950s as rock and roll music and dancing replaced jazz, and jazz itself cooled and moved towards bebop. Though it was still danced in isolated pockets throughout the world, in the 2000s there are very few dancers still alive who were dancing lindy in the 1930s or 40s.

Revival (1980s and 1990s)Edit

In the late 1980s American and European dancers from California, New York, and Sweden (such as Sylvia Sykes, Erin Stevens, Steven Mitchell, and the The Rhythm Hot Shots) went about 'reviving' lindy hop using archival films such as Hellzapoppin' and A Day at the Races and by contacting dancers such as Frankie Manning, Al Minns, Norma Miller, Jewel McGowan and Dean Collins. In the mid-to-late 1990's the popularity of neo swing music of the swing revival stimulated mainstream interest in the dance. The dance was propelled to wide visibility after it was featured in the popular 1993 movie "Swing Kids" and 1998 television commercials for GAP. The popularity led to the founding of local lindy hop dance communities in many cities.

Today (2000 to Present)Edit


While the United States is home to the largest number of lindy hoppers in the world, there are thriving communities throughout Europe (including Slovenia, Russia, the Ukraine, Hungary and other Eastern European countries, England, Ireland, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Lithuania), in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Buenos Aires, Argentina. The small village of Herräng in Sweden (north of Stockholm) has unofficially become the international Mecca of Lindy Hop due to the twenty four-year-old annual Herräng Dance Camp run by the Harlem Hot Shots and where Frankie Manning still teaches every year.

Lindy hop tends to be concentrated in small local scenes in different cities in each of these countries, although regional, national, and international dance events bring dancers from many of these scenes together. It is worth noting that the local swing dance communities in each city and country (for whom lindy hop is almost always the most important dance) feature different local cultures, though they do share common general traditions and practices.

Many Internet forums have emerged in these dance scenes. These message boards serve to provide information to dancers about Lindy Hop and dance events in the geographic area. Yehoodi has become the largest of these and now caters to an international audience, although many smaller local forums (such as Swingmonkey) also exist. Local swing dance related internet forums often reflect the local variations in scenes' cultures and dancing. Because swing dancers travel to dance quite regularly, internet forums are an important medium for communication between local scenes, and for dancers visiting a particular city or country.

Lindy hop today is danced as a social dance, as a competitive dance, as a performance dance and in classes and workshops. In each, partners may dance alone or together, with improvisation a central part of social dancing and many performance and competition pieces. Solo sequences in Lindy Hop are sometimes executed as part of a partner dance when one or both of the partner initiates a "breakaway" causing the partners to separate their connection and dance solo with each other using (if at all) visual lead and follow cues. These sequences may include charleston moves, traditional jazz dance moves (such as boogie steps, Shorty George, Suzie Q, etcetera) and contemporary jazz and modern dance movements.

Further readingEdit

  • DeFrantz, Thomas. Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001.
  • Emery, Lynne Fauley. Black Dance in the United States from 1619 to 1970. California: National Press Books, 1972.
  • Friedland, LeeEllen. "Social Commentary in African-American Movement Performance." Human Action Signs in Cultural Context: The Visible and the Invisible in Movement and Dance. Ed. Brenda Farnell. London: Scarecrow Press, 1995. 136 - 57.
  • Gottschild, Brenda Dixon. Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance. Connecticut and London: Greenwood Press, 1996.
  • Hazzard-Gordon, Katrina. Jookin': The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.
  • Jackson, Jonathan David. "Improvisation in African-American Vernacular Dancing." Dance Research Journal 33.2 (2001/2002): 40 - 53.
  • Malone, Jacqui. Steppin' on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996.
  • Stearns, Marshall, and Jean Stearns. Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance. 3rd ed. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994.
  • Szwed, John F., and Morton Marks. "The Afro-American Transformation of European Set Dances and Dance Suites." Dance Research Journal 20.1 (1988): 29 - 36.
  • Batchelor, Christian, This Thing Called Swing. Christian Batchelor Books, 1997,(ISBN 0-9530631-0-0)

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

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