- ‘There’s no right or wrong way to do it’
Lindy hop (and solo jazz) are originally vernacular dances. What does that mean? It meant that they were developed, danced and performed by regular folks living regular lives. Someone learned by watching a more experienced dancer and trying to reproduce the movements. This lead to a wonderfully diverse range of Lindy hop styles, supporting the frequently stated idea that there is no right or wrong way to dance Lindy hop. (By comparison, modern dancers learn in classes with a more structured pedagogical approach.)
- The roots of Lindy Hop
Lindy hop grew out of a family of dances that combined African-American movements and improvisation approaches, with more euro-centric structures. Before its popularity exploded in the 1930s, it was primarily danced in Harlem NY, by African-Americans. These were a people who were oppressed in many ways, and many came to live for the joy and sense of freedom dancing gave them.
- Making it up as we go along
Lindy Hop is essentially a social dance that is almost never choreographed, and is improvised to the music. Social dancing with friends and strangers is a cornerstone of the International; Lindy hop community. If you find yourself watching a busy dance floor of Lindy hoppers, it’s almost 100% certain they are making it up as they go along, within the framework of the moves they know.
- Old but still new
Lindy Hop enjoyed a revival in the 1980s but there was a massive uptick in interest after the release of ’Swing Kids’ in 1993, the popularity of Neo-Swing music, and a famous Gap advert called ‘Kakhis Swing’ in 1998. Today, there are emerging and thriving Lindy hop communities around the world. Almost every major city has at least one school, and here in London you can learn almost every night of the week! (We of course recommend Jazz Mad who teach here)
- Frankie and friends
Frankie Manning is arguably the most famously celebrated Lindy hop name, but there are many more names worth looking into. There are those who inspired him (such as Mattie Purnell, ‘Shorty’ George Snowden, Big Bea, Leroy Stretch and Little Bea), those he danced with (such as his parter Freida Washington, Al Minns and Pepsi Bethel, Leon James, and Norma Miller), and the he inspired (such as Dawn Hampton, Erin Stevens, Jenny Thomas, Lennart Westerlund, and Ryan Francois amongst others). Sadly not much knowledge is available for the earlier generations of female dancers but we certainly encourage you to dig around online!