Lindy Hop is a partner dance, most usually danced to the swing music of the big band era (generally 1930s and early 1940s). Lindy Hop is an improvised dance, taught in short patterns which become the “building blocks” of the dance. These patterns can be put together in an infinite number of ways – meaning that the dance is as individual as the two people dancing, and as the music they are dancing to.
Lindy Hop is a dance of “lead” and “follow”, meaning leads communicate what the next move will be via their body movement and follows learn to read these movements as they dance. Traditionally men would lead and women would follow, but in the 21st century Lindy Hop scene we don’t let that worry us – many women learn to lead, and many men learn to follow. We’re an enlightened, equal opportunities type bunch.
Oh, and did we mention that it is really quite addictive?
The internet is awash with videos of Lindy Hop (seriously – put Lindy Hop into YouTube and just SEE what happens), but here is a clip of two world class dancers – Thomas Blacharz and Alice Mei – having a lovely old time:
A Little Bit of History
In 1930s New York, big band swing was king. Young people across the city would live for their nights out dancing at one of the famous ballrooms, to all the great big bands. Outside in the street, kids who were too young, or too poor to get into the ballrooms would dance on the sidewalks, preparing for the day when they managed to walk through the door. It was here that the Lindy Hop was born – New York kids learning from each other and dancing the night away.
The most famous ballroom of all was the Savoy, in the black neighbourhood of Harlem. Vast enough to take up a whole city block, it was in the Savoy that Lindy Hop became the ultimate dance of the big band era. Led by a group of pioneer dancers called the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, they took the street dance, added a generous number of stunning aerial moves and took over the world with their wild and awe inspiring dance. Appearing in Hollywood films and traveling the globe, the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers made their mark on the world and made Lindy Hop a worldwide phenomenon.
Here are the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers dancing in the most famous Lindy Hop clip ever, from the Hollywood film “Hellzapoppin”, made in 1941:
Fast forward to the 1980s, when a group of dancers from Sweden, the USA and the UK discovered old film footage of the Lindy Hop and became transfixed. They taught themselves to Lindy Hop from video footage which they were only able to watch in a New York library viewing room. Having well and truly caught the bug, they set out to find as many of the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers as they could – eventually finding Al Minns and Frankie Manning still living and working in New York. Almost 50 years after Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers was born, Al and Frankie were persuaded to teach the new generation of dancers, and the modern Lindy Hop scene was born. In 2015, there are countless, thriving Lindy Hop communities across the whole world and more people are discovering this joyful dance every day.
Want to Give it a Go?
Lancaster Lindy Circle teach weekly Lindy Hop classes every Thursday evening in the heart of Lancaster. We’d love to see you there!